“All things bright and beautiful
All creatures great and small
The spiders eat the insects,
The leopards eat the dogs
Wehumans eat most things that move
The Lord God feeds us all.”
From The Book of Dhoka Cola by Bachchoo
Mumbai’s newspapers announced a radical move by a Parsi Zoroastrian organisation together with a government agency for minorities to expand the numbers of the dwindling Parsi community. These stalwarts will advise young Parsi men on how to conduct themselves during a date with Parsi girls.
This initiative is aimed, the media reports said, at releasing these boys from mummy’s apron strings. Hence the advice not to take mobile calls from their mothers when out on a date. And they will be told to take girls flowers and not say that mummy chose them.
All this is good advice on one level, but is it the solution to the problem, which fundamentally is the threat of extinction of the Parsi race in India and with it the passing of the first monotheistic religion of the world? The advice may save on mummy’s mobile phone bills and will marginally boost the floral trade, but will it result in more Parsis being born?
This is not something that worries Parsis alone. The government of India’s ministry of minority affairs has expressed its concern without providing any solution. And I can now tell you, gentle reader, that I am a personal witness to the fact that Charles, Prince of Wales, has concerned himself with the self-same question. (We don’ t want any of your lefty anti-royalty rubbish in this paper — Ed. Nahin yaar, mein tho sach likh rahan hoon — fd)
So I assure you, gentle reader, none of this is a word of lie.
Prince Charles was visiting India and we happened at the time to be in pre-production of a film called Mangal Pandey, which I had written. Through some negotiation with the British high commission, it was decided that Prince Charles would, sort of, inaugurate this film about the revolt of sepoys against the East India Company in 1857 as a win-win publicity gesture.
This ceremony took place in a grand hotel in Mumbai when Charles was filmed clacking the clapperboard for the start of a pretend scene featuring Aamir Khan.
The publicity stunt being over, Charles was conducted by our producer, Bobby Bedi, down the line-up of “important” workers on the film — Javed Akhtar the lyricist, Rahman the composer, etc.
As the writer of the film, I was in the line and Charles, backed by two guardian equerries behind him, was brought face to face to be introduced to me.
Bobby said I was the writer and that I was a British citizen. Prince Charles posed some pleasantries about how long it took me to write and where I lived in London and then said “‘Farrukh’ means you must be Muslim.”
“No,” I replied, “I am a Parsi.”
“Ah, a Zoroastrian,” he said, “Tell me why are there so few of you?”
“Something to do with our sexual habits…” I ventured, and immediately the equerries behind the prince firmly touched him on the shoulder and moved him to the next person in line. They apparently didn’t want me to elaborate.
I imagine that apart from the general population of India which must appreciate the contribution of the Parsi community to the well-being and progress of the country, every Parsi of the 60,000 that the Census of India tells us exist in the country, must have pondered the dilemma of the extinction of the race.
I must confess that my stab at the solution was not very popular with the other 59,999. Or perhaps I exaggerate. There must have been some sensible ones who agreed with me. I expounded my solution, for what it was worth in these very pages some years ago. I argued that since the Zoroastrian emperors Darius, Cyrus and Xerxes had tombs, it was obvious that this “sky-burial” business was not essential to the theology or tenets of our religion.
This means of course that we can end the practice and sell off the priceless real estate on which the towers of silence stand. This will give the Parsi community zillions of rupees, dollars or whatever — which if invested can be a fund for the scheme of recruiting, say, 500,000 “baby-mothers” from anywhere in India or indeed the world. These volunteers would be allocated a flat in Mumbai, Pune, Surat, Ahmedabad or wherever, given a Tata car and a generous annual allowance with the proviso that they produce one Parsi baby, the product of a consenting relationship with any Parsi male they chose, every alternate year. Just think, gentle reader — five million new Parsis every decade with the promise of a geometric progression thereafter — problem solved!
The one remark that stood out from the largely abusive reaction I received to my suggestion said: “Mr Dhondy, you can take a horse to the water but you can’t make it drink!”
And now I find that the flaw in this jewel of an idea to teach Parsi boys how to woo Parsi girls is that no one has bothered to ask Parsi girls what they want from the boys. In the absence of this courtesy, I set out to do some research myself.
I asked Feroza Unicornia and she said her boyfriend is very annoying as he keeps phoning some Punjabi girl called Gurinder who must be really ignorant as she can’t even spell her own name and signs herself “Grinder”.
And Perin Dodowala said that all the Parsi boys she has dated smelt of Bombay Duck.
Guloo Extinctionthreatwala testified that she had refused seven offers of marriage because she didn’t want anyone who worked for the State Bank of India…
My research goes on, and I am perfectly willing to share it with Parsi boys if invited into this inner circle of wooing-advisers.