For most Indians, the phrase ‘maro dhikra’ is all they known about the Parsi community. Our knowledge and perceptions about the Parsis, like many other things in India, is majorly based on the Bollywood movies which show an elderly Parsi as an ideal next door neighbour. Guess what – there’s much more to the lively Parsi community than what our filmmakers choose to show us on screen.
The history & culture of Parsis
Parsis are the followers of Zoroastrianism, one of the world’s oldest religions. Believed to be the original natives of Iran (formerly known as Persia), Parsis began moving towards South Asia, including India, fearing a Muslim invasion in Iran in the 7th century. After the Arab invasion in Iran, their language started to be called Farsi instead of Parsi, since the letter ‘P’ is not present in the Arabic language.
For the Parsis, fire, water, earth and air are the purest elements and need to be preserved. Due to this reason, they do not follow the practice of cremation. The dead bodies are left on high towers, called the ‘tower of silence’ to be eaten by vultures, crows and hawks.
Parsis and India
In yesteryears in Mumbai, a number of old cars meant for sale used to carry the tag ‘owned by a Parsi’. The community has long been synonymous with good education, humbleness and gentle behaviour. A witty sense of humour makes the Parsis an irresistible company. The westernized background of the community meant that they were the first ones to take advantage of the opportunities that came up with the introduction of western education. Thus the first crop of surgeons, pilot and MPs from India in the British Parliament were mostly Parsis. This explains the rise of influential Parsi families such as the Tatas and the Wadias.
When was the last time (if ever) you heard a Parsi guy involved in vandalism or coming out on the streets to protest? If you thought their population is too small to make any impact in the country anyway, you would be surprised! For a community which accounts for only 69,601 people (2001 census) out of the entire population of over 120 crore, the contribution of Parsis to the Indian history is stupendous to say the least.
Some of the famous Parsis in India include the country’s best known and most respected industrialist, Ratan Tata; the extremely famous Army Chief who led India in the Bangladesh War, Late Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw; the grand old man of India, Dadabhai Naoroji; the pioneer of India’s atomic energy program, Dr Homi Bhabha; Ace musician, Zubin Mehta and the current Chairman of Tata Sons, Cyrus Mistry. The Parsis have given back to India much more than what the country has offered them. A number of trusts established by the ‘Tatas’ for different purposes are a testimony of Parsis’ love towards India. Astonishingly, Ratan Tata’s share in Tata Sons is less than 1 per cent! Majority of the Tata Sons’ stocks are held by different trusts including the Sir Ratan Tata trust that spends its profit worth billions of dollars each year to charity. While the Ambanis were busy building India’s greatest residence, the Tatas were busy building the nation.
The dwindling population
India accounts for more than half of the entire Parsi population in the world. Most Parsi families are settled in Mumbai, Pune and Gujarat. Unfortunately, their population in India has been on a constant decline for quite a while now. Some of the reasons behind such a drastic fall (115,000 in 1941 & 69,601 in 2001) in their numbers have been lack of interest in marriage, marrying at older age and inter caste marriages. The generally successful youth of the community prefer their careers over marriage in most cases which is resulting in the falling numbers. High number of divorce cases, owing to easier divorce laws as compared to the Hindu laws, has further deteriorated the situation. If the current trend continues, the number of Parsis might come down to less than 23,000 in 2020. In that case, they would be called a ‘tribe’ and not a ‘community’.
The Central Government came up with a ‘Jiyo Parsi’ initiative in 2013. Its recent ad runs with the tagline ‘Be responsible. Don’t use a condom tonight!’ Although meant at encouraging the declining Parsi population, the campaign met with some strong criticism from inside and outside the Parsi community. A number of people questioned the Government’s move to encourage such campaigns at a time when the country is already stressed under 1.2 billion people. The ad has also come under fire for putting undue pressure on the Parsi women to reproduce. Other ads under the campaign are seen encouraging the girls to marry at a younger age, without waiting for their boyfriends to become as successful as Ratan Tata!
Let us hope that some of these ads work their magic and the Parsi community sees a new light very soon because India can be a much better place with a whole lot of Parsis around!
We are always associated with science and its related reach
Indian scientists have made some cutting-edge research work in various fields
India’s huge strides in the field of Space program is the result of extensive rersearch work done by many famous Indian scientists
Science is something we are surrounded very briskly. Science has occupied us more aggressively than we can ever assume even. From our regular cellphone to innovative technologies of the 21st century, from our smart homes to space technology, it all fits into science and technology. We can’t imagine a day without the assistance provided by the science.
India has come up a long way in the field of science and technology. The invention of zero and the discovery of ‘Raman Effect”, are all credited to Indian scientists, as they have immensely contributed to their research works.
To appreciate the bliss of such comfort, we have compiled a list of fifteen famous Indian scientists who have changed the whole scenario of living and even achieved global recognition for their immense support to the humanity.
1. Vikram Sarabhai
Vikram Sarabhai is considered as the Father of India’s space program. He was born on 12 August 1919. Vikram Sarabhai’s contribution to the Indian space program is well-known. He was the sole man behind the establishment of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad (IIM-A) and the Nehru Foundation for Development.
After the launch of the Russian Sputnik satellite, Vikram Sarabhai was able to convince the Indian government about the importance of a space program for a developing nation.
He was honoured with many prestigious awards including Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Medal in 1962, Padma Bhushan in 1966 and Padma Vibhushan (posthumously) in 1972
2. APJ Abdul Kalam
The former President of India, Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam was elite spearhead scientist of India. His contribution remains indispensable in the field of defence and missile programs. He worked for two of the most decorated Indian institutes, one as the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) and other one is Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO).
Abdul Kalam was born on October 15, 1931. In one of his books, he talked about making India a developed nation by 2020. Abdul Kalam’s love for young generation can be gauged by the fact that he had set a goal of meeting 100,000 students in 2 years after his resignation from the role of scientific adviser in 1999.
Abdul Kalam kick-started his career with designing a small helicopter for the Indian Army. After that, he was moved to the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) as the project director of India’s first indigenous Satellite Launch Vehicle (SLV-III). The program resulted in the successful deployment of the Rohini satellite in earth’s orbit in July 1980.
For his contribution towards science and technology, Abdul Kalam was bestowed with prestigious award including Bharat Ratna.
He has inspired millions of people around the globe with his dedication and hard work and he still remains the idol for many of us.
3. Homi Bhabha
Homi Bhabha is acknowledged as the father of Indian nuclear power. Homi Jehangir Bhabha is better known as Homi Bhabha. He was born on October 30, 1909, in Bombay. He is known for his crucial role in the Quantum Theory.
He started his scientific career in nuclear physics from Great Britain. After completing his education in London, Homi Bhabha returned to India and convince the Congress Party’s senior leaders, especially Jawaharlal Nehru, to start the indigenous nuclear programme. Although, he was very much against the development of atomic bombs, even if the country had enough resources to do so. He rather advocated the use of nuclear energy to wave off India’s misery and poverty.
Finally, Homi Bhabha was decorated as the Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of India.
He lost his life in an air crash near Mont Blanc on 24 January 1966. There are many conspiracy theories and speculation regarding the role of CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) in the plane crash. As some reports suggested, CIA was very much averse to the advancement of India’s nuclear program.
4. Venkatraman Radhakrishnan
Venkatraman Radhakrishnan was an Indian space scientist and is known for his design and fabrication of ultra-light aircraft and sailboats. Radhakrishnan was born on May 18, 1929, and died at the age of 81.
Radhakrishnan was an internationally honoured Astrophysicist. His work helped in understanding the space and many mysteries surrounding pulsars, galaxy structures, interstellar clouds and other celestial bodies. For his work in space exploration, he was taken as the member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
5. M Visvesvaraya
Sir Mokshagundam Visvesvaraya was a distinguished Indian scientist, engineer, scholar and statesman. He stressed upon industrialization. He wanted India to be at par with industrialized nations as he believed that India can become developed through industries.
M Visvesvaraya was born on 15 September 1860. He is honoured with the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest award.
M Visvesvaraya is acknowledged for his work of inventing ‘automatic sluice gates’ and ‘block irrigation system’ which are still wonders in engineering. He also innovated an efficient way of filtering water through ‘Collector Wells’ in 1895 which was a sensation in itself.
Due to his valuable contribution to engineering, his birthday is celebrated as Engineer’s Day in India.
6. Jagadish Chandra Bose
Jagadish Chandra Bose is known for pioneering in the study of radio and microwave optics which helped in the study of plants and establishing the experimental science in the Indian sub-continent. He was born on 30 November 1858. People used to call him as Acharya J.C. Bose. Jagadish Chandra Bose was a multi-talented personality, as he was well versed as a polymath, physicist, biologist, botanist and archaeologist.
Jagadish Chandra Bose was the first person to demonstrating wireless communication with the help of semiconductor junctions to detect radio signals. His other works include the invention of the Crescograph. Through this, he was able to study the plant’s response to various stimuli and proved that plants can feel pain, understand affection etc.
He is also considered to be the father of open technology. He wanted people to work on his developments and thus never patented his work. Jagadish Chandra Bose was also very much into the writing of science fiction and he is also considered as the father of Bengali science fiction.
7. Subrahmanyan Chandrashekar
Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar was the nephew of the famous Indian scientist, CV Raman. The term, “Chandrasekhar limit” is named after him. He was born on October 19 and died on August 21, 1995, at the age of 82 in Chicago.
His best-known work was in the radiation of energy from stars, particularly white dwarf stars, which are the dying fragments of stars. For his mathematical theory of black holes, Chandrasekhar was conferred Nobel Prize for Physics in 1983.
In 1953, Chandrasekhar was granted United States citizenship.
8. Satyendra Nath Bose
Satyendra Nath Bose was popularly known as SN Bose. He was an Indian physicist and known for his work in the field of ‘bosons‘, which were named after him by Paul Dirac to commemorate his work in the field. He specialized in quantum mechanics.
Once Satyendra Nath sent a short article on “Planck’s Law and the Hypothesis of Light Quanta” to Albert Einstein. Interestingly, this article was accepted by Einstein and translated into German. Later it got published in Zeitschrift für Physik under Bose’s name, in 1924. Satyendra Nath also gave a lecture at the University of Dhaka on the theory of radiation and the ultraviolet catastrophe.
The Rabindranath Tagore’s book on science, ‘Visva–Parichay’ was dedicated to him in 1937. Satyendra Nath was also awarded India’s second highest civilian award, the Padma Vibhushan in 1954.
9. CV Raman
Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman is popularly known as CV Raman and was an Indian scientist. He was born in Tiruchirapalli on November 7, 1888. CV Raman won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1930 for his pioneering work on scattering of light. He was the first Asian and first non-White to receive any Nobel Prize in the sciences.
His other works include the working of the acoustics of musical instruments. CV Raman was the one who probed into the sound of the Indian drums such as the Tabla and the Mridangam. “Raman scattering” still remains most accepted and notable work of CV Raman. He explained that, when light passes through a transparent material, some of the deflected light changes into wavelength and this causes “Raman Effect”.
Unfortunately, in October 1970, he fell unconscious while working and was immediately moved to a hospital. Doctors advised him to stay there but he was adamant about moving to his Institute (the Raman Research Institute in Bangalore) and live his last moments in the vicinity of flowers of his institute. He was laid to rest on 21 November 1970.
Before taking his last breath, CV Raman uttered, “Do not allow the journals of the Academy to die, for they are the sensitive indicators of the quality of Science being done in the country and whether science is taking root in it or not.”
10. Srinivasa Ramanujan
Ramanujam was an Indian mathematician who, with almost no formal training in pure mathematics, made extraordinary contributions. His work includes mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series, and continued fractions.
Ramanujam was born on December 22, 1887, and by age 11, he hushed up the mathematical knowledge of two college students who were lodgers at his home.
By the age of 13, he mastered a book on advanced trigonometry written by S. L. Loney and came up with his own theorems.
During his stay in England, Ramanujam faced a lot of health problems due to the scarcity of vegetarian food. After that, he came back India and died at the age of 32.
Tamil Nadu celebrates 22 December (Ramanujan’s birthday) as ‘State IT Day’, memorializing his unprecedented feats in mathematics.