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Parsi History

Over 1000 years ago, the Zoroastrian Parsis of Iran emigrated to India but were not welcomed with open arms by Jadi Rana, the king of Gujurat.

“My country is overpopulated already,” he said, “How would we find room for you?”

The leader of the Parsi immigrants called for a bowl of milk filled to the brim and a spoonful of sugar. He then carefully blended in the sugar to the milk, not spilling a drop.

“We are like the sugar,” he explained, “We will only sweeten your country.”

And the Parsis have indeed excelled in India. Although not the first Zoroastrians on the subcontinent, they rose to prominence under British rule, becoming the preeminent class of bureaucrats under the Raj administration, the filter through which the British ruled India. Learning in British schools and identifying with the colonial quirks of the Raj, the Parsis were seen as a class apart by the British and consequently met with great social and economic success.

Parsi, Rustom Maneck, was appointed the first broker to the East India company and set the model for Parsi financial success thereafter around the economic hub of Bombay, still today the center of Parsi life in India. Many of the larger financial bodies in India are still run by Parsis, including notable businesses such as Tata whose trucks can be seen on every road up and down the country.

But the future of Parsis looks uncertain. Whereas the census of 1951 put them at 111,000 strong, it's predicted that their numbers will shrink to around 20,000 by 2020.

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