Where have all our Parsis gone?
Saira Mujtaba visits Cyrus ‘Lucknawi’ Kharas for a talk on the Parsi community in the city
Lucknow has always been a melting pot of different people and cultures. The Parsi community too has enriched the city with its presence and practices.
It is believed that about two centuries ago Parsi merchants first settled in the area where the present day Post Master General’s office is. Most Parsi families were affluent and influential members of society engaged in various businesses from liquor to real estate. Today the community is shrunk and its activities are reduced to the fading premises of the Parsi Anjuman behind a curtain of lush trees laden with fruits and flowers on a quiet lane called RF Bahadurji Marg adjacent to Ashok Marg.
But once upon a time the same walls had echoed with the wit and humour of the city’s prestigious Parsi population.
Recalls Cyrus Kharas that several decades ago when he was much younger there were around 100 families in Lucknow compared to 17 families today.
The Parsi Club had stood on the premises of the Anjuman that was abuzz with loud laughter and excitement. The adults had played cards here and cricket matches between the Parsis of Lucknow and Kanpur were events looked forward to by one and all. The celebration of three major festivals of the two Nowroz the Parsi New Year and Prophet Zarathushtra’s birthday were a colourful and crowded affair once.
The Parsis are Persian Zoroastrians who migrated to India to avoid religious persecution around the 8th century. They settled mostly on the coastal cities of India before gradually moving into the heartland.
The grandparents of Kharas came here from Lahore after a stop in Ambala and Kanpur to eventually make Lucknow their home.
The Parsi community in Lucknow has dwindled due to inter marriages and migration. While his ancestors were businessmen, Kharas chose to be an educationist, having helped many an under privileged child to receive higher education.
There is Shenaz Khodaiji founder Little Woods School, a play school on Park Road. This city also remembers Meher Kharas Bhargava, the brave heart who spoke up against eve-teasers and paid the price with her life.
Lucknawi Parsis are no different from other Parsis in India, when it comes to their common love of eat, drink and be merry.
“The fondest memory of every Parsi is of food. We like to eat, laugh and in short enjoy life,” says Cyrus who is ever ready for several plates of dhansak, the lip-smacking Parsi dish!