Today is Navroz, the Parsi New Year, which is celebrated by Zoroastrians all over the world. Parsis form a very tiny community in India, having shifted from Iran many generations ago when their religion was threatened. Though they are small as a community, they have contributed a great deal to India, thanks to the great wealth and philanthropy of some families, who not only funded infrastructure in cities around India during British rule, but also contributed massively to India’s cultural base.
In honour of Parsi New Year, then, meet six Parsi women you really ought to know.
Bachi Karkaria: Journalist and columnist Bachi Karkaria is well-known all over the country for her her work. One of the longest-serving journalists in the country, she was also the first Indian to be appointed to the board of the World Editors’ Forum. While her columns are usually satirical, she is known for her straight talk in her journalism, and on TV news panels. She is also closely associated with AIDS eradication in the country.
Sooni Taraporevala: Screenwriter and photographer Sooni Taraporevala is best known for her scripts for filmmaker Mira Nair’s award-winning ‘Salaam Bombay!’ and ‘Mississippi Masala’. She became a filmmaker herself with 2008’s multi award-winning Little Zizou, and is the author of a magnificent book of photographs called ‘Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India’. In 2014, she was awarded the Padma Shri.
Perizaad Zorabian: Actress and businesswoman Perizaad Zorabian studied both business administration and acting in New York. With her MBA in hand, she returned to Mumbai to work with her father in his poultry business and run her restaurant, Gondola. Zorabian began her career in the glamour industries as a model but soon found herself both on the big screen and small, with films like Nagesh Kukunoor’s ‘Bollywood Calling’ and Subhash Ghai’s ‘Joggers’ Park’ and the TV show ‘Hum Pardesi Ho Gaye’. She also played Indira Gandhi in a Chinese film called ‘Bandung Sonata’.
Diana Edulji: Known as the greatest woman cricketer of her time, Diana Edulji played her first international Test series in 1975, and captained the Indian women’s cricket team in 1978. In 1983, she was awarded the Arjuna, India’s highest award for sports, and in 2002, she received the Padma Shri. When touring England with her team in 1986, Edulji was refused entry to the MCC’s Lord’s Pavilion because of her gender. Unfazed, she said the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) should be renamed the MCP (Male Chauvinist Pigs).
Mehr Jesia: One of India’s first supermodels in the early 1990s along with Madhu Sapre and Milind Soman, Mehr Jesia won the Femina Miss India contest in 1986. Married to former model, now actor Arjun Rampal, she has two daughters. At the peak of her supermodel career, Jesia was known to be the late fashion designer Rohit Khosla’s muse.
Bapsi Sidhwa: Pakistani novelist Bapsi Sidhwa is best known for her book ‘The Ice Candy Man’ (later renamed ‘Cracking India’), which was made by Deepa Mehta into a film titled ‘Earth’ that starred Aamir Khan, Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das. Sidhwa was born in Karachi, grew up in Lahore and now lives in the US. She is the author of several books, including ‘Water: A Novel’, based on Deepa Mehta’s film of the same name, ‘An American Brat’, ‘The Pakistani Bride’ and ‘The Crow Eaters’.
Feature image credit: Perizaad Zorabian by Bollycurry.com