On 30th September 2021, Mugdha Kalra, a journalist who has over two decades of experience in broadcast journalism and Coomi Kapoor, a journalist and author had a conversation on Bakstage, a live podcast app.
They talked about Coomi’s book ‘The Tatas, Freddie Mercury & Other Bawas: An Intimate History of the Parsis’.
I had the opportunity to cover the event as a journalist for Bookosmia, the top publishing destination for under-17s and got to ask Coomi a question too!
It was a light and fun conversation peppered with facts that were a revelation to most of us listeners.
On being asked about her inspiration for the book, Coomi responded with a story about how she visited a pilgrimage years ago and was asked where she hailed from. She was ashamed to not know about her family history.
According to her, in the past, many books have been written about Parsis and they are concentrated on one person only and were scholarly and historical. She wanted to bring the Parsi community to light in the form of a fun lively encyclopaedia.
They even talked about the origin of Parsi names and how her name was a short form for Coerbai meaning princess. Parsi last names were many a times derived from the professions or the places they hail from. So, if they were from Surat, it was Suratiwala, if they traded with India, it was Vilayatior Chinoise if they traded with China. Parsis were never confined to a caste and could pick whatever last name they wanted.
Other topics discussed included the decline of the rates of Parsis in the world population and the difference between Zoroastrians and Parsi
On enquiring her about which Parsi would she like to spend a day with conversing and learning, she replied with, “Cyrus Broacha because he is such a funny man and carries his Parsiness up his sleeves.”
The session ended with Coomi telling us a famous legend of how the Parsis started living in India.
A ship from Iran landed in Sanjan, a port in Gujarat and the Parsis
As soon as he said so, a priest came and filled a glass of milk to the brim and said that the glass of milk resembled their kingdom. The Parsis then added sugar to it and the milk did not overflow. They said that the Parsis will add to the sweetness of the community without overflowing.
What a beautiful story!