October 29 was ‘Cyrus the Great Day’ – a day some people celebrate as the anniversary of the entrance of Cyrus into Babylon.
It is said that Cyrus the Great’s empire extended over almost 30 nations and was marked with exemplary governance and religious tolerance. Cyrus liberated the Jews and they, in turn, bestowed upon him the titled of ‘Anointed of the Lord’.
Cyrus was a man of great vision, compassion, courage and is best remembered for giving the world its first ever Charter of Human Rights – also known as the Cyrus Cylinder.
At a time when barbarism, violence and slavery were in vogue, he gave people the freedom to flourish without fear. Tolerance, equality and magnanimity – concepts unheard of in those days, were put into practice by Cyrus the Great, paving the way for what we call good governance today.
To think that we proudly count him as one of our ancestors – but just who in the community is upholding his illustrious legacy today!
On November 5 is the death centenary of Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, yet another iconic Parsi. His statue stands tall and proud outside the beautiful BMC building, opposite Victoria Terminus.
His long tenure of 46 years in the BMC, being Mayor (then called President) four times, and also being appointed Vice Chancellor of the Bombay University, are but a few of the many highlights of his life in public service. And what a life it was!
That finally brings to mind yet another iconic Paris who was in Mumbai last week: Zubin Mehta. His humility, warmth and devotion to his craft have won him many accolades all over the globe. Yet he remains a genial and gregarious Parsi to the core, settling down to hearty lagan-nu-bhonu with his team at the Colaba Agiary every time he performs in Mumbai!
He wears his talent and fame lightly, but continues to take his work very seriously.
What is it that makes us a community capable of producing such icons – although fewer and further between these days – and yet, paradoxically, we see so many young Parsis wasting away?
Have we become too comfortable for our own good? Do we believe that the dogged pursuit of excellence is no longer worthy? Have we started fancying ourselves to the point where arrogance has gotten the better of us?
Before we dive into our Sunday dhansak and doze off, perhaps we need to introspect and see if we can steer our course back on track.
We don’t lack role models – Cyrus the Great, Sir Pherozeshah Mehta and Zubin Mehta are but three names on a long list of illustrious icons bestowed upon our small tribe. But if we don’t generate new names, we’ll be doomed to mediocrity. Then the legacy of Cyrus the Great and scores of other iconic Parsis will be forever lost.
This column appeared in Jam-e-Jamshed dated Nov 1. 2015