Parsi Family & Oral History

While doing research for my book on Parsi legal history, I had the opportunity to speak with many elderly Parsis about their family and community history. I will always remember the humor, drama, and poignancy of the stories people shared with me. There were accounts of everyday life in Raj-era Bombay, of the flight from Burma to India during the Japanese invasion in WWII, and of studying law at the Inns of Court in London in the 1940s.

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Vase from a Parsi home

I have been thinking more about Parsi family history since finishing my book, and have an article about personal and family memoirs coming out later in 2016: “Parsi Life Writing: Memoirs and Family Histories of Modern Zoroastrians.” Two of the memoirs I write about were by Parsi lawyers who spent part of their lives in colonial Burma. I also posted this on the Legal History Blog.

Preserving oral and family history is a critical part of preserving community heritage. I am thrilled to learn that the Zoroastrian Association of Houston and Rice University have teamed up to produce oral history interviews with Parsis in the Houston area. These have been posted online as audio recordings and transcripts, with photos. There are over thirty interviews so far here, featuring renowned novelist Bapsi Sidhwa and ZAH librarian and archivist Aban Rustomji, among others. Because many members of the Houston Parsi community migrated from Karachi (now in Pakistan), there are valuable accounts of the 1947 partition of British India into independent India and Pakistan here.

A very big thank you to everyone involved! This is not only a model on the kind of oral history work that should be done for the Parsi community worldwide, but also for diasporic Asian communities across the US.