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The Tatas, Freddie Mercury & Other Bawas (An Intimate History of the Parsis)

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Item Code: UBK265
Author: Coomi Kapoor
Publisher: Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2021
ISBN: 9780143459811
Pages: 375 (Throughout B/w Illustrations)
Other Details 8.50 X 5.50 inch
Weight 320 gm
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Fully insured
Shipped to 153 countries
Shipped to 153 countries
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More than 1M+ customers worldwide
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100% Made in India
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23 years in business
Book Description
About The Book

The Parsis are fast disappearing. There are now only around 50,000 members of the community in all of India. But since their arrival here from Central Asia, somewhere between the eighth and tenth centuries, the Parsis’ contribution to their adopted home has been extraordinary. The history of India over the last century or so is filigreed with such contributions in every field, from nuclear physics to rock and roll, by names such as Dadabhai Naoroji, Dinshaw Petit, Homi Bhabha, Sam Manekshaw, Jamsetji Tata, Ardeshir Godrej, Cyrus Poonawalla, Zubin Mehta and Farrokh Bulsara (aka Freddie Mercury). This is a revised and updated new edition - engaging and accessible - making it as the most intimate history of the Parsis by senior journalist and columnist Coomi Kapoor, herself a Parsi. The book pores through the names, stories, achievements and the continuing success of this tiny but extraordinary minority. She delves deep into both the question of what it means to be Parsi in India, as well as how the community’s contributions-from tanchoi silk to chikoos-became integral to what it meant to be Indian.

About the Author

Coomi Kapoor is a pioneer political journalist who was the first female chief reporter and bureau chief in Delhi. She has been in the profession for nearly five decades, and has worked with the Indian Express, India Today, Sunday Mail, Indian Post, Illustrated Weekly of India and Motherland. She is currently a consulting editor at Indian Express, where her popular column, 'Inside Track', appears regularly. Her earlier book, The Emergency: A Personal History (2015), was a bestseller.


This well-researched and informative book brings out in vivid colours the saga of a microscopic community to which the author and I are proud to belong. The book begins with a short history of the Parsis after they landed in India, and then goes on to a contemporary theme, which is the peremptory sacking of Cyrus Mistry by the board of Tata Sons as the executive chairman of Tata Sons. This is then followed by a chapter entitled "The House of Tatas', which gives interesting details about the founder of the group, namely, Jamsetji Tata. The surname 'Tata' is believed to have been derived from Gujarati words which signify a hot temper. An interesting detail is that Jamsetji was born when his father was only seventeen years old. After the Parsis came to India, they adopted many of the ways of the majority community, including child marriages at that time. In fact, thanks to a child marriage between Sir Temulji Nariman and his wife at the tender age of five and three, respectively, they enjoyed a married life of eighty-six years, entering the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest-ever marriage, until they were recently pipped by two marriages which extended to ninety years each. Jamsetji's curiosity and extensive travels led to the birth of the multifarious activities of the House of Tata, which included the first world-class luxury hotel built in 1903 in Bombay. Incidentally, my great-grandfather, Sorabji Contractor, was the person who actually built this hotel under a British architect who is alleged to have designed it the wrong way around! Another interesting detail is Jamsetji's visit to England in 1880, in which he attended a lecture by Thomas Carlyle who observed. Those who control iron and steel will in time come to control gold as well.' This led to many further travels, including to the USA, and the setting up of the Tata Iron and Steel Company.

Interesting details are given about the House of the Wadias, the founders of Bombay's shipping industry, including the signing of the Treaty of Nanking in 1842, whereby the Chinese Emperor ceded the territory of Hong Kong to the British, onboard a Wadia ship the HMS Cornwallis. Another interesting historical event is the composition of the American national anthem by Francis Scott Key during the Anglo-American War of 1812 onboard another Wadia vessel, the HMS Minden. The other business houses of the Parsi community, the Shapoorji Pallonji group and the Godrej group, are also described in vivid and punctilious detail.

Book's Contents and Sample Pages

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