A Look at Contemporary Parsi Life--Photographs by Sue Darlow
Another Subcontinent presents our second feature: an exhibition by photographer, and Another Subcontinent member, Sue Darlow. This exhibition will be featured on Another Subcontinent from Dec 21, 2004 to Jan 11, 2005 and will then be archived in the photography section of our feature pages (see links at left).
The photographs are grouped into six galleries of six images each. To view them click on the thumbnails on the right. Each will open a larger image in this center window. To view a fresh set of thumbnails click on the gallery links; to return to this introduction click on "front". Those unfamiliar with the history of the Parsis in India may wish to first read Sue Darlow's essay, A Brief History of the Parsis. Copyright for all images, captions and text is retained by the artist and these images may not be used, disseminated or displayed without her permission.
Sue Darlow on this Exhibition
The genesis for this project were my frequent visits to Jhansi, UP, where my uncle and aunt still live in the ancestral home. My grandfather, Edulji Meherwanji Boyce (1887 - 1940), was a prosperous businessman who had a provision store with licenses to sell arms and alcohol, as well as a Ford agency. He catered in major part to the British troops stationed at this cantonment and railway town (the town John Masters' "Bhowani Junction" was based on). The house, although allowed to fall into grave disrepair, has retained much of the flavour of a bygone age (see "Mr and Mrs Boyce" - Gallery 5, photograph 5). The Parsi population of Jhansi has shrunk drastically over the past few decades, due to emigration far and wide. The old way of life is disappearing fast. I decided I would dedicate the next few years to documenting what I could of this community, both in India and abroad.
Although until recently there was not much published in the visual field about Parsis, a few books have emerged lately. So unique is this community, that UNESCO has initiated the "PARZOR Project" entitled "Preservation of Parsi Zoroastrian Heritage - Campaigns and International Conventions."
While on the one hand depicting the community in broad strokes, referring to its religion, culture and mores, and public achievements, I also hope to convey something of the unique flavour of the Parsi world, through a more intimate view of its domestic life. It has been an extraordinary journey of discovery, as well as a 'coming home' of sorts.
Thanks and Dedication
I would like to thank the very many people who have extended their help and generous hospitality to me during the course of the work, though there are too many to mention here individually.
This project is dedicated to the memory of the late Khorshed Kheshvala.
About Sue Darlow
Over the years, her work has appeared in numerous publications, including New Internationalist, The Times Literary Supplement, The Economist, The Times Educational Supplement, The Guardian, The Independent on Sunday, Our Baby, Reader's Digest, The Vegetarian, Country Life, Sainsbury's magazine, Food Illustrated, New Cyclist, Bike Culture, and Encycleopedia, as well as various books and peripheral publications. She has also held shows in England and Taiwan.
In the late 90s she decided to start documenting the life and customs of the Parsis. She only wishes she had started earlier. The present time is one of great change in the community, and after setting out to document some of the more traditional aspects, she came to see that covering the burning issues of the day - almost total urbanisation of the community in India, diminishing numbers in India, the plunging birth rate, emigration away from India, atomisation of the community, marrying out, the orthodox versus liberal debate, the issue of conversion, to name a few - was more interesting and important to address. She is now turning her attention more to these aspects. She hopes to publish a book of her work eventually.
When not taking photographs Sue can also be found on the Another Subcontinent forums where her pictures of and recipe for gajar halwa have caused quite a commotion.
Note: One of the photographs on the front page of the site does not appear in the galleries. Here is the caption for it: Ervad Jimmy Pheroze Panthaky reciting prayers while undergoing strict rules of purity and austerity at the entrance to an agiary (Zoroastrian fire temple) in Navsari, 2002.