National Geographic : 1905 Dec
534 THE NATIONAL GE( plans, and they are well ventilated. Their villas or garden houses are some of the best in Bombay. The drawing rooms are richly furnished and deco rated and the walls adorned with land scapes and historical pictures, while the particular boast of a Parsee is to have his house brilliantly lighted with many lamps and chandeliers of every descrip tion. A great improvement has taken place among the Parsees in their mode of taking meals. Years ago they used, like the Hindoos, to eat them squatting on the ground, and the viands were served to them in a brass dish, on which they were all spread out at the same time, a practice still in vogue among the poorer classes. The better classes have for a long time past adopted the table and chair, with all the usual accompaniments of a European dinner. At large parties the tableis spread outinEnglishfashion, instead of as formerly, when hundreds sat in a line in rows upon an oblong sheet of cotton cloth laid upon the floor, each eating his food off a plantain leaf upon which it was laid out. The public and private schools of Bombay are largely attended by their children, and every effort is made to pro cure translations of standard English books. As a matter of fact it may be said that the Parsees are very progress ive, and that it is only necessary for them to understand the value and ad vantage of whatevermay be offered them to induce them to accept it with eager ness. PUBLIC-SPIRITED GENEROSITY At present they seem to have lost all their military spirit. Many follow com mercial and mercantile pursuits, some of them being the wealthiest merchants in India, while others have obtained high favor in government offices or have won distinction by reason of their char itable gifts. Four Parsees have been especially honored by the late Queen GRAPHIC MAGAZINE Victoria. The heads of two families have been made baronets-Jamsetjee Jeejeebhai and Dinshaw Maneckjee Petit-and knighthood has been con ferred upon the late Kavasjee Jehangir Readymoney and M. M. Bhownagree, at present representing the district of Bethnal Green in the British House of Commons. They provide for their own poor and infirm. Strikingly strange, one never sees in Bombay a Parsee soldier, servant, or beggar. But their faultless generosity is broader than their race, and many of the fine public buildings, colleges, and hospitals, of which Bombay is justly proud, owe their origin and maintenance to the liberality, wealth, public spirit, and genius of the Parsees. Indeed, it is a most significant fact that the one hun dred thousand followers of Zoroaster who still tend the sacred flame, in spite of their numerical insignificance, play so large a part in the development of India. A comparison of the political stand ing and social surroundings of the Parsee community in Bombay with that of their sister community in Persia furnishes one of the most remarkable examples in the whole range of English history of the beneficence of British rule. It is interesting to relate that the Parsees of Persia have been helped by their wealthy kinsmen in Bombay, espe cially as regards their education and the lightening of their political burdens. The rupees which the Parsee commu nity has spent till now for the allevia tion of the sufferings of their followmen, irrespective of caste or creed, are to be counted in crores, and one of the hap piest and most remarkable features of it is that this spirit of catholic charity burns not only at home-that is, in the country which they have adopted as their own-but wherever they take themselves, either for the pursuit of business or pleasure.