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The Daily Rhino
Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Things you probably won't be showing your kids: Part III

White backed vulture#6 A Parsi Funeral

PARSIS may themselves one day be added to this depressing list as they are estimated to number only about 50,000 in Mumbai. However, right now it is the days of their traditional funerals that are numbered.

Zoroastrianism, founded in Persia by Zarathustra, had been in existence for over 2 millenia before the 7th century Arab invasion. Burial, burning or dumping into the sea are forbidden in the religion, so as not to pollute the elements of earth, fire or water. Hence bodies are left high in Towers of Silence, lying on marble to be fed upon by vultures until nothing but sun-bleached bones remain. The vulture population, especially that of the white-backed vulture (pictured), in India has been drastically reduced as a result of cattle carcasses becoming toxic due to widespread use of an anti-inflammatory called Diclofenac. The drug causes renal failure and death when it gets into the bodies of carrion-eating birds. The white-backed vulture population is estimated to have been slashed by an astounding 99.7% in a decade.

Captive breeding programmes have been started and attempts to ban the veterinarian form of Diclofenac (used for arthritis in humans) have been made. Parsis themselves have turned to solar power in order to accelerate the decomposition process and an engineer has even created an ozone-producing machine to quell the stench. Mark Twain visited Bombay in 1897 and observed a Parsi funeral:

"it disseminates no corruption, no impurities of any sort, no disease-germs; that no wrap, no garment which has touched the dead is allowed to touch the living afterward; that from the Towers of Silence nothing proceeds which can carry harm to the outside world."

Sadly, the outside world has not returned the favour.

#7 The Roma

The word gypsy has become somewhat corrupted now; used to describe just about anyone with a caravan or hoop earrings. The traditional Romany gypsy came to central-east Europe about 1000 years ago, from Rajasthan in India. Oft erroneously portrayed as hook-nosed fortune-tellers, the number of Romany themselves is stable, but the traditional culture is on the wane.

Land shortage and European Human Rights legislation (creating incentive to be assimilated into other communities) is creating an increasing trend of the Romany ditching their age-old way of life and settling down.

#8 The Tiger

Tigers aren't like pandas. Pandas are notorious for their embarrassing lack of libido, but tigers breed very successfully in captivity. I like to think the Bengal Tiger breeds most vigorously, but he probably sits around talking about lion/tiger politics and how Bengal Tigers are more intelligent than others. Texas alone boasts over 10,000 caged tigers, but in the tiger's home of Asia, only four thousand are left. Three and a half thousand of these are in India, with most of the rest in Russia and Sumatra. Without wanting to sound like a long-playing record, as in the case of the Javan Rhino, Chinese medicine has a lot of answer for, still the chief drive of poaching in India. Fucking shitheads.

Yet threats to the tiger's livelihood are legion. Poaching occurs not only for medicinal demands, but tiger hides remain popular. Man also hunts tiger prey – hoofed animals – widely. Deforestation and mining rob the tiger of its natural habitat.

Ruth Padel, the author of Tigers in Red Weather, states that India is the only country likely or able to do anything to stop tigers vanishing forever. In The Independent, Padel quoted from the Mahabharata:

"Do not cut down the forest with its tigers, do not banish the tigers from the forest.
The tiger perishes without the forest, the forest perishes without its tigers.
The tiger should stand guard over the forest and the forest should protect its tigers."

She commented on a recent survey which named tigers the "world's favourite animal". Padel feels it's because tigers represent the wild itself. The world desperately needs the symbol of the wild, wildlife and wilderness to survive. If only so that we can remain civilised.

#9 The Flower Valley at Bhyundar Gorge

Few countries can match India's biodiversity. A foray into the foothills of the mighty Himalaya reveals India's alpine beauty. A carpet of lilies, primulas, poppies and anemones bursts into life as the snow recedes. Towering snowy mountains provide a spectacular backdrop to a symphony of colour.

Over-grazing seems to have caused bracken to overrun the flowers. But as with the Three Gorges project, a new dam will divert water from the area and a busy new road will change the peaceful garden forever.

Things you probably won't be showing your kids: Part I
Things you probably won't be showing your kids: Part II



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The Parsi bit is heartbreaking. My mom's a Parsi, though, and I got to say, the community has insulated itself so well that it's done itself in, I think. 1 in 4 Parsis marry outside the community and are 'excommunicated' in a sense; not allowed the Parsi funeral rites.

We kids were raised in my dad's religious tradition but I've always wanted to see the dakhmas. It's a lovely idea to return your body to earth via the vultures but because the vultures aren't there apparently the towers get stinky, now many Parsis choose cremation.
Man that Roma chick is secksi.... Speaking of Roma, we've got many in England too. It was actually a Roma guy who told me about their Indian connection. Hardly any Indians seem to be aware of this..
Hey R, yeah - I have heard lots from Parsi friends who lament their own community's poor attempts to keep going. They've been a rather insular community since they came to India...and haven't had enough kids! But I didn't know about the excommunication you mention, it seems a bit stuffy, as an outsider.

Well why d'ya think I chose the pic, Vik?! You're right, not many Indians know of the connection - but look at the smaller pic, very Rajasthani!
I personally believe that Parsis are one of the best community we have in the world. They generally do lead a self-less life and go beyound their means to help others...

but then there are always exceptions...

if you get time...check out my post on parsi community

Adriano Mutu from Chelsea FC is a Romani. All hail the first 'Asian' Premiership footballer :P
I did not know that. But was he playing in the Premiership before Michael Chopra and Zeshan Rehman?

Sorry, just burst out laughing again at the thought that Man U are out of Europe. Hahahaha!
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