Donor Search For Ailing Parsi Priest Stirs Up Bad Blood

2A message requesting for “Parsis only” blood donors for an ailing high priest has led to an uproar in the Parsi community.

While all attempts to trace the message’s origin have failed so far, the family of the priest Vada Dasturji Peshotan Mirza, who is admitted to a south Mumbai hospital, has maintained it they did not send out any such request.

Mirza, 67, who is one of the two high priests from Udvada that houses the highest grade of fire temple, underwent a surgery for removal of a kidney tumour last week. During the procedure, the hospital had requested the family to replace 25 odd units of blood. “A message requesting to donate blood was definitely circulated. But we did not make any mention of Parsi donors only,” clarified Mirza’s wife Maharukh. “Blood is blood. What else can I say,” she added.

Somewhere in the middle of the message trail, someone from within the community added the “only Parsi donors needed” line. Since it started as a WhatsApp message that was also forwarded to many in the community on the messaging app and also as a text message, it is difficult to pin-point who tweaked it.

Community member Vispy Wadia, who is also a trustee of the Association of Revival of Zoroastrianism, said initially everybody suspected one person who is known for his ultra-orthodox views, but he has since clarified that he got the message as a forward. “How can you discriminate in the name of religion? This is shameful,” said Wadia. He added that a section of the community is averse to organ donation too as it believes that the body must be returned to the creator in whole.

Some community members believe that “Parsis only” line was added by one of the ailing priest’s students.

Several memes decrying the narrow mindedness have since gone viral on community websites and WhatsApp groups. Community member Ratan Unwalla in a letter to a community newspaper questioned if there is anything like the “Parsi blood” and if there is a lab that can identify this hitherto unheard of blood group. “Can the person who posted this message identify Parsi blood from non-Parsi blood,” he asked, adding that whoever has sent the message not only displayed a racist bent of mind, but also total ignorance of the true tenets of Zoroastrianism.

Unwalla also reminded the community that a 21-year-old Parsi girl from Mumbai was transplanted with a heart of a non-Parsi in Chennai in 2014.

Jehangir Patel, editor of community magazine Parsiana, described the message as misguided. “It was sent with a good intention. Such thoughts are deeply ingrained in certain sections of the community and it is difficult to change their beliefs,” said Patel.

For years, the Parsi community has obsessed over racial purity. While a few members believe that race is never static, the inflexible beliefs of the ultra-orthodox in the community have resulted in the depletion the Parsi gene pool.

A community member said that a decade-old DNA profile study had shown that Indian Parsis showed greater similarity to people from Gujarat than Iran, where Parsis originally hail from. “We tend to confuse religion and ethnicity. All this is simply a misplaced notion of racial purity,” he said.


‘O’ positive blood needed for Vada Dasturji Peshotan Mirza. Only Parsi donors needed. The donors will have to go to Jaslok Hospital, Mumbai and say they have come to give blood for Peshotan Mirza

Published on Mumbai Mirror