25 January, 2021

Scaling The Parsi Citadel

Success, discipline, ambition; stacked as a community’s will

Photograph by Getty Images
Scaling The Parsi Citadel

Success demands the storyteller; it requires a narrative to explain achievements, its origins, its singularity. Success stories in India, like anywhere else, have a touch of the ethnic, the style of a group as it goes up in the world. The epic journey of the group expressed in individual struggles sustains the myth of the community. These stories are legion—the Marwari businessman, the Gujarati shop owner and the Tamil Brahmin scholar.

The success of the Chandrasekaran brothers is a story with a difference. Tam Brahms were legendary in their achievements in scholarship, the only issue was whether they were Iyer or Iyengar. I remember once looking at a picture of the school of physics in Calcutta. The names read like Ramanathan, Ramaswamy, Raman, Krishnan, Ganesan, Ramachandran, Chat­terjee and Banerjee. These very surnames spoke out the ethnic affinity that these subjects created.

The Tam Brahm obsession for marks was legendary. Two stories illustrate it. I remember a friend in my hostel who was glumly repeating his papers. I was stunned but he told me...



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