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Les Parsis   By: (1850-)

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Les Parsis


D. Menant

Translated in part

By the late

Miss Ratanbai Ardeshir Vakil


Printed for private circulation




Introduction ix Chapter I. The Exodus of the Parsis 1 II. The Zoroastrians in Persia 38 III. Population Costumes Usages Festivals 77


A special interest attaches to this translation into English of D. Menant's monograph entitled "Les Parsis," arising from the circumstance that it is, in great part, the work of a Parsi lady, the late Miss Ratanbai Ardeshir Vakil.

I have still a vivid recollection of the morning in the beginning of the year 1886 on which Mr. Ardeshir F. Vakil, senior partner in one of the leading firms of solicitors in Bombay, brought his two daughters Meherbai and Ratanbai to the Wilson College to begin their career as students of the Bombay University. Although for many years that University had prefaced its Regulations with the sentence "In the following regulations the pronoun 'he' and its derivatives are used to denote either sex," and had thus opened its doors wide to the women of India, only one lady student had been enrolled as undergraduate in Arts before these two sisters entered upon their College career. The experiment which was then made awakened some anxieties. Would it be possible for Indian ladies to study in a mixed College class? How would the men be likely to conduct themselves in the new situation? these were questions which naturally presented themselves. The result of the experiment disappointed from the beginning all such fears. From the first day the presence of these ladies elevated the tone and discipline of the College class in a manner most creditable to the ladies and to the men. The success of this experiment paved the way for the admission during subsequent years of an increasing number of lady students to the privileges of a University education, who are under no small obligation to the courage and character displayed by these two sister pioneers. They both came to the University under the impulse of a real love of learning, and their success in the pursuit of it was assured from the beginning.

In this prefatory note I confine myself to the career of the younger sister. The elder, after her graduation as Bachelor of Arts in Bombay, entered upon a course of medical study which led her ultimately to London and Glasgow. From the Glasgow University she received the degrees of M.B., C.M., and is now exercising her profession in her native city.

The younger sister, Ratanbai, never left home. The strength of her attachment to her home in Bombay was quite remarkable. She found little enjoyment even in those temporary absences from Bombay during the hot season vacation which prove so attractive to many. Her life moved in two spheres the College and her home, and these two sufficed.

Born in December, 1869, she was a girl of sixteen when she entered upon her studies for her degree. She passed through the ordinary curriculum of study, which included English and French Literature, Mathematics, Elementary Science, History, and Logic. The subjects in which she was specially interested were English and French Literature. French was recognised by the University as one of the languages which might be studied in the course for the degree of Bachelor of Arts when she entered upon her studies, and she was one of the first to select this language. She had as her instructor the late Signor Pedraza, a gentleman whose name will always be associated with the history of the progress of French studies in Western India... Continue reading book >>

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