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Pulitzer Center Update July 28, 2015

This Week: The Parsis of Mumbai


Media: Authors:
Image by Chiara Goia. India, 2014.

Mumbai’s influential Zoroastrian community faces extinction even as its conservative and reform...

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Left: Family photos in a Parsi home. Right: Parveen Pavri (not her real name) in the living room of her apartment. Image by Chiara Goia. India, 2015.


India's population, already at 1.2 billion, increases by about 40,000 a day. Most of the government's family planning efforts are designed to curb this explosive growth. But one initiative is struggling to accomplish the opposite. Jiyo Parsi is a government-sponsored fertility treatment program that is trying to boost the numbers of India's endangered Parsi population.

The Parsis, practitioners of the ancient Zorastrian faith, currently number about 60,000. In a fascinating and beautifully written feature story for Harper's, Pulitzer Center grantee Nell Freudenberger looks at the stark choices and gloomy future facing this tightly-knit community that has contributed much to modern India but now stands on the brink of extinction.

"Parsis have one of the lowest fertility rates on earth, which most studies attribute to a culture that encourages late marriage and singlehood," writes Nell. The Jiyo Parsi fertility program might help, but others suggest that a more productive way to boost numbers would be to simply stop treating Parsi women who marry outside the faith as outcastes.


Pulitzer Center grantee Tracey Eaton traveled to Havana to report on Cuba's new relationship with the United States as seen through the eyes of the island's 20-somethings. In this dispatch for USA Today, Tracey notes that there have been unmistakable signs of revival: "Travel from the U.S. to Cuba has surged. Restaurants are bustling. Hotels are packed.

"Many young people have a new sense of hope. At the same time, they face daunting challenges: Low wages, food shortages, income inequality, declining quality of health care and education, and a crumbling infrastructure. Given the problems, many footloose Cubans have abandoned the island in recent years. Others have postponed childbirth."

As one young resident of the capital told Tracey, "My life and the lives of everyone are going to change as this process moves ahead," adding that "the landscape is still very gray," but change is "inevitable."


As scientists gather more evidence linking the increasing frequency and ferocity of Indian Ocean cyclones to climate change trends, student fellow Zach Hollo visited the Indian coastal city of Visakhapatnam to report on the disproportionate burden climate change poses for the world's poor, those least responsible for global carbon emissions.

"Slums in Visakhapatnam consist of both thatched housing made of sticks and dry leaves, and one-story pucca homes made of concrete foundations and scrap metal roofs. During the October storm, thatched houses were completely destroyed, while the cement houses lost their roofs and often crumbled. The city's middle and upper class residents, who mostly live in sturdy apartment buildings, suffered minimal damage like broken windows," writes Zach in his report for PRI's The World.

To rebuild the homes, many of the city's poorest residents were forced to take out loans with extortionate interest rates from private money lenders. This has only made matters worse.

"Climate change is now one of the major factors affecting social mobility around the world," one climate scientist tells Zach, a recent graduate of Northwestern University in Qatar. "Getting out of debt will take a long time. And before they're done repaying, another catastrophe may come. So these people cannot climb the social ladder."


Twenty-five years after the Mariel boatlift brought thousands of Cuban refugees to the U.S., Pulitzer Center grantee Yana Paskova visits communities in Miami and Havana to explore the evolving relationship between the two nations. Starting today, you can follow her work on The New Yorker's Instagram feed, @newyorkerphoto.

Meanwhile, photographer Katie Orlinsky will take over the Pulitzer Center Instagram account this week, July 27—August 2. Her work explores climate change and the transforming relationship between people, animals and the land in Alaska. Follow @pulitzercenter to see this work.

Until next week,

Tom Hundley
Senior Editor


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