British Deputy High Commissioner, Mumbai invited to a Parsi wedding for the first time, and gives a ‘thumb-nail’ review of the community’s current situation.
From wedding feast to global business – never under-estimate the Parsi influence for good in Mumbai
I was fortunate recently to attend my first ever Parsi wedding. Two of the 40 or so Parsi staff in the Deputy High Commission in Mumbai, Nazneen (our press officer) and Burzin ( a member of the UKBA team), were getting married, and they had been kind enough to invite my wife and me to their wedding.
There are many contrasts with a typical UK wedding. First there were far more people – about 700 – than most people in the UK would normally invite but Indian festive occasions extend beyond the immediate family and friends of the couple to include the social and business obligations of parents and siblings on both sides. The couple are married on a dais after which all the guests go up to meet and greet them individually.” Then there is food, and lots of it! The food is served on a large banana leaf – I had never realised, until I saw mine covered with delicious fish, chicken, rice and much more, how big a banana leaf is! Afterwards, and perhaps this is the biggest difference with Britain, most of the guests depart without so much as one speech: something many people might welcome in the UK.
The Parsis have kept these traditions, and many more, ever since they first emigrated to India from Iran centuries ago. During the wedding the couple went to a nearby “Fire Temple” to pray. These are so named because a fire burns in them eternally as it represents purity, being the only element that cannot be contaminated. In continuance to the original vow made when they first sought refuge in India, Fire Temples admit only Parsis. Pheroza Godrej, who edited a superb book on the origins and development of Bombay, has produced a magnificently illustrated History of the Parsis. I can’t claim to have read it, but it is a labour of love and meticulous research, which wowed some recent visitors from Europe at her home.
The Parsis have a wholly disproportionate influence in Mumbai and India compared to their tiny population. Globally there are probably no more than 120,000, with the largest group outside Mumbai in Toronto.
The Parsi influence was underlined shortly after the wedding I attended by an announcement by the Tata Group – India’s largest business conglomerate, and of course with major interests in the UK, including JLR and Corus – that they were appointing as their next chair a Parsi, Cyrus Mistry. Tata was founded by a Parsi, Jamshyd Tata, who was brought up in the small, dusty trading town of Navsari on the Gujarat coast. He started a steel business in Eastern India, and from there his successors as Chairmen– Parsis all – have built the company into the $78bn megalith it is today.
There are other powerful business groups in India with Parsi owners, including the massive consumer and industrial goods manufacturer Godrej, and smaller companies like Pune-based Forbes Marshall and Thermax.
But the Parsi influence goes way beyond business. Tata have some of the most well-endowed Foundations and Institutes in India, and a significant proportion of the Group’s profits are ploughed under its constitution into these charitable organisations. It is no exaggeration to say that many of Mumbai’s most valuable research organisations, hospitals and cultural centres (for example the vibrant National Centre for the Performing Arts, run by a Parsi, Khushroo Suntook, formerly a senior Tata executive) could not survive without Tata, Godrej or other Parsi generosity.
So from a banana leaf feast to the next head of global giant Tata the Parsi influence continues to hold great sway in Mumbai.
British Deputy High Commissioner, Mumbai
Courtesy : Hushang Vakil
Boman Irani, 55, is emotional, loyal and cuddly, who can cry possibly watching even Tom and Jerry. He started his life as a waiter, went on to becoming a photographer, did theatre and finally made his debut in Bollywood at the age of 44 with Raju Hirani’s Munna Bhai M.B.B.S. Ahead of his upcoming dance heist film Happy New Year, he talks about the extremely driven Shah Rukh Khan, his soulmate and wife Zenobia and how he has landed up doing in his life professionally what his father did as a hobby.
Click Here for excerpts of the interview
I’ve eaten a lot of Biryani. And I can safely say that no two Biryanis that you’ll eat from different homes or different restaurants will be the same. Each Biryani comes with its own set of ingredients and spices, that have been mastered over a course of time, after careful trial and error in the kitchen. In fact, my granny does a Parsi Biryani too, even though so many people say there’s nothing like a Parsi Biryani, my granny and I will beg to differ. I really like the India Map below which depicts the Biryani trail, and is the perfect example of how this dish got hybridized everywhere it traveled.
And then there came Biryani360- unlike any other Biryani I’d eaten before. I was introduced to Biryani360 and the concept by the PetPujaris group, as a part of their month-end ‘Kadka’. (More about the group on their Facebook page here.) We were all huddled up at Biryani360’s CEO, owner and passionate Biryani lover Shayan Italia’s home on one sunny Sunday afternoon to hear about his labour of love. I wasn’t aware of Biryani360 at that time, and I refrained from reading up any online reviews, so I went there with a blank slate and an hungry stomach.
Click Here to read on, the full review by Branded Bawi aka Zenia Irani
Since the inaugural Return to Roots (RTR) trip and its success at returning Zoroastrian youth to their roots and reconnecting them to their Zoroastrian identity, the youth leaders of the program have been hard at work planning the next trip. The inaugural trip’s impact has already spread across Zoroastrian communities around the world as RTR Fellows gave presentations at their local Zoroastrian associations and wrote articles about their life changing experiences. These Fellows are our community’s future leaders that will ensure a vibrant, global Zoroastrian community for generations to come.
The RTR Track B Tour will run from March 10, 2015 to March 22,2015 and will take participants to historic and cultural Zoroastrian sites in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Gujarat, with world-renowned experts and local guides explaining the cultural, religious and economic significance of the sites being visited.
In an endeavour to promote religious awareness and knowledge and also to provide a platform for budding talent.
RUSTOM BAUG ASSOCIATION
Zoroastrian Winter Relief Fund
THE SUPER SILVER CLUB
ALL PARSEE RELIGIOUS PERFORMING ARTS COMPETITION
FOR CHILDREN UPTO 16 YEARS
- 15 minute Play
- 3-5 minute Dance
Content for all the above mentioned should be strictly pertaining to Zoroastrian Religion and Culture only.
Attractive prizes for winners in each category and also for Individual performances
DATE: SUNDAY 9TH. NOVEMBER 2014
VENUE: SIR NESS WADIA MEMORIAL PAVILION,
Rustom Baug, Byculla, Mumbai 400 027.
Entry Fee: Rs.100 per item.
Last date for Entries: Sunday 2nd November 2014
For further details contact:
In a small Kolkata street named after the Jewish David Ezra, Aziz-mian deftly worked the manual flatbed machine printing the Diwali ‘ank’ of a Gujarati weekly owned and edited by a Parsi, Eduljee Kanga, who had chosen this Hindu festival over his own new year for the bumper annual. The typesetters were Bihari. Eduljee had to teach their migrant fathers the Gujarati script and then the skills of handsetting when he founded the Navroz in the fervour of 1917.
The bundles of printed sheets would be taken deeper into the city’s gut, where Khalique-mian would be awaiting the Parsi’s Diwali deity with his own votive glue and thread. His part of the ritual done, the portly binder would lead the procession of handcarts trundling through the pre-dawn lanes to deliver the final product to Navroz Printing Works in time for Dhanteras. Then, on the muhurat hour, Eduljee in formal dagla and pheta would ceremoniously hand over the first issues of the ‘Diwali ank’ to his oldest patrons. His son Navel and daughter-in-law Jaloo would continue this ritual for 72 years till the Navroz closed with their passing. The glossy annual would be distributed to subscribers by the UP-brahmin durwan, Mishra-ji. He’d be aided part-time by Saifuddin, the family’s much-valued cook. He too had come as a callow lad from Bihar’s village Karanja as ‘Burra-sah’b’s chhokra’, was promoted as ‘house-boy’, and then upped to ‘bawarchi-khana’.
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