Parsis fear for city’s first fire temple

Calcutta’s first Parsi fire temple on Ezra Street is hemmed in by later constructions, some of which are allegedly encroachments on the heritage premises (top); (above) the entrance to the decrepit fire temple that is owned by a family-run trust and listed as a Grade 1 heritage structure in the civic records.
Pictures by Sanjoy Chattopadhyaya

Calcutta: The death of the last known trustee of Calcutta’s first Parsi fire temple, defunct and decrepit but listed as a Grade I heritage building, has raised concern in the community about land sharks laying their hands on the property.

Cursetjee Manackjee Rustomjee, who died aged 81 on April 10, was a descendant of the family that had built the Ezra Street fire temple. Nobody in the otherwise close-knit community seems to know if Cursetjee shared the trustee rights with someone before his death.

“Cursetjee used to live on the premises of the fire temple, which used to be run by a family trust. But I have no idea who the other members were and who will look after the property in his absence,” said a community member who did not want to be named.

According to an almost blighted plaque outside the building, barely visible from Ezra Street because of ugly constructions all around, the Rustomjee Cowasjee Banajee fire temple was built in 1839.

Rustomjee Cowasjee is acknowledged as the first Parsi to settle in Calcutta with his family. He was a businessman who bought the erstwhile Calcutta Docking Company (now Kidderpore Docks) and also started an insurance firm, a paper mill and a cotton gin.

The temple he built has remained unused for ceremonies since 1989. Portions of the premises now house shops selling mostly lights. A part of the premises has allegedly been encroached on. One of the shopkeepers told Metro that there was an attempted break-in into the room that Cursetjee lived in on the evening of April 10, the day of his death.

Little is known of Cursetjee other than his lineage because he apparently kept to himself and didn’t even attend Parsi community gatherings.

Bahadur Postwalla, one of the older members of the community, said the Parsis of Calcutta were concerned that the property would cease to exist in Cursetjee’s absence. “Since it is a part of Parsi heritage, we wouldn’t want it to be encroached on further. We want its restoration,” he said.

Postwalla’s initiation ( kushti) ceremony was held at the Ezra Street temple in 1948. “It was free of encroachment then. All this started in the 1980s,” he said.

Mohammad Islam Haque, a 63-year-old man who owns a shop on the premises, had been Cursetjee’s companion for nearly four decades. He would depend on Haque to run errands for him.

Haque has written to chief minister Mamata Banerjee and several senior police officers, including the joint commissioner of police (crime), about some people trying to break into Cursetjee’s home.

Haque told Metro that the premises of the fire temple – the plot originally measured a bigha and 18 cottahs – had been gradually encroached on.

The temple stands in the middle of a rectangular plot, with separate structures on four sides that were used by members of the Banajee clan.

“There used to be a library to the east of the premises. It was forcibly occupied in 1989 by some men who assaulted Cursetjee and threw away all items that the library housed. We had reported the incident to police but there was no response. A company now functions out of that room,” said Haque, who had taken Cursetjee to the Infectious Diseases Hospital in Beleghata when he was taken ill.

The fire temple is categorised as a Grade I structure in the Graded List of Heritage Buildings, published by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation.

The Parsis of Calcutta – only 450 of them are left – visit the fire temple on Metcalfe Street for prayers. That temple is run by a public trust.


Two rare two-and-a-half rupees notes to be auctioned in Mumbai today

A century later, two rare two-and-a-half rupees notes to be auctioned in Mumbai today

The value of each note would have been equivalent to one dollar at the time.

Two two-and-a-half rupees notes that were introduced in 1918 will be auctioned on Sunday. The British issued the rare note on January 22 — at a time when they were experimenting with paper currency. The value of each note would have been equivalent to one dollar at the time.

The front of the note has a picture of King George V and was signed by government secretary MS Gubbay.

Letters (eg B, K, etc) were printed on top of the note to signify circles. An undivided India had seven circles. Based on the printed letter, the notes were circulated in assigned regions. Today, three of the seven circles are not in India.

The base price for one note from the Kolkata circle is Rs8 lakh, while it is Rs2.5lakh for the Bombay one.

Mahesh Patil, businessman who has seven notes, one from each circle, takes pride in talking about his collection. “I have been collecting British-era notes of all denominations. I got my first two-and-a-half rupees note 25 years ago. For me, it is special because the notes that were printed in Pakistan were hard to find. Its rarity makes it a must- have for collectors,” says Patil.

The currency was eventually phased out and completely withdrawn by January 1, 1926. Speaking about the note, Jayesh Gala from, an online museum for coins, currency notes and stamps, expects that there are around 250 such notes across the world.

“The reason why the British government came up with a two-and-a-half rupees note is because during the world war metal was acquired from coins to be used for ammunitions. During those days even eight annas (half a rupee) had a lot of value. So, two-and-a- half rupees currency was used as a substitute when eight annas were not available,” reveals Gala.

Gala approximates that today the note is equivalent to 30grams of silver.

Malcolm Todywalla of Todywalla Auctions, who is conducting the auction, demurs. The value of the note cannot be compared in monetary terms today because India was an economically stronger country than the US in those days, says Todywalla.

“The note is historically very significant. Had we opted to shift to the dollar, the British-era notes would have been acceptable. However, some experts believe it was just a stop-gap measure to introduce a value more than one and fewer than five,” says Todywalla.

Arvind Ganhachari, former history professor at Mumbai university, says the British government had issued many banknotes with odd denominations. A soldier’s salary during World War I was Rs12 a month, he informs.

“As it was a war time, the British were raising war loans and contributions from masses, which is why they issued odd denominations acting as bonds. India had contributed 139 million pounds between 1914 and 1918, most of which was raised from masses, according to a British memoir,” says Ganhachari.



Mr. Khushru Jijina conferred with the ‘Entrepreneur of the year 2018″

Mr. Khushru Jijina felicitated at Asia Pacific Entrepreneurship Awards (APEA) 2018

Mr. Khushu Jijina, Managing Director, Piramal Finance and Piramal Housing Finance recipient of multiple national awards has added yet another feature to his cap with the Entrepreneurship award from APEA, a prestigious Asia region awards platform.

Mr. Khushru Jijina was conferred with the ‘Entrepreneur of the year 2018 in the financial services industry’ by APEA in New Delhi, India on April 13, 2018. The award recognizes Piramal Finance’s achievement and Mr. Jijina’s instrumental role in building the company along its core values of entrepreneurship and trusteeship.

APEA recognizes and honors business leaders who have shown outstanding performance and tenacity in developing successful businesses within the region. Organized by Enterprise Asia, it provides a platform for companies and governments to recognize and be recognized for entrepreneurial excellence, thereby spurring greater innovation, fair practices and growth in entrepreneurship.

Mr. Jijina, expressing his gratitude on receiving the award said, “The award is a testament to our journey of continuous evolution through innovation and leadership in the financial services business. We have adopted and demonstrated these facets continuously by making them a part of our building blocks that we call Piramal Success Factors which have been derived from our company’s values. As a team, we have always been deeply driven by our overarching corporate philosophy of ‘Doing Well and Doing Good’. This purpose and our values have been constant in our journey and serve as guideposts to enable us to become the company that we would like to be. Personally, I am humbled and honored to receive the prestigious APEA award on behalf of my young and motivated team that has been incredibly devoted and resilient during the entire journey of building this platform, to reach the scale and relevance that we enjoy in the industry today.”

The one-stop-shop for “Everything Zoroastrian”

R. N. Kerawalla & Co. one of the oldest “Everything Zoroastrian” Stores in India is delighted to inform you of its Worldwide delivery service.

Yes you read it right… a Worldwide delivery service for anything and everything Zoroastrian.

To place an Order with us simply reply to this e-mail or check our link below:

Requesting you to kindly share this e-mail with your family and friends.


R. N. Kerawalla & Co.
The One-Stop-Shop for “Everything Zoroastrian”


Delhi Parsi Food Festival

From Dhansak to Chicken Farcha: Delhi is ready for the Parsi Food Festival

It’s an opportunity no one should miss


Are you ready to taste these yummy dishes?

Did last month’s Navroz (Parsi New Year) feast leave your mouth watering and your belly craving for more? Well, you are lucky, for you have another chance to dig into those delicacies. Delhi’s Jaypee Vasant Continental is all set to host an authentic 10-day-long Parsi Food Festival, April 20 onwards, at their restaurant, Paatra.

Think Dhansak or Akoori, Berry Pulao or Chicken Farcha, and you will know exactly why these flavours have found favour with the ever-evolving Indian food lover. And this festival is a celebration of just that with a lavish ala cart menu, carefully curated by chefs Vaibhav Suri and Rahul Gaur.

“The heartwarming Parsi community has always enriched our social and cultural fabric. Parsis have beautifully integrated into the Indian societies and have introduced its sublime cuisine to various parts of the country. Their dishes use up a lot of local ingredients and spices to create unique flavours,” read a statement from the hotel, and we cannot help but agree. Just look at what a breakfast staple the humble mawa cake has become over the years.

So if you’re looking for a take two at some delish Parsi food, here’s where you need to be:

Where: Paatra, Jaypee Vasant Continental, New Delhi

Date: April 20 to 30, 2018

Time: 12:30pm to 2.45pm and 7.30pm to 11:30pm (Lunch and Dinner)


Applying to Graduate School in the US

17th April, 2018
A Webinar
Applying to Graduate School in the US
Sponsored By
Zoroastrian Faculty Network (ZFN)
A GWG/WZCC Joint Initiative

On May 5, 2018, 9:00AM India Time

Farrokh Mistree, Ph.D.

L.A. Comp Chair and Professor,
School of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering,
University of Oklahoma.

Janet K. Allen, Ph.D.
John and Mary Moore Chair and Professor,
School of Industrial Engineering,
University of Oklahoma.
Content of the webinar is
“Key elements of securing admission and funding at graduate schools in the US”Click here to Register
Please note:

  • Parents are encouraged to participate.
  • Information on how to participate and access to the slides will be sent after registration.

Edul Daver
 – WZCC Global President

Nan Khatai

Nan Khatai
(Indian Shortbread Cookies)


Nan Khatais or Indian Short bread cookies are one of those melt in the mouth cookies
They are easy and quick to make.
1 cup all purpose flour (Maida)
1/2 cup icing sugar or you can use caster sugar
1/2 cup melted ghee (cooled ) or you can use unsalted butter
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cardamom powder (optional)
1/2 tsp. rose essence (optional)
1 pinch salt
Preheat your oven on 170 C
Line a baking tray with baking paper or foil.
Mix flour,sugar,salt,baking and cardamom powders in a bowl.
Add the ghee and rose essence and make a soft dough.
Make small balls and sightly flatten them.
Place them on the baking tray and bake the biscuits for 15 minutes.
Switch off the oven and leave the cookies in the oven to cool for 1/2 an hour
by leaving the oven door sightly open.
This will sightly crispen the cookies
Remove the cookies and let them cool outside for a further 1/2 and hour.
Put them in a cookie jar or air tight container.
Enjoy them with your tea! Please comment, share and like!


Only a Parsi can write a paean to the Bumla. “A Bombay Duck that never clucks. Eat him fresh or eat him dry; mum and dad they like him fried. Bombay Duck he’s worth a try.” Minocher Kava and his wife Naju composed this and the first Indi-Pop Hit, “Bumbumbumbum Bumbai Meri Hai”. Another hit in 1966, “Evening in Gay Maharashtra”, became an LGBT anthem in 2014 in the fight against Article 377.

Courtesy : Soonu Engineer