Dr. Roozan Bharucha – innovator

Dr. Roozan Bharucha is a proposer and innovator of the AI-Prosthetic Device Group research conducted and completed at the SystemX Research Centre. The entire article of the Press Release of the SystemX Research Centre, California is attached here.
SystemX AI-Prosthetic Group of devices containing smart

Robotic hand which is AI enabled and highly Quantum Computed algorithms make it self-intelligent. This robotic hand can be fitted to the amputee with surgical and non-surgical fitments. The device is connected with the nervous system and it senses the R-Waves generated by the brain to generate movement for this hand as per the brain signals.

features that will help amputees to feel even the lightest and most faded touch and perform the smallest of the task will be out in the market soon.

CALIFORNIA – 16 June 2017A set of revolutionary artificial intelligence enabled quantum computing controlled AI-Prosthetics will come into limelight with the medical legacy of R-Waves emitted as signals from the human brain. These devices are set to bring great ease to the amputees as they will allow them to feel each moment that happens before them just like the normal organ bearing humans.

A revolutionary prosthetic hand and limb that connects directly to the brain has created a great sensation in the history of prosthetic devices and its researches. These devices are grouped under the category of AI-Prosthetics by the SystemX Research Centre who has obtained medical legacy over the base that controls these devices reported as the R-Wave Brain Signals. The entire group of research and its products is an idea of a 35 year young gun named

Dr. Roozan Bharucha

Dr. Roozan Bharucha who proposed his research theory for sale to the SystemX Research Centre from where this entire project has never looked back and always kick fired with great enthusiasm amongst the prosthetic device users.

The SystemX Research Centre, California’s AI-Prosthetics subordinate group head, Dr. Zion Almena said, “We have completely obtained legacy over the use of R-Waves which are further going to be used in AI-Prosthetic devices. The entire research has been completed and we have presently a group of AI-Prosthetic devices such as X-Hand, X-Limb, X-Eye, X-Ear/Drum, Brain Bleeding Analyser (Ver. 1.012) and X-Speech System. With the approval of these waves, the entire set of AI-Prosthetic devices will move on to our next phase where we will give these devices for more human testing and implementation and also proceed to acquire complete rights and payment procedures with the proposing scientific professional so that we can give the devices for mass production and make them publicly available to the customers by the end of September 2017.”

These set of AI-Prosthetic devices are for the people living with paralysis or missing limbs who will not only be able to manipulate objects by controlling their prosthetics directly with their brain. These devices will be able to sense and identify what they are touching and how they are touching. These set of devices will be made functional by placing the electrode arrays made of Gold and Nickel onto the volunteer’s sensory cortex location (non-surgically or surgically through no-cut laser) which directs body movements by sending wireless signals from the cortex chip to the prosthetics. It’s for the first time that any research has implemented this technology by breaking new neurological grounds by routing electrical touch signals in the prosthetics back to the sensory cortex by using specialised feedback and sensory artifacts.

In the non-surgical implantation tests, the 20 volunteers were fitted with a AI – Prosthetic Hand out of which all 20 experienced and could identify the lightest of the touches to their fingers with 100% accuracy. Similarly, 10 volunteers were fitted with an AI-Prosthetic Eye and AI-Prosthetic Speech System. The 10 volunteers who were fitted with AI-Prosthetic Eye gave clear cut explanation of the object kept in front of them to be recognized as well as reacted to reflexes in a normal pattern giving 100% accuracy. The 8 out of 10 volunteers fitted with AI-Prosthetic Speech System (dumb patients) were able to emit voice tones and alphabets kept in front of their eyes as well as speak out answers to the questions asked to them as per their brain signalling.

Dr. Salomon Bhojwick, President, International Prosthetics Union, Florida said, “These devices will be the world’s first sensory prosthetics which will include the smartness of a human being embedded into the machine. The cost of these devices shall keep low compared to normal devices as it includes mostly programs and light weight circuitry that is simple and cheap to manufacture with open code system that reduces the cost of buying licensed codes. These devices will prove to be a boon for the prosthetic users and hopefully be affordable to all the needy customers.”

SystemX Research Centre is the world’s Digital Innovation Centre which researches on transforming medical systems with software defined machines and solutions that include high end and precise quantum computing and artificial intelligence making them connected, responsive and predictive. SystemX shares this innovative knowledge with medical industry giants enabling them to form high quality medical instrumentation which works for the benefit of the patients.

​Ms. Niona Karl
SystemX Research Centre – PR Department
*Use contact form and quote the Press Release ID

Research Department: AI – Prosthetics
​Stage of Research: Post – Research Clinical Testing

Some of Dr. Roozan Bharucha’s other creations :


Brain Bleeding Analyser which analyses the bleeding within the skull without the need for any CT in emergency situations. This product is about to launch in this year.


Prosthetic Eye is a device which when fitted into the sockets of the amputee and connected with the nervous system, the camera works as an eye which senses images and sends signals to the brain for further normal analysis.


Its a digital pace maker, when the heart functions are abnormal, the patient can get it rectified with this unique digital pace maker device which automatically regulates the heart beats of the patient as per the brain excitement and nervousness of the patient without harming the device. Moreover this device remains connected with special AIWI technique which enables the manufacturer to send continuous updates to the device and keeps it up to date.


Roda Mehta to be conferred with AAAI Lifetime Achievement Award 2017

The Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) today announced that the recipient of this year’s AAAI Lifetime Achievement Award is Roda Mehta. This Award is the highest honour given to an individual in India for his/her outstanding contribution to the Advertising Industry.

Roda Mehta played a legendary and pioneering role in establishing scientific media planning and buying in India. While doing so, she built a whole generation of media professionals for the advertising industry. Ms Mehta joined Hindustan Thompson Associates in 1971 and became the first MBA and first woman in the Media function of an advertising agency in India. She moved to Ogilvy Benson & Mather in 1975, and rose from Media Group Head to Media Controller for Bombay Office in 1976 to representing Media for the first time on the Managing Committee of Bombay Office in 1978 to being sent to London for 3 months to introduce Account Planning and Research in the Indian operation in 1980 to the Board as Director – Media & Research in 1982. She transferred, as President – South in 1992, became Director -International Client Service in 1994, and Managing Consultant – the Media Network in 1996.  Along the way, she pioneered Outdoor planning and buying and set up a Rural Media network to service client requirements.

Invited on several committees and associations by the industry, including the Expert Committee on TV Marketing for Doordarshan & AIR, she was Founder Member of the Market Research Society of India (MRSI) and Founder Member and Chairperson – Technical Committee of the Media Research Users Council (MRUC).  She chaired MRUC from 1994-96. Ms Mehta was also on the Board of several other committees including Advisory Board – Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (Govt of India), AAAI’s Media Disputes Committee, Economic Times Advisory Panel, etc.  An avidly sought after speaker at industry conferences/seminars, she served as faculty on training programs run by Ogilvy & Mather India and Asia Pacific.

Roda Mehta bagged several prestigious awards including the David Ogilvy Award for Asia Pacific & Agency of the Year Award (Public Service) 1992 for the National Literacy Mission campaign.

Currently she is associated with several non-profit organisations as a Trustee of the Lila Poonawalla Foundation, which provides scholarships and mentoring to economically challenged girls from Maharashtra for post-graduate, graduate/diploma and secondary school education; Board Member & Treasurer of Nagrik Chetna Manch, a citizen’s watchdog organization on public expenditure. She administers a very active Citizens’ Whatsapp Group for civic affairs of PMC Ward 21 and is a practitioner of Kriya Yoga.

Making the announcement, Mr Nakul Chopra, President, AAAI, stated, “Roda Mehta is a pioneer in more ways than one. This Award is well-deserved recognition for the stellar leadership she provided our industry and our eco-system for over two decades, during which time she also nurtured a whole generation of professional talent.”

Mr. Ashish Bhasin who was Chairman of the AAAI Lifetime Achievement Award Committee – Selection said “Roda Mehta has single-handedly played a vital role in getting due respectability for the Media function in Advertising.”  Members of the Selection Committee for this Award included Sam Balsara, Srinivasan K Swamy, Ambi Parameswaran and Nakul Chopra.

The AAAI Lifetime Achievement Award is presented annually to an individual who has been a practitioner of advertising for 25 years and been in top management position; has been or continues to be an active participant in industry bodies and / or has made significant contribution in shaping industry priorities to enable the advertising industry to grow, prosper and become more professionalized; an individual known for her/his integrity, ethical practice and leadership qualities; who contributed to her/his Company’s growth by innovative thinking and change management, leading it into newer directions; involved in projects of social consequence and seen as a role model for the industry at large.

This Award, instituted in 1988 by AAAI, has been bestowed on 24 persons thus far.

The AAAI Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Roda Mehta on 14th July 2017 in Mumbai.

The Advertising Agencies Association of India (AAAI) is the official, national organization of advertising agencies, formed in 1945, to promote their interests. The Association promotes professionalism, through its founding principles, which uphold sound business practices between advertisers and advertising agencies and the various media. The AAAI today is truly representative, with a very large number of small, medium and large-sized agencies as its members, who together account for almost 80% of the advertising business placed in the country. It is thus recognized as the apex body of and the spokesperson for the advertising industry at all forums – advertisers and media owners and their associations and Government.

For more details, please contact:

Sudesh Kapoor

Secretary General

Advertising Agencies Association of India

B-502, Marathon Futurex, N M Joshi Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai – 400013, Tel: (022) 2308 0870

“The Liar’s Weave” by Tashan Mehta

Tashan Mehta is a young Parsi girl, only 26 years old, and this is her first book, and she’s been listed with very highly reputed authors in these two lists.

Her book will only be out in early July 2017.

Please do buy and read it!

“The Liar’s Weave” by Tashan Mehta (Juggernaut)

Born into an alternate history of our world where birth charts are real and one’s life is mapped out in the stars, Zahan Merchant has a unique problem: He is born without a future. This cosmic mistake gives him an unusual power: The ability to change reality with his lies. From a Parsi colony in early 20th-century Bombay to the urban hinterland of Vidroha, forest of outcasts, Mehta’s debut novel transports the reader to an India both familiar and strange, where the consequences of magic on reality can be wondrous yet heartbreaking.








Despite a 72-hour ban on Facebook, blogger Jehangir Bisney vows to remain outspoken

“I am quite clueless why Facebook imposed the ban on me. I never post anything vulgar. Yes, my posts, especially on current affairs and politics are very outspoken. But, staying in a democracy, I do believe I have my freedom of expression. Plus, what I post, I do on my own timeline. I am not spamming anyone else’s timeline,” remarked Secunderabad based Jehangir Bisney who had to face a 72-hour ban on Facebook from May 19, 2017 with a summary notice that read,  “You recently posted something that violates Facebook’s policies, so you’ve been temporarily blocked from using this feature.”
“I was not too concerned about my own Facebook timeline. I was more concerned about the Parsi Zoroastrian Anjuman of Secunderabad and Hyderabad’s (PZASH) Facebook page because since inception (March 21, 2013) there has never been a stretch where nothing was posted on it for 72 hours. There wasn’t anything I could do as I was the sole administrator!”
Narrating the sequence of events, 55-year-old Bisney recalls, “Generally during weekdays, I log in to Facebook around 4.15 a.m. to update my Anjuman page. On Friday, May 19 when I logged in, I got a couple of notices. They mentioned something about me not following Facebook policies, etc. I thought they were some routine notices and I did not bother to take screen shots. Then after logging in I realized there was something amiss because I could not ‘like,’ ‘comment’ or send messages to anyone. When I then tried to post on my Anjuman page, I could not do that. It was then that I realized it was something more serious than what I had thought initially.”
When he suddenly went off the social network his friends who were intimated about his profile being blocked, initially thought it was one of his pranks, but subsequently were concerned for his safety and immediately spread the word on his and their timelines. Bisney appreciates that “Parsiana too was a big pillar of support as they put this as headline news on their website, App and Facebook Page. I was touched but honestly, it wasn’t the sort of publicity I was looking forward to!”
After 72 hours when the ban was lifted, Bisney was able to resume his posts on current affairs, politics, cricket and other trivia. “They are mostly humorous with a huge dose of sarcasm and wit. Generally my posts are one liners or just a little more. I am not one for sentimental stuff and ‘Good morning’ posts on Facebook!” Fearing that people outside his ‘friends’ list may also be viewing his posts, Bisney plans to recheck his privacy setting. “I was given to understand that if a person or a group of persons complain to Facebook, they impose such a ban. I am not too sure about this. If that be the case, anyone could have complained from my ‘friends’ list or from another public closed group where I post too.
“But I have learnt a thing or two out of this. Firstly, it is never advisable to have just one administrator for a successful Facebook page. So I have a backup administrator now. Secondly, all your ‘friends’ need not necessarily be your ‘friends’ on Facebook. They could be ‘fiends’ who wait and watch to strike at the opportune moment.” He is now very selective about accepting friend requests on Facebook stating, “Once bitten, twice shy!”
 Top: Jehangir Bisney; Above: cover photos from Bisney’s and Parsi
 Zoroastrian Anjuman of Secunderabad and Hyderabad’s Facebook pages
Having started his independent chartered accountancy (CA) practice 30 years ago, it was two years prior, in 1985 that he stood for elections to the PZASH managing committee and won! “At 24 years I was the youngest in the then managing committee. Today, after 32 years, I am the second youngest! I am now a trustee. Thankfully, our Anjuman works with a great degree of cohesion and transparency. Having an accounting and legal background, my views are highly respected by the other committee members.
“Personally, I have been on Facebook for over a decade and I am aware of its reach. Therefore, in 2013, with the permission of my managing committee I started the PZASH Facebook page. Little did I then realize that within four years, our page would have over 11,500 likes! This is the largest number of likes for any Parsi/Zoroastrian anjuman Facebook page in the world! Without sounding boastful, I feel very proud because as a sole administrator of the page I have no resources at my disposal like reporters, photographers or a full-fledged office. Moreover, Hyderabad/Secunderabad hardly generates community news so I have to … get news from elsewhere. If one likes the PZASH Facebook page, they can be rest assured of all the community news and much, much more! I avoid controversial issues to be debated on this page though I post all community matters which are in the public domain on the internet. I love to promote (items on) Zoroastrianism in Iran, Parsi cuisine, attire like garas, daglis, places like Udvada, Navsari and others.”
Founder president of the Twin Cities’ Zoroastrian Youth League (Secunderabad and Hyderabad), Bisney says, “For many years it was the most active and vibrant Youth League in the country. We had the All India Zoroastrian Youth Festival in 1990 in the twin cities which was very successful. After our major event, Kaleidoscope ’98, I stepped down due to other commitments. Sadly, the Youth League then just faded away. In 1990, the Federation of Zoroastrian Youth Associations (FOZYA) was formed and I was elected the founder president.”
Born in Bombay, Bisney studied at Greenlawns High School, completed his BCom from Lala Lajpatrai College and H. R. College, LLB from K. C. Law College and was an all-India rank holder in his CA final examinations. His father Rustom who handled exports in the erstwhile Tata Oil Mills Company Limited (TOMCO) was very widely travelled, a keen sportsman, avid photographer, numismatic and philatelist. Mother Khorshed was a homemaker. On his father’s retirement, the family, that included elder sister Feeruza, relocated to Secunderabad. Feeruza now lives with her family in the US.
Jehangir resides with his wife Hoofrish whom he describes as a “very creative artist,” who paints on jute bags and T-shirts, and does paintings on canvas. Daughter Arnaz, 24, is studying until she finalizes her career choice and son Shayan, 20 is pursuing a five-year integrated law course. “Both my children seem to have an inclination to enter politics and already appear to be heading towards activism,” notes Jehangir.

 The Bisney family: Shayan, Arnaz, Jehangir and Hoofrish

Besides his personal, family, work and community commitments, Jehangir sets aside time for his daily morning walks and early evening swim at the Secunderabad Club. Any time left over, he spends reading or on the internet. “Crazy about cricket” in his youth, during Test matches he used to carry his pocket transistor with him, he remembers.
Referring to his cosmopolitan upbringing since he did not reside in a baug and did not have any Parsi students in his class, Jehangir states, “My father had very liberal views. My mother was from an athornan background and was more orthodox.” Whilst they visited the fire temple on auspicious days Jehangir was most fond of attending the 18-day muktads at the residence of his mother’s masi (maternal aunt) opposite the H. B. Wadia Atash Behram on Princess Street. He remembers the delicacies she made — bhakras, malido, papri, popatjees, varadhwaras, saandhraas and karkaryaas! “Today’s generation would not have heard, seen or eaten most of these Parsi delicacies!” he points out.
“I have been brought up in an environment where I have been taught to fight for everything that is right and stand by one’s convictions and principles. I guess that is the Zoroastrian way of life. With a legal background, I am careful of my words before I post anything on Facebook. But, sarcasm is not appreciated by all, especially by those whom I target. By the way, it is not just the present dispensation that I am critical of. Before this government, I used to mock the UPA government, especially Dr Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi and others. Basically, I am always anti-establishment. It’s no fun showering praises, is it? The best cartoonists, right from R. K. Laxman to Satish Acharya, never praise the powers that be. As I said, I do not post anything defamatory. It is just a play of words. But, my countrymen have become so serious nowadays that it appears even laughing has become a sin! Even after the ban, I am posting my usual stuff. I presume private platforms like Facebook and Twitter can do what they want. After all, it’s their space!”
When most people are afraid to speak freely, Jehangir seems to have taken a courageous stand with the backing of his family. He says, “My daughter and son are my biggest supporters. My wife does not say much. My sister always wants me to be careful though at one time I used to think she was the bravest in my family!” When asked if he would be more circumspect from now on, Jehangir responded, “Old habits die hard! My posts since May 22 (the day the ban was lifted by Facebook) haven’t changed a bit.” His motto has always been “Bash on — regardless!”


Beyniaz Edulji





And here we were on the road again on a different quest, to visit the Zoroastrian sacred places in Yazd. We left early morning direction Chak Chak to visit the Zoroastrian temple of Pir-e Sabz. It is considered the most sacred Zoroastrian Fire Temple.

The scenery was stunning with mountain ranges and little vegetation. The harsh environment made you wonder why such a place was chosen for a sacred temple.



To understand why, we need to go back about 3500 years, when Zoroastrianism was established as a new religion. A new religion which brought a big change.

From the worship of a multitude of Gods to the worship of a monotheistic God. A spiritual, invisible God, Ahura Mazda, who embodied all wisdom. A god who had created the universe to defeat evil. Zoroastrians believe there is a negative force or evil spirit that needs to be defeated. By seeking the truth and righteous path, you can defeat evil. Each individual can make his own destiny by choosing a good or evil path. At the end of time you will be judged and will either go to paradise or to hell.

When Zarathustra or Zoroaster, the prophet who had come from a family of priests, introduced the new religion, he was met with great resistance, in particular from the class of the Magi, the priesthood. Some concepts were regarded as dangerous. In particular the one that stated mankind was all equal and that at the day of judgement rich and poor would be judged equally .

These are principles we can all relate to in our faiths. As one of the oldest monotheistic religion, historians believe Zoroastrianism has greatly influenced the three major monotheistic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

We don’t know exactly when Zoroastrianism was adopted as a state religion. We do know that by the time of the Persian Achaemenid empire, with Cyrus the Great (600 -530 BC), Ahura Mazda was already mentioned as the one true God. Zoroastrianism remained the official religion until the 7th century when the Arab invaders introduced Islam to Persia.

Which brings me back to the sanctuary. Legend says that a Sassanid princess, daughter of the last pre-islamic ruler Yazdgerd III had gone into this arid hills trying to escape the arab army that approached. As they were getting closer, she started to cry and begged Ahura Mazda for help. Suddenly a gap opened in the mountains and she disappeared into it. The army left confused and from that moment on water started to drip from the mountains symbolizing her tears. Water that continuously quenched the thirst of those who passed by.

One day a shepherd who had lost his flock and couldn’t find it, came by to quench his thirst and being very tired, fell asleep. He dreamt that his flock were with a woman who told him to build a shelter there and tell others to come. When he woke up his flock was back. Grateful and with the help of the Zoroastrians he built this sacred fire temple.

I’m not going to lie to you and say it is easy to climb all those steps from the bottom of the mountain to the sanctuary.


But it is well worth the climb to see this very special Zoroastrian fire temple. There has been a lot of misunderstanding about fire temples and their meaning. Some going as far as labelling Zoroastrians as fire worshippers which is incorrect. Fire for the Zoroastrians is a symbol of purification like holy water or the cross are symbols associated with Christians. It represents God’s light or wisdom so they always pray towards the fire or light.

Every year in June, thousands of Zoroastrians come here to perform their annual pilgrimage not only from different provinces in Iran but also from other places in the world.

The moment pilgrims get the first glimpse of the shrine, they are supposed to abandon their vehicles and walk the rest of the way. I wish I could witness the pilgrimage one day but outsiders are not always allowed to be present.

Click Here for the full story with interesting pics


The traditional art of making Jewish and Parsi cheeses lives on in the city’s kitchens.

The beetroot, walnut and topli na paneer salad at Sienna café is one of the dishes that offers patrons a taste of the mozzarella-like Parsi cheese.

Saturday morning, 11.30 a.m., and Nahoum and Sons, one of Kolkata’s oldest bakeries, in the historic New Market is a hive of activity. It is still owned by the Jewish family that established it in 1902.

Young boys trot in and out, balancing heavy wooden trays on their heads, weaving their way through the customers thronging the place. They enter with trays laden with freshly made dinner rolls, cream horns, vegetables patties from the workshop; and leave with the empty palettes to bring in the next batch of goodies. The glass-fronted shelves need constant replenishing as people stock up for the weekend. Most can’t resist the temptation of enjoying a warm snack right there in the shop while they wait for staff to pack their orders. I’m enjoying a sambusak which, along with plaited challah loaves, are the few traditional Jewish items still sold. The bell shaped Jewish samosa fits warmly in my palm. The pale-gold papery pastry is plumped out by the white spongy cheese filling that’s seasoned only with salt, and yet every bite is heavenly.

sambusaks in kolkata

The pale-gold papery pastry is plumped out by the white spongy cheese filling that’s seasoned only with salt.

I notice the sambusaks are flying off the shelf. Their popularity is obvious; but I wonder how many of their fans realise that the cheese so generously stuffed in these baked samosas is not some clever combination of paneer and processed cheese. It is, in fact, a heritage product: Jewish cheese made almost exactly as it was in the homes of the first Jewish people who settled in the city over 200 years ago.

Most people are familiar with Bandel cheese—those small salty discs of cheese, smoked and unsmoked, that are one of the few enduring cultural legacies of Bengal’s Portuguese past and now available only at two stalls—S. Panja and Johnson’s—just a few shops down from Nahoum’s. The story of how the Portuguese settled along the west bank of the Hooghly in the 16th century, named the area Bandel (from the Persian bandar or port), built the imposing Bandel Basilica and taught the locals how to make their cheese (hence Bandel cheese), has been well documented. But few are aware that Kolkata’s artisanal cheeseboard features a couple of other excellent cheeses, each the legacy of the city’s long, rich history and diverse cultures who have called it home.

Flower Silliman Kolkata

Flower Silliman recalls her husband and other members of the Jewish community queuing up at Nahoum’s on the mornings of festivals like Yom Kipper, to buy cheese samosas before they ran out.

Cheesemaking is an ancient process, my friend Jael Silliman’s mother, Flower Silliman, tells me as we sit in the light-filled kitchen of their high-ceilinged apartment in one of the city’s old mansion blocks located just south of busy Park Street. “It’s mentioned in the Book of Genesis, the very first book of the Old Testament. Communities across the Middle East have made some form of cheese for centuries. When the Baghdadi Jews came to Calcutta in the 18th century from Iraq and Syria, their cheese travelled with them.” Those early settlers spoke with each other in their native Arabic, and Flower recalls that when she was young, Arabic words still peppered conversations in her community. “The cheese, for instance, was referred to as jibben.”

Jael, Flower and a handful of others, are what’s left of Kolkata’s once thriving Jewish community that played a stellar role in the city’s early development. In a timely move, Jael, author and women’s study scholar, has recently created a multimedia website (www.jewishcalcutta.in) that comprehensively archives Kolkata’s rich Jewish history. At 86, Flower is a repository of knowledge about Kolkata’s Jewish community. A superb cook, she keeps alive the city’s Jewish culinary gems both at home for friends and family; and by advising clubs and restaurants wanting to feature Calcutta Jewish cuisine. Recently, she provided recipes and training to chefs at Calcutta Stories, a new eatery whose menu showcases dishes of Kolkata’s different immigrant communities, including Jews, Parsis and Anglo-Indians.

blocks of Jewish cheese

Blocks of Jewish cheese at Nahoum’s.

“My mother, Farah Baqal Abraham, would make the cheese right here in this kitchen using fresh rennet,” continues Flower, “but I’ve never tried. You see you could also buy it. There was Judah who lived in the Burra Bazaar area and made cheese and several Jewish snacks. Right up to the ’40s his chap would go around from house to house with a tin box full of cheese sambusak, Turkish delights and halwa. You could also get the cheese from Nahoum’s family kitchen which is just yards away from New Market. They had huge pots to boil the milk, which curdled with imported vegetarian rennet tablets. The separated solids would be drained on massive wooden-framed muslin-lined block moulds. For the plaited cheese, the solids had to be thrown into boiling water and then quickly stretched and kneaded to get the soft yet elastic texture. It was a real art, and the Nahoum’s cook, Johar, who was with them for over 50 years, was an expert.”

Little has changed in Nahoum’s cheesemaking today. Johar passed away in 2003 but not before teaching his son Sadim the secret of making perfect cheese. Although the plaited kind is rarely made, the block cheese is produced regularly. To obtain four or five kilos of cheese, Sadim needs 40 kilos of fresh buffalo milk. He uses vegetarian rennet imported from Denmark and works with the same pots, pans and wooden frames his father used.

Normally, all the cheese made is used up to fill the sambusaks. However, anyone wanting a block can place an order at the shop. Costing `600 per kilo the cheese is delicious. Moist and crumbly, but slicing perfectly, it melts beautifully, emerging from under the grill in a satisfyingly bubbling layer over toasted bread or grilled vegetables. It’s wonderful when soft-crumbled in salads, and can also be enjoyed plain.

Viloo Batliwala Kolkata

In addition to being a gifted cheesemaker, Viloo Batliwala is a former basketball player of the Calcutta Parsee Club.

Step out of New Market and just a short walk away is Ripon Street, a long narrow thoroughfare bracketed by the peaceful Lower Circular Road Cemetery on one end and gritty Free School Street on the other. Once a bustling residential neighbourhood, home to Anglo-Indians, Goans, Muslims and Parsis, today the pavements have been taken over by auto repair shops and sand heaps spilling out of storage sheds. Ugly half-finished buildings line a road rippled with mountainous speed breakers where pedestrians compete for passage with cycle rickshaws, two-wheelers and cars. But occasionally one glimpses an elegant residence that’s a throwback to an earlier era with sunlight twinkling off beautiful stained glass skylights, wooden shuttered windows and balconies edged with wrought iron railings. Viloo Batliwala lives in one of these. A member of Kolkata’s rapidly-shrinking Parsi community, this mah-jong playing grandmother is the only person in the city from whom you can buy topli na paneer or Parsi cheese. These semi-soft balls of cheese, made with full-cream unpasteurised buffalo milk, very similar to mozzarella in taste and texture, get their name from the little wicker baskets (topli) in which they are set and whose impression is lightly embossed on each snow-white rounded surface.

In a fitting testimony to Kolkata’s cosmopolitan character, I was introduced to this fabulous artisanal product by a Marwari school friend, Nidhi Jalan, founder of New York based ethnic food-kit company, Masala Mama. She had discovered it at the home of a Parsi friend who gets it from Viloo. Nidhi served me the cheese in a salad, the white cushions with their pretty patina sitting in a golden bath of cold-pressed olive oil, nestled with plump red tomatoes and vibrant green basil. It was absolutely brilliant and soon I was making frequent visits to Viloo, Tupperware box in hand, to bring home the slightly-salty, delicate, panna cotta-smooth cheese, happily paying `250 for eight.

topli na paneer

Soft, smooth Parsi cheese is traditionally called topli na paneer because of the little wicker baskets it’s kept in.

Driven out of their native Persia, the followers of Zoroastria landed on India’s west coast over 1,300 years ago. They adapted their food and customs to settle seamlessly into their new home. With a keen eye on trade and commerce, they spread to other parts of the country, arriving in Kolkata in the 18th century and contributing immensely to the city’s cultural tapestry. Parsi cuisine is a unique palimpsest of the flavours of Persia (the land of origin), Maharashtra and Gujarat (where the community laid down roots) and Britain (with whom the Parsis traded). Meats combine with vegetables, dried fruit and nuts are sprinkled liberally, sweet and sour flavours predominate, cakes and flaky pastries are made exotically fragrant with rosewater and spices. Without doubt, topli na paneer, with its close resemblance to mozzarella, harks back to the community’s Persian heritage and the fundamentals of creating this cheese have barely altered from the way it was made by the ancestors of the Indian Parsis.

At one time produced in large quantities in Surat (hence also called Surti paneer) and supplied regularly to Mumbai, today it’s a dying art, kept alive in a few Parsi kitchens, a skill passed down from mother to daughter, mother-in-law to daughter-in- law. Viloo recalls how as a child, in the family home in central Kolkata, she would watch her grandmother prepare this delicious treat, with its intriguing elements like “the tiny pill boxes from Boots (the U.K. chemist) containing rennet tablets” and the doll-sized baskets into which the solids of the separated milk would be carefully placed to drain.

But it was her mother-in-law who actually taught her the process and from whom she learnt the critical skills that made her a successful cheesemaker: to know by dipping in a finger whether the milk is warm enough to introduce the rennet; the art of carefully moving curds to one side of the pan to be scooped into the baskets; being able to judge that the cheeses are ready to be unmoulded. Soon she was taking orders for the cheese, mostly from within her community.

Viloo may get her vegetarian rennet all the way from the U.S., but the milk comes from the neighbourhood Pure Milk Emporium, one of Kolkata’s long-standing fresh milk outlets. The little handmade cane baskets are from the cane shops in nearby New Market. Over the 30-plus years that she’s been making and selling cheese, Viloo has witnessed the steady decline in numbers of this once large and vibrant community. Their count is down to 500 but this close-knit, resilient group is far from moribund. Topli na paneer remains a hit at the Parsi Food Festival held in January every year and a much-looked forward to treat at traditional wedding meals.

As she packs my cheese, pouring in the whey in which they must be stored, Viloo grumbles that making this cheese is far too much trouble. I don’t panic: she says this every time. What’s more, this cheese has recently got a new lease of life, scotching any retirement plans Viloomay nurture! Two entrepreneurial young women dedicated to promoting locally sourced artisanal products, are giving Calcuttans the chance to discover this heritage food. And their customers can’t get enough of it.

Sienna Cafe, Kolkata

Some of the most popular items on Sienna Cafe’s menu are built around Viloo’s topli na paneer.

A few miles but many worlds away from Ripon Street, Hindustan Park is in the heart of south Kolkata. Traditionally, the bastion of Bengali middle-class gentility, this quiet residential area is rapidly morphing into the city’s new destination for upmarket dining and expensive lifestyle shopping. In a welcome trend, several of the old town houses lining tree-shaded streets are resisting property developers’ rapacious plans and instead being converted into smart cafés, boutiques, galleries and guest houses. One of the most popular is Sienna—an edgy lifestyle store and café owned by Sulagna “Shuli” Ghosh who runs it with her friend, Diya Katyal. The café serves chic salads, excellent coffee, and innovative soups and mains. A chance recommendation connected them with Viloo when they were setting up shop in 2015. Now some of the most popular items on the menu, Shuli tells me as we sit in the café’s glass-roofed outer area sipping espressos, are built around Viloo’s topli na paneer.

Sienna makes delightful seasonal salads starring this cheese. They also serve a platter featuring it with cherry tomatoes, a pot of pesto and freshly-baked brown bread.Sensibly, they keep the dishes simple, allowing the delicate flavour of the cheese to emerge. They buy 40 pieces every week, “but we could easily use much more if only she could supply us,” sighs Diya, who coordinates with Viloo. Both women worry that Viloo shows scant interest in passing on her cheesemaking skills to a younger generation. In the Nahoum kitchen, however, another staffer Hafeez is trained to step in to make Jewish cheese when Sadeem is absent. Hopefully, the circle of knowledge will keep expanding to ensure continuity.

Like any art founded on received knowledge, both these heritage cheeses are in danger of being lost to posterity if the know-how is not passed on. One hopes this tragedy will be averted, and Kolkata will be able to retain these two unique handcrafted foods that are precious part of its cultural and culinary inheritance.


Jewish Cheese Mr. J Haldar, the manager at Nahoum and Sons in New Market, takes orders (F 20 New Market; 033-22520655; `600 for a kg; placing the order in person is recommended).

 Topli na Paneer Mrs. Viloo Batliwala sells Parsi cheese in batches of eight against orders (033-22294808; `250 per batch).


How Parsi Refugees From Yesterday Became Citizens of Today

Let alone India’s first cotton mill, first steel plant and first institute for fundamental research in science, we have Parsi Theatre to thank for the musical routines of Bollywood!

In the last few years, the world has been grappling with the refugee crisis. The innovations in technology has made the whole experience of witnessing a crisis very visceral and we hadn’t encountered a crisis of this scale since World War II.

However, it is undeniable that human history is centred around victories and conquering lands. And the present may not be too different — people losing lives or being displaced from their homelands.

In India, the distinct Parsi Community might now be part of the colourful fabric of minorities stitched together, but they were once refugees too, who much like today’s Syrians, fled their homeland on boats and ships. After the fall of the Sassanian Empire (which had endorsed Zoroastrianism as the state religion) in Iran in 642 CE to Arab Muslims, a group of Zoroastrians sought refuge from religious persecution in the western shores of India.

This Zoroastrian group, which sailed from the Pars region of Iran to today’s Gujarat, is known as Parsis.

Parsi Woman and Son, 1900/WIKICOMMONS


.According to Qissa-i-Sanjan (Story of Sanjan), a 16th century lore on the life of the early Zoroastrian settlers in India, when the refugees first arrived on the shores of Sanjan, they were presented with a full glass of milk by the local ruler Jadi Rana. It was a metaphor conveying the message that there was no space for the newcomers. It was then that the Zoroastrians responded by adding a spoonful of sugar to the milk, demonstrating that they would be ‘like sugar in a full cup of milk, adding sweetness but not causing it to overflow’.

They were allowed to live and follow their religion after agreeing to a few of Jadi Rana’s conditions: they would explain their religion to him, they would learn the local language, the women would wear sarees and they would conduct weddings after sunset. This “selective assimilation”, as termed by Harvard Pluralism Project, is what led to the distinctiveness of Parsis from their Zoroastrian counterparts who stayed back in Iran.


These remaining Zoroastrians started arriving on the familiar shores of Western India during the 19th century, and are today known as Iranis. To reiterate, they too are Zoroastrians like the Parsis, but are culturally, socially and linguistically distinctive from them.

The qissa of Zoroastrians demonstrate mainly two things: The Indian subcontinent always opened its doors to people from the world and religions survive only when they adapt to the demands of the epoch. Religion, much like any cultural practice, must always be open to change, if it has to survive. However, that does not mean you have to give up your own culture and identity. The ‘selective assimilation’ of the Parsis exhibited integration into a host country while holding on to the distinctiveness.

Though the Zoroastrian community seems to take the Story of Sajan lore at face value, there have been numerous debates regarding the authenticity of its content since it has been written based on oral tradition, centuries after their arrival. However, the lore is important in understanding how Parsis themselves saw their arrival and settlement in a foreign land.

Nevertheless, it is indisputable that both distinct groups of Zoroastrians who arrived at two different moments in history of India were never turned back. Today, the community, though very small and living amid the fear of dwindling numbers, has a special place. This is the community that gave us freedom fighters like Dadabhai Naoroji and Bhikaiji Cama, a visionary like Jamsetji Tata, nuclear physicist like Homi J Bhabha, and advocates like Fali Nariman. In fact, despite representing less than 0.6% of the Indian population, Parsis have helmed all three defence wings of the Indian Armed Forces. Let alone India’s first cotton mill, first steel plant and first institute for fundamental research in science, we even have Parsi Theatre to thank for the musical routines of Bollywood!

All these achievements could be included in the pages of Indian history because a local ruler of Gujarat did not close his doors to a shipload of refugees, but welcomed them home.

A Parsi woman in the eyes of Raja Ravi Varma/ WIKICOMMONS

The nation-state of India has a different story to tell. We haven’t been a signatory to 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention nor its 1967 Protocol. Though the reason for this is not known publicly, it is speculated that since the borders of South Asia are extremely porous, any small disturbance can upset the demographics and infrastructure of a nation that is indeed poor by global standards. Yet, despite being a non-signatory, India has been hosting refugees from Tibet to Sri Lanka.

However, it is important to note that global refugee crisis has its roots in the apparatus of nation-state and colonial era borders, whose continued relevance is exacerbating the situation. It is essential to remember that borders are man-made. The least one can do is offer compassion to refugees instead of contempt. After all, refugees of today are citizens of tomorrow.




We must all learn to accept that others can be different, an Interfaith event emphasises

We read about religious tensions in the world daily. When we spend time to reflect on the events that take place, we wonder why humans are unable to interact harmoniously. Unfortunately, we each have different perspectives on our values, and some are more passionate about their religious and political views than others.

Past and present events intensify the tensions between people. This leads to unhealthy and unproductive relationships. Those sheltered from such unfortunate events might not appreciate the complexities in the relationship. Whilst we should all respect and understand each other, for some, the process is difficult. But this should not stop us from endeavouring to create bridges of trust and bonds of peace.

There are many events held throughout Victoria that promote respect, harmony and understanding. The Manningham Interfaith Network (MIN) and the United Muslim Migrant Association (UMMA) Mosque and Community Centre hosted an event entitled Unity in Diversity last month.

With guest speakers and an extraordinarily multicultural three-course dinner, the event encouraged members of various faiths to network in person with fact, fun and food.

Approximately 170 guests from all faiths, spiritual beliefs and community groups attended. These included faith leaders representing Bahá’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Chinmaya Mission, Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Sai Baba, Heavenly Peace and Zoroastrianism.

Fifteen speakers shared their views on the topic The relevance of faith in our modern society today and beyond. Every guest speaker encouraged the community to appreciate other faiths and to collaborate with each and every person in a positive way.

The general consensus was that faith is still relevant in modern society, regardless of whether or not you practice a religion. Faith provides comfort and guidance to those who wish to have the belief. We should not shun those who have no such belief. A belief in any faith is a private matter and we should not interfere with another person’s belief.

As an invited speaker I shared the simple tenets of Zoroastrianism: good words, good thoughts and good deeds. The Buddhist faith also share these values too. For many, this principle is hard to practice. Sometimes, we might be guilty of doing or saying something we regret. It takes courage and humility to practice this tenet and we may need to be reminded about its importance in our daily lives.

Other guest speakers highlighted the importance of learning about different faiths. One speaker commented that “most of us do not really know about the principles of various faiths. We tend to have our views marred by the media. It is unfortunate that very few people ask another person about their faith and what it means to them”.

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One speaker thanked the Victorian community for making her transition from her home country to Melbourne pleasant. She noted how tolerant Victorians are and remarked that she “did not have to fear associating with others knowing that her accent, appearance and values might differ”.

Ms Paola-Rosales Cheng, President of MIN, congratulated the volunteers at MIN for organising an event that allowed people of different Faiths to share their views. “I am delighted to see a great turnout at this event and I am pleased to see so many new faces” she added. She encouraged other community organisations to hold similar events that focused on being inclusive.

In attendance included members of MIN, Sonia Vignjevic, Victorian Multicultural Commission Commissioner; Manningham Inspector Geoff Darlison and multicultural liaison officers from Victoria Police; Cynthia Shaw, Co-Chair, Migrant Settlement Committee; Michael Smith, CEO, Eastern Community Legal Centre; Dr Sue Rosenhain, Women’s Health East; Swinburne University Student Advancement and Community Engagement officers and Chaplain; Councillors Dot Haynes, Anna Chen and Paul McLeish of Manningham City Council; Karen Ivanka, Community Educator, COTA for Older Australians.

Such events focus on the importance of people of different faiths connecting with each other. One’s faith should not deter one from saying hello to others. Go on, greet a person from another faith and make a friend!

Carl Buhariwala
Carl BuhariwalaCarl is a freelance reporter who has a passion to promote community events, the work of not-for-profit organisations and new ideas. He enjoys meeting people and documenting their work for others to read.

Indian Link, June 19, 2017 / by Carl Buhariwala