The incredible history of the traditional Parsi Gara sari


From the quirky motifs hidden in the sari to its genesis, Ashdeen Lilaowala breaks down the nuances of a traditional Parsi Gara

Gara-Emroidery-Feature

The timeless elegance of a traditional Parsi Gara is undeniable. Embroidered to life with photorealistic precision, the Gara sari is a unique member in the exhaustive variety of crafts found in the country. Predominantly worn by the Parsi community during weddings and special occasions, the exquisite Gara sari deserves not to be stashed away just for those big days. Vogue spoke to Ashdeen Lilaowala—one of the few creative minds carrying the legacy of the Gara forward—about the history of the embroidery, its evolution and the lesser known facts.

Tell us about the origins of Gara

Gara embroidery came into our design lexicon at a time when the Parsis from India would travel to China for trade. They carried opium and cotton with them from India, which was bartered for tea in China. Tea as a commodity was gaining a lot of popularity in Europe and the British wanted to sell more tea in Europe. The Parsis quickly became rich trading with the British.

When they came back on their ships, they also brought back ceramics and various other antiques that were available in China. Legend says that one of the traders brought back a new kind of artistic embroidery, which was very realistic in its depiction of flora and fauna and was targeted to the European market. Eventually, it was commissioned as a five-and-a-half-metre sari for the traders from India. Earlier, the pieces that came in were fully embroidered, corner to corner, but then slowly the women started travelling to China too, and they edited them to have borders, blank spaces for tucking in, etc. The Parsi community had newly settled in Bombay, become quite rich, and now wanted a certain new look—and they adopted the Gara saris as their signature.

One of the famous designs was ‘Cheena Cheeni’, which depicts a Chinese man and a Chinese woman against a landscape of pagodas, bridges, plantations and people doing daily chores in China, carrying lanterns and other knick knacks—but these were things so exotic and unseen in India, that the design became a prized possession. They also brought back narrow borders that are called as ‘Kor’, and clothes for the children—the tunics were called ‘Jhablas’ and pants were called ‘Ghicha’. These were some of the different products that were coming via the trade.

Can you tell us a little more about other popular Gara designs?

We have quirky names for motifs. Apart from ‘Cheena Cheeni’, there is a polka-dotted motif is called ‘kaanda papeta’, which stands for onion potato. Polka dots were so common at one point, that they were jestingly compared to onions and potatoes for how readily available they were. Then there is a spin wheel motif, which the Parsis call a ‘Karoliya’, or a spider. We have a ‘Marga Margi’, which is a rooster and a hen and there’s a ‘Chakla Chakli’ too, which is a male and female sparrow.

During a research exercise, we found that there is a kind of rock formation on the sari that usually comes with a peacock perched on it—the motif is called ‘The Divine Fungus’. But when you tell a Parsi woman that there’s fungus on your sari, they (naturally!) don’t take it well. And we have seen borders with exquisitely embroidered bats as well. Indians are not fond of bats, and for Parsis, bats are equivalent to death—I’ve actually had customers tell me they’re not wearing the pieces again once I confirmed the embroidery denotes a bat, and not a butterfly, as they originally thought. We also have a sari in our recent collection called ‘Morning Glory’—it has a sun and a huge spread of birds, flora and fauna, so it is like a whole narrative about the sun being the element that manifests this abundance of flora.

How long does it take to make a Gara sari?

Depending on the density of the work, it can take anything from three weeks to two months. And when I say two months, I mean six to eight people working on one sari together.

What is the base fabric of the sari?

Even though the sari is covered in silk thread embroidery all over, it has a nice flow to it and can be draped well. The original fabric was called ‘Sali Ghaj’, which has very thin lines running through it.

Garas went out of fashion in the ’30s and were only revived in the ’80s. In Mumbai, they started using this thick fabric—Shamu satin and thick Crepe d Chine back then. Presently, we largely use crepe, but not georgette or chiffon—because the silk thread is hand-embroidered and these fabrics can’t take the weight of the embroidery.

Click Here for the full interview – https://www.vogue.in/content/parsi-gara-embroidery-saree-history/

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Cillie’s – A sweet token from the Parsis of Karachi


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The 100 years old house in the Parsi Colony - Cillie: A sweet token from the Parsis of Karachi

The 100 years old house in the Parsi Colony

Cillie's menu and cake


Cillie’s menu and cake

The Parsi community in Karachihas always been a minority, but one that has left an inimitable legacy. Late Jehangir Framroze Punthakey, in his book, The Karachi Zoroastrian Calendar, called the Parsis, “the makers of the Karachi of today.” They belonged to the elite in Karachi, with the city’s first mayor, Jamshed Nusserwanji, also belonging to a Parsi family. Be it institutions like The Mama Parsi Girls’ Secondary School and the BVS Parsi High School, or infrastructure facilities such as the M.A. Jinnah Road, the Parsi community has significantly contributed towards Karachi’s history and heritage. While families like Minwalla and Avari invested into five-star hotels and fine-dining eateries, others chose to adapt a humbler approach towards satisfying the appetites of Karachiites. In the latter category, Cillie’s has remained the market leader for creating delicious baked goods.

Situated inside a 100-year-old house in Parsi Colony, Karachi, Cillie’s stands as a reminder of the inclusivity and tolerance that used to exist in Karachi post-partition, and how the minority communities still survive here in peace and harmony. Upon entering the neighbourhood, which once housed many Parsi families, most of whom have now migrated to the West, a prominent shift in the city’s energy can be felt. With low fenced houses, and single and multi-storey buildings, the locality stands in stark contrast with its adjacent areas of Saddar and M.A. Jinnah Road, which are full of the pollution of a bustling and congested metropolis. Driving into the quiet and calm streets of the Parsi Colony, the visitors are transported to a different zone, where their eyes do not meet high-rise glass buildings, but are instead welcomed by old brown stone structures with big windows and balconies, showcasing architecture from the late colonial period.

In a city known for its rising crime rates, the houses of Parsi Colony confidently keep their gates open and their walls low, without any of their guests worrying about security. Cillie’s too, keeps its main gate open for visitors to walk in without hesitation. Moreover, even though the house has no signboard for the bakery, one can always rely on passerby’s for directions and be guided straight towards the popular destination near the community park. Though the structure is multi-storey, the business itself functions through a small window on the ground floor. With four delicate steps leading up to the window, and a swing placed on the porch for visitors to sit on as they wait for their cakes, Cillie’s looks nothing like a mainstream confectionery, yet immediately gives a warm homely feeling.

The staircase leading upto the house

The staircase leading upto the house

Can you spot the window which has delicious secrets hidden inside?

Can you spot the window which has delicious secrets hidden inside?

The business started in a house in Garden East, nearly 50 years ago, and was founded by a Parsi lady named Cilly, who now lives in Texas. However, the bakery was moved to its current location thirteen years ago, when the owner sold the previous house. The house in Parsi Colony is owned by a sweet lady named Bakhtawar, who greets the visitors personally, and even takes the newbies through the variety of desserts that they serve, ensuring great customer service.

Serving a range of desserts at surprisingly reasonable prices (some of which are as low as Rs.300 for a full cake), including plain cakes, butter icing cakes, and ice creams, Cillie’s was actually the first bakery in Karachi to introduce fresh cream cakes. Though their menu now has 16 different flavours of fresh cream cakes, their classic plain cakes remain hard to beat. The marble cake, especially, is soft and succulent, and serves as a perfect combination with evening tea.

Marble cake

Marble cake

While all desserts are entirely homemade, along with the mousses and creams used for the cakes, only a few delicacies are available for walk-in customers. All other orders need to be placed at least a day before. Since Cillie’s does not have a dedicated social media profile, their main source of publicizing the place remains word of mouth, along with the strong network of fans that Cillie’s has acquired over the years. In fact, the delicacies remain so popular amongst the Parsi Community that Naushad Mehta, Cilly’s son, has opened an outlet of Cillie’s Cakes in Houston, USA as well, and word has it that their products taste equally delicious.

Chocolate fudge, chocolate cream, and peach pineapple cakes

Chocolate fudge, chocolate cream, and peach pineapple cakes

Karachi may have witnessed the birth of numerous new and fancy cafes and bakeries in the last few years, but to say that the best flavours of the city are hidden in quiet corners like Cillie’s would not be an exaggeration. Cillie’s is a perfect representation of the strength of the Parsi community and how dedicatedly they have always served the people of Karachi. Though only a few Parsis remain in Karachi now, the community and its contributions need to be preserved as much as possible, and given the same level of respect as their Muslim counterparts.

Written by: Farheen Abdullah
Posted on: January 03, 2019

https://www.youlinmagazine.com/story/cillie-a-sweet-token-from-the-parsis-of-karachi/MTM4MQ==

A Russian’s decade-old love for Parsi dialect


The scholar, Anton Zykov, worked for the Russian Embassy between 2011 and 2013, but in November 2017, he started working on a unique three-year project of recording and analysing the Parsi dialect (Parsi Gujarati or simply Parsi in India and Zoroastrian Dari or Gavruni in Iran).

A Parsi wedding in Navsari

THIS RUSSIAN scholar’s ‘Parsi connect’ dates back a decade, when he chose Zoroastrianism as his thesis subject as an MPhil student at Oxford. The scholar, Anton Zykov, worked for the Russian Embassy between 2011 and 2013, but in November 2017, he started working on a unique three-year project of recording and analysing the Parsi dialect (Parsi Gujarati or simply Parsi in India and Zoroastrian Dari or Gavruni in Iran).Advertising

“The focus is on contemporary spoken Parsi (also known as Parsi Gujarati). I am looking forward to document the language as it is spoken. So I try to record the conversations which Parsis have with each other in Parsi Gujarati. It’s just an attempt to give an objective picture of the language,” said Zykov.

Anton Zykov

The scholar works by collecting video and audio samples of the Parsi speech from various places, among Parsis of various ages, professional and socio-economic background. These samples are processed, annotated and analyzed to understand syntax, lexicon, morphology and semantics used among the different varieties of the Parsi speech.

Many in the community have become his friends and collaborators on the project, like the family of Rohin and Frazin Kanga from Navsari, who hosted him for three months while he was based there gathering language material, he said. Recalling some interesting interactions with the community, he said, “Once I was making a recording at a dar-e-mehr (Fire temple) in Navsari. When I was changing my camera’s battery, the person whom I was recording asked me if I was married. I said “no” and asked the reason for his curiosity. He told me that he heard from someone that I was married to a Parsi girl. So there are some Parsis who suspect a hidden agenda in my research,” said Zykov.

The Russian scholar aspires to complete the project by publishing a grammar book and dictionary of the Parsi language and successfully archiving it with Endangered Languages Archive of SOAS University of London, which has funded the project.Advertising

“I wish to draw the community’s attention to its rich linguistic heritage like the munajats (Parsi popular devotional songs), kahavaten (proverbs) and even galliyan (cuss words) are a source of unique Parsi linguistic treasure. All this will be lost if linguistic shift towards English keeps on increasing among the Parsis and Parsi Gujarati continues to have a low social prestige. I hope my work can be used among the Parsi diaspora to learn Parsi Gujarati and maintain their identity and tradition,” he added.


Written by Abha Goradia |Mumbai |Published: January 14, 2019

https://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/a-russians-decade-old-love-for-parsi-dialect-5536750/

The Indian bowler who took American cricket by storm in the 1900s


Southern California discovered cricket in the late 19th century, two centuries after the sport reached American shores, but the region lost little time in taking to the game with enthusiasm.

The cricketing season began every summer in May. Several counties—including Los Angeles, Santa Monica, San Diego, and San Francisco (in mid-California)—had their own leagues. Practice matches between league teams would kick off the season and near its end, a combined Los Angeles team would take on Santa Monica 11—comprising the best players from that region—for the Dudley Cup.

Year after year, the cricketing season unfolded without spectacular surprises, until the arrival of an Indian and his virtually unplayable spin bowling in the summer of 1907.

Maneckji Jamshedji Bhumgara, a Parsi from Surat, became a bowling sensation for his Los Angeles league team. The “East Indian,” as he was described in the local papers, was lauded for his “twirling abilities” that left the opposition batsmen flummoxed. His recurring five-wicket hauls made him a match-winner, and he was, on occasion, handy with the bat as well.

An article that appeared in ‘The Los Angeles Times’ on Aug. 24, 1908, featuring the Southern California Cricket Eleven, that defeated the visiting team of Clifton, Arizona. Standing (top row, second from left) is Bhumgara.

Bhumgara, who moved to Los Angeles around 1905, turned out for the Wanderers, one of the three league teams in Los Angeles, in his first season. In a crucial league match on July 8, 1907, when his team played the Marylebone Club, Bhumgara scored 16, as his team made 59—one of only three players who reached double figures. He took five wickets and Wanderers won the Test (comprising only an innings each) by six runs.

Click Here for the full story – https://qz.com/india/1520995/the-indian-parsi-spinner-who-bowled-us-cricket-over-in-the-1900s/

How Zarina and Ronnie Screwvala are empowering villages to enable reverse migration in Maharashtra


Taking on a holistic approach to solving the many basic and infrastructure concerns villages have, the couple’s Swades Foundation has helped several migrants in Mumbai return to their homes with assured means to earn a living.

Sanjeev Dhasde at his farm.

In 2003, Sanjeev Dhasde left his family and a five-acre farmable plot in Bhandare village, Mangan block in Raigad, Maharashtra, and migrated to Mumbai. He eked out a living as a sales executive for an MNC, earning a salary of Rs 2.4 lakh for 14 years. He sent home whatever he could and spent the rest on rent and a frugal existence in the expensive city.

Home beckoned, but Sanjeev could not return for fear of financial difficulties. But he soon discovered Swades Foundation, an NGO that helps migrants like him to return to their villages equipped with the means to earn a living. He began attending monthly meetings at Dadar, where thousands of migrants discussed the challenges they faced and sought help to reverse migrate.

With the support of the foundation, in November 2017, Sanjeev returned to his village and started farming and goat rearing. The foundation provided him with 11 goats and 22 kids and, within six months, he earned close to Rs 1 lakh by selling goats. With the help of YouTube tutorials, Sanjeev learned to farm, and he implemented drip irrigation on his plot. By May 2018, he earned Rs 2 lakh through farming alone.

“When without experience in farming I could earn so much, I realised that with time and practice I could sustain a monthly income. I also set up a vegetable shop in the village and earned a profit of Rs 400-500 daily. My family was initially skeptical about my decision to return but my mother is now happy that I moved back. More importantly, we did not suffer a financial loss,” Sanjeev recalls.

Like Sanjeev, 63 other families have benefited from reverse migration in Maharashtra and are supported by the Swades Foundation’s multiple income generation programmes, including goat rearing, farming, and poultry.

“Migration is a huge issue in our villages where 40 percent of the homes are ‘closed’ i.e. the family is living in Mumbai. The main issue today is the lack of opportunity in the villages. In the old days it was the lack of education for children but that does not seem to be the core driver today,” Zarina Screwvala, Founder of Swades Foundation, says.

The foundation has ensured that every household in Raigad gets potable drinking water up to 200 litres per day.

Founded in 2013, the organisation has, over the past six years, worked in over 2,000 hamlets spread across Raigad district, 150km from Mumbai, impacting over 4.7 lakh individuals. By partnering with multiple organisations including Tata Trusts, Reckitt Benckiser, Mahindra & Mahindra, Red Cross, Rotary, and Room to Read, the Swades Foundation has implemented 35 programmes that aim to aid social reforms by bringing access to healthcare and education facilities, implementing water and sanitation projects, and conducting multiple agriculture related workshops to help boost the income of the farmer.

The beginning

In 2012, after Zarina and husband and investor and businessman Ronnie Screwvala divested their UTV Motion Pictures shares to Disney, Zarina was on a lookout for a new project that impacted rural India. Upon Ronnie’s suggestion she joined SHARE, an NGO that was involved in water management projects in Maharashtra villages. “Ronnie told me, ‘lets lift a million people out of poverty!’ And I was hooked,” Zarina recalls.  

Through the NGO, Zarina began working with rural upliftment projects and, by 2013, she founded the Swades Foundation to create a model for transformational change in rural India that could be replicated at scale. She wanted to create a 360-degree model that focused on the overall development of a village rather than focusing on one domain alone.

“During one of my discussions with a group of women in a village, I stressed the importance of girl child education. After hearing me out patiently, the women raised a very interesting query: ‘If we sent our girl child to school, who will fetch water from far-off places every day?’ This query led us to the realisation that we have to first solve the problem of drinking water before we even address the issue of education,” Zarina says.

The founders: Ronnie and Zarina Screwvala

Hence, with a focus of holistic development, the organisation is working with 1,275 schools in Raigad block to ensure there is access to functioning toilets. Portable drinking water has been provided in 20,000 households and the team has constructed 20,000 toilets as well.The Swades Foundation team comprises of 300 full-time professionals and 1,200 trained community volunteers.

Click Here to read more – https://yourstory.com/2019/01/zarina-ronnie-screwvala-swades-foundation/

400 free Ivy League university courses you can take online in 2019


The eight Ivy League schools are among the most prestigious colleges in the world. They include Brown, Harvard, Cornell, Princeton, Dartmouth, Yale, and Columbia universities, and the University of Pennsylvania.

All eight schools place in the top fifteen of the US News and World Report 2017 national university rankings.

These Ivy League schools are also highly selective and extremely hard to get into. But the good news is that all these universities now offer free online courses across multiple online course platforms.

So far, they’ve created over 494 courses, of which around 396 are still active. Here’s a collection of all of them, split into courses in the following subjects: Computer Science, Business, Humanities, Social Sciences, Art & Design, Science, Health & Medicine, Data Science, Education & Teaching, Mathematics, Science, Engineering, Personal Development, and Programming.

Click Here for more – https://qz.com/1514408/400-free-ivy-league-university-courses-you-can-take-online-in-2019/

Zarthusti Women’s Herstories | Department of Family Practice


Zarthusti Women’s Herstories | Department of Family Practice


Faravahar Atashkadeh Yazd (The Faravahar is the part-human part-bird image that Zarthustis often use to identify ourselves)

The ZXX study was created as a tribute to Zarthusti women and as a way to celebrate their lives. Our aim was to interview Zarthusti women about their lives in order to gain insight and contribute to the gap in literature surrounding this topic. We also wanted to create an insider participatory action project. Most scholarly literature about the Zarthusti community is written by outsiders but this project is community based and community driven. ZXX refers to Zarthusti women, as the genetic symbol for females is XX.

It is the brainchild of Dr Farah Shroff, who started the first version of this study, ZXX 1.0, as a series of interviews with Zarthusti women which were transcribed and audio recorded. ZXX 2.0 is a video recorded oral herstory project. Inspired by the love of her family and community, this project is dedicated to the wonderfully warm, eccentric and inspiring Zarthusti community.

While Zarathustrianism is considered the world’s first monotheistic religion, not much is known about the individual members of the religion or the community as most scholarly work has been of a theological nature. Many people are surprised to learn that living members of the community exist at all. Furthermore, many studies conducted about Zarathustrianism have been undertaken by scholars outside the community. This study is unique in that the majority of the researchers and authors are Zoroastrian women. Two of the researchers were also participants in the study.

In the study, Zarthusti women ranging in age were video interviewed by Dr. Farah Shroff. Topics such as childhood, school life, and religious identity were explored through the interviews. We hope you enjoy watching the videos and reading our study!

https://zxxresearch.med.ubc.ca/

Serum Founder wins inaugural ‘Vaccine Hero’ award


Dr Cyrus Poonawalla congratulated for life-long commitment to boosting vaccine coverage in the world’s poorest countries.

MTR Vaccine Hero award

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Gavi Board Chair, and Dr Seth Berkley, Gavi CEO, present Dr Cyrus Poonawalla with the inaugural Vaccine Hero award at Gavi’s mid-term review in Abu Dhabi. Credit: Gavi/2018/Oscar Saykens.

Abu Dhabi, 11 December 2018 – Dr Cyrus Poonawalla, Founder of Serum Institute of India (SII) and Chairman of Poonawalla Group, has been given the first ever Vaccine Hero award by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

The Vaccine Hero award was inaugurated to celebrate global figures whose dedication to the Vaccine Alliance’s mission has played a key role in helping Gavi and its partners to protect hundreds of millions of children across the world

“Since Gavi’s inception Cyrus has been a steadfast supporter of Gavi’s mission,” said Dr Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “Under his leadership Serum has become the largest supplier of vaccines to the developing world, protecting hundreds of millions of children in the world’s poorest countries against killer diseases like measles, diphtheria and meningitis. Gavi simply would not have had the impact we’ve had without them. He is a worthy winner of this inaugural Vaccine Hero award.”

“I am truly humbled to receive this recognition for the humanitarian work that we have been doing at Serum Institute for the last five decades,” said Dr Cyrus Poonawalla. “it is recognition such as today’s that gives me and my team the strength to commit and continue the humanitarian work by making available immunobiologicals and vaccines at the most affordable prices to support the great efforts made by Gavi and other UN Agencies worldwide, especially now for much needed newer vaccines, such as Pneumonia, Rotavirus, Meningitis, HPV and Dengue.”

Dr Cyrus Poonawalla founded Serum Institute of India in 1966 and built it into the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer by volume, supplying more than one billion doses of vaccines per year to children in 170 countries around the world at affordable prices.

SII now supplies 40% of the vaccines funded by Gavi. Over the Alliance’s 2016-2020 strategic period, SII will provide more than half a billion doses for Gavi-supported vaccine programmes protecting children against nine diseases – measles, rubella, meningitis A, rotavirus and, through pentavalent vaccine, diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, Haemophilus influenza type B and hepatitis B.

The award was presented at a ceremony in Abu Dhabi as part of Gavi’s mid-term review, a high-level conference celebrating Gavi’s progress and impact in the world’s poorest countries. By the end of 2018, Gavi will have contributed to the immunisation of 700 million people and the prevention of more than 10 million future deaths. This has contributed to an acceleration in the decline of global under-five mortality rates and brought wider impact beyond immunisation.

As well as reviewing progress made since the last Gavi replenishment in Berlin in 2015, this high-level conference is also an opportunity to shape Gavi’s future and help overcome the challenges preventing children from receiving the full course of recommended vaccines. Immunisation is a cost effective and high impact intervention that is core to primary health care and provides a robust platform to deliver better health for all.

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is supported by donor governments (Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, the People’s Republic of China, Principality of Monaco, Republic of Korea, Russia, South Africa, Spain, the State of Qatar, the Sultanate of Oman, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and United States), the European Commission, Alwaleed Philanthropies, the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, as well as private and corporate partners (Absolute Return for Kids, Anglo American plc., The Audacious Project, The Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, China Merchants Group, Comic Relief, Deutsche Post DHL, the ELMA Vaccines and Immunization Foundation, Girl Effect, The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Wholesalers (IFPW), the Gulf Youth Alliance, JP Morgan, “la Caixa” Foundation, LDS Charities, Lions Clubs International Foundation, Majid Al Futtaim, Orange, Philips, Reckitt Benckiser, Unilever, UPS and Vodafone).

For more information click here.

https://www.gavi.org/library/news/press-releases/2018/serum-founder-wins-inaugural–vaccine-hero–award/

Ava Irani – Support her kickstarter campaign


I am an 8th grader at a middle school in the USA. I have been very fortunate to experience the wonders of traveling to other countries, and meeting other children around the world. Each time I come back home, I find that other people also love to explore and learn about exotic destinations, but not everyone is able to experience them firsthand.

I thought about other ways to help children learn more about the world, while having fun at the same time. Based on  this idea, I created Travel Explore Discover.

Check out the board game and support this Kickstarter campaign.