Parsi Gymkhana returns to cricket roots under Khodadad

The former greats of the game like Farokh Engineer, Nari Contractor and Polly Umrigar now make way for a new generation of champions at the Parsi Gymkhana.
Parsi Gymkhana was founded in 1884 by Parsi Cricketers. Photo credit: Wikimedia commons

Since its founding in 1884, the Parsi Gymkhana in Mumbai has been a centre for Parsi cricket and served as a platform for stalwarts like Farokh Engineer, Nari Contractor and Polly Umrigar.

132 years since its founding, a new generation of champions such as Aditya Tare, Suryakumar Yadav, Balwinder Singh Sandhu and Aavishkar Salvi have emerged to carry on the legacy.

“I became a member in the year 1984 and played from 1985 to 1991,” recalls Khodadad Yazdegardi, vice-president of the Parsi Gymkhana and secretary of cricket. “Our side comprised of all Parsis in the playing XI and maybe two non-Parsis in the whole squad.”

Cricket revival

As time passed, cricket began to play a smaller role in the club, with participation declining. Some left the sport, others went abroad and fewer Parsis turned up to play. “Maybe there was a lot of pressure to study or maybe the youngsters chose football.”

The gymkhana decided to revive interest in cricket and in 2011, the president and managing committee approached Khodadad. “When I took over in 2011, most of the boys decided to leave when they saw the (previous) secretary leave. Fortunately, the Kanga League was a washout that year and then I approached Zubin Barucha, my old friend and captain, to get me a good coach,” says Khodadad.

Finding the right coaches

His search led to Omkar Salvi, who went on to play an instrumental role in revitalising the team. Salvi, however, moved on to become the bowling coach of Mumbai and Khodadad found a suitable replacement in Vinayak Mane. “From the very first day, I was clear in my mind that the process is important and not the final results,” says Khodadad. He and Mane set about creating a culture that would bring new life into the side. “I want every boy who wants to play for Mumbai to aim to play for the Parsi Gymkhana.”

“The administration showed great interest and the cricket committee was very supportive of grooming cricketers for the club,” says Mane, now the Mumbai U-16 coach. He talks about the various changes that were brought into place, including the arrival of Dr Makarand Waingankar and physician Dr Kinjal Suratwala.

Parsi Gymkhana team posing for a picture after winning the 2017 Padmakar Talim Shield Cricket Tournament. Photo credit: Khodadad Yazdegardi

Hard work pays off

The next few years saw rapid changes come to pass, with modern facilities and right techniques introduced. Today, the Parsi Gymkhana is back in the ‘A’ Division, having won the A. F. S. Talyarkhan three years in a row, and, after a gap of almost 70 years, entering the finals of the Talim Shield and Purshottam Shield cricket tournaments.

“I think it’s a great club,” says Aditya Tare, Ranji player and captain of the squad, when asked what it’s like to be associated with the gymkhana. “It is one of the pioneers of Mumbai cricket and has a rich history. It is also a very motivated club and wants to do well. We have got a couple of terrific coaches and as a professional cricketer; the facilities that they provide at the club level are phenomenal.”

Balwinder Singh Sandhu Jr started playing for the gymkhana U-19 team and got his break when selected for the Mumbai Ranji team. “The kind of approach and preparation towards the game is totally different now,” he speaks on the changes. “The interaction between the coaches and the players personally is a lot more and coaches like Vinayak (Mane) and Omkar Salvi are the kind you want on your team.”

Positive effects

As their performance improved, Khodadad noticed a pleasant change. “I’ve seen a lot of members come to watch our matches now. Lots of members used to come every Sunday to watch our games and now for the last two years, I’ve seen them begin returning.”

The future looks bright with several players already advanced to the higher level of cricket and many more probables in the wings. “I am a firm believer that everything is secondary in life to a person’s character and sports build character,” Khodadad shares.

“Besides cricket, I try to inculcate a very strong character in all the boys. We try to make them so mentally strong out here that nothing bothers them. When these boys play, their performance will carry them through. Four of my boys play Ranji Trophy today and it’s all been on pure performance.”

Parsi Gymkhana players get together after winning the 2016 R.F.S. Talyarkhan Memorial Invitation Cricket Tournament. Photo credit: Khodadad Yazdegardi

Close-knit team

More than the professional atmosphere and fantastic facilities, the team comes across as a close-knit unit that is always ready to support each other. This feeling comes across clearly when Khodadad speaks passionately about ‘his boys’. “More than anything else,” says Khodadad, “you know these boys are like a family. We back each other always, even if the boy is not playing in the side. If a boy fails, we still back him.”

“The team dynamics here are brilliant,” says Sandhu. “All the seniors are approachable and the communication level is really good. These guys are open to sharing their thoughts and experiences. I think the management understands the player really well too.”

Mane seconds his thoughts. “I’d like to mention (Aditya) Tare, Aavishkar (Salvi),Ballu (Balwinder Singh Sandhu) and Surya (Suryakumar Yadav), their experience, knowledge and commitment set an example for the others on how to approach club cricket even after playing at a higher level. They are helping the team grow year after year.”

Work ethic

“The commitment the players show is tremendous,” observes Mane. “We have all been brought up like that and show this commitment at whatever level we play. Now, we have a good set of players which will produce good cricketers who will play for Mumbai and maybe the country.”

Khodadad has a bigger aim for the club. “The main thing is to make sure any boy who aims to play a good level of cricket will try to get in the Parsi Gymkhana team and work hard because here, we eat, breathe and train cricket.”

Tare validates Khodadad’s claims. “As a cricketer what we require is good facilities to practise, good coaches, good grounds and pitches and the Parsi Gymkhana ticks all the boxes. Khododad and the administrators are open-minded and accepting and it helps as a player to have that support system,” he concludes.

Zeven, 21 July 2017

Busybee on Tomato Prices

Stumbling upon this piece by Behram Contractor * aka *Busybee, 26 years ago, I can’t imagine the foresight he had, in a way. With the high price of tomatoes currently, this is a throwback written in only a manner Busybee could. Brings a smile every time…!!! 😊😊😊

Kainaz Jussawalla’s New Book

Secrets, secrets and more secrets….the characters in this debutante novel ‘Coffee Days, Champagne Nights and other secrets’, of author Kainaz Jussawalla, seem to be having secrets come out of their closets and woodworks by the dozen.
From the innocent Punjabi girl leading a baffling dual life, to the strong counsellor fluxed in the face of her own dilemmas; from the emotional married man caught in an entangled web of his own life choices, to the fiesty ex Military man fighting his own inner battles; from the catholic nun oscillating between two equally strong truths, to the doctor with her own devious plans; to the women who give freedom a new address the novel is a treat for all book lovers that are intrigued with the workings of the human mind.
Sassy, spicy, juicy, dramatic, enthralling with breath- taking climaxes, ‘Coffee Days Champagne Night and other secrets’, promises to leave you glued to the edge of your seat, long after the show is over

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Sari Draping – Parsi Style

Parsi style looks best when you use a Parsi Gara sari to drape with. It is worn traditionally after the Sari Perawani ceremony, which is a rite of passage ceremony in the Parsi community. This sari is best worn with simple classic jewellery like pearls. Like any other saris, you’ll have to wear a blouse and a petticoat beforehand.

  1. Take the non-pallu end of the sari and tuck it on the right of the waist.

  2. Take it around your waist counter-clockwise and tuck a part temporarily just below the navel.

  3. Take the pallu, pleat it firmly and take it from around your waist, behind your back to the right shoulder and drape it over it from back to front.

  4. Ensure that the tip of the right end of the pallu reaches the hem of the sari at your ankle.

  5. Secure the pleats on the shoulder and keep the pallu aside for now, till you finish the remaining part of the sari.

  6. Where you tucked the sari temporarily in step 2, make regular sari pleats leaving some excess fabric on your left waist. Tuck the pleats into the petticoat below the navel and secure.

  7. Ensure the length and breadth of the pleats at waist is equal to each other.

  8. Come back to the pallu now. As you ensured in step 4 that the right tip is reaching hem, take the left tip and even that side of the sari over your chest and take it from under your armpits.

  9. Secure it at the back with pins. Wear a broach on the right shoulder to finish the look.

by Radhika Sathe Patwardhan

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If there is one piece of our daily attire that has practically disappeared in the last century, it is headgear. And nowhere is it more noticeable, than the Parsis. Every single picture of Parsis right up to the early 1950’s saw the men with headgear. Mostly the paghdi or pheta adorned the crown of every respectable Parsi gentleman. Sadly that concept today is completely lost. Headgear is now worn only on major ceremonial occasions like navjotes or weddings. And that too mostly by the immediate family.

A few years ago, one of the last Pheta makers passed away. Or so one thought….more on that later.

Burjorji Mistry who lived above Kala Niketan on Queens Road, Marine Lines; Mumbai was a pheta maker of repute. Sadly he did not pass on his craft to someone.

But Burjorji was not the only Mistry when it came to phetas and paghdis. There was the legendary Dinshaw B. Mistry who also made phetas and pagdis that still survive today and have become family heirlooms that get passed on from generation to generation.

As was widely thought of at the time of Burjorji’s passing away, the art of pheta making still continues.




In a two part series Parsi Khabar will feature the two ladies who are keeping the flag flying and making phetas (and pagdis) today.

contact-arminAt a recent summer barbeque party at a friends home in New Jersey, my dear friend Jasmin Kotwal introduces me to some friends of hers who were visiting from India. And she casually mentions that the friend also makes pagdis and phetas. This friend turns out to be Armin Pooniwalla. I was fascinated to meet Armin and more importantly thrilled to know that there was someone who makes phetas in this day and age. Armin most vehemently told me she does, and I had to sheepishly accept my ignorance, and thank her for continuing the amazing craft of pheta making.



On Armin’s website, she writes

imageThe Paghdi is a majestic looking headgear worn by the Zoroastrians at the time of their wedding and other social events. The groom wears white trousers with traditional Iranian overcoat called “Dagli” also white in color and carries a shawl over his arm. On his head he wears traditional Parsi “Paghdi” or “Pheta”. In ancient times the Paghdi was also worn by boys after their Navjote Ceremony.

This ancient heritage of wearing the Paghdi is followed by most of the well known members of Zoroastrian families like Sir Jamsetji Jeejeebhoy, Pirojsha Godrej, Jamsetjee Nassewanji Tata, Jamsetjee Bomanjee Wadia, Dadabhoy Navrojee and others.

I learned this dying art of making the Paghdi to revive our traditional ancient heritage of wearing it. The Paghdi is made on a mould with different types of materials such as cardboard, cotton, cotton silk etc. They are made in black and maroon color for wedding and in red color for Navjot boys.

For keeping the Paghdi in a good condition it should be always kept wrapped in a mulmul cloth or sadra and put in an inverted position in the box.

Armin’s contact is

Armin F. Pooniwalla
12 Gulnar Bldg, Ground Floor, Hill Road
Bandra (West), Mumbai 400 050

Phone : +91 22 26423026
Mobile : +91 9819968419

Email :


Courtesy :  Arzan Wadia – Parsi Khabar

List of WZCongress Awardees at a glance (2000- 2013)

North America – 2000
Outstanding World Zarathushti Award Kaikhosrov D. Irani
World Zarathuhsti Award for Humanitarian Service and/or Philanthrophy Mobed Mehraban Zaratoshty
World Zarathushti Award for Excellence in Business and Profession Dr. Jamshed J Irani
World Zarathushti Award for Performing Arts, Painting and Literature Zubin Mehli Mehta
World  Zarathushti Youth Award for Outstanding leadership Kerman Yazdi Jasavala
 International Design Competition for the World Zarathushti Community Awards trophy Mr. Shahram Akhtar Khavari



London – 2005
London did not hold WZC Awards


Dubai –  2009 
Outstanding Zarathushti Award Rohinton Rivetna
Community Service Award Dinshaw Tamboly
Excellence in Medicine Award Dr. Farokh Udwadia
Excellence in Performing Arts, Painting & Literature Award Sooni Taraporevala
Technology and Engineering Award Minoo Patel
Outstanding Philanthropist (Special Honor – not included in nomination category) Zartoshty Brothers – Mehraban and Faridoon


Mumbai –  2013 
Social Category BPP gave Rs.1 Lakh to Mrs.Ratamai Peshotan Peer
Social Workers BPP offered 9 social workers a token award of Rs.11,000/- each, for cleaning of Dokhmas and Fire Temples

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The Epic Film covers the 3500 years, from the time of the prophet Zarathushtra to the present day, tracing the history of Zoroastrians, Parsis (Parsees) of India

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Legendary “horse whisperer” gets affectionate farewell

Last Sunday was a red letter day in the life of I n d i a ‘s l e g e n d a r y “horse whisperer“ Rashid Byramji. After regaling three generations of horseracing fans, the master craftsman retired from the game, officially.Although the racing world knew him as a horse trainer, Byramji was in fact a sculptor. An artist par excellence, Byramji sculpted champion after champion, year after year from raw bloodstock. He was a sculptor who was both mesmerized and infatuated with his creation; a creator whose admiration or lust would refuel rather than cease after the making of a singular objet d’art. Byramji kept creating masterpieces one after another; each better than the previous one. No wonder he was chased by the true connoisseurs of this art.

Having trained thoroughbred horses for the Indian Maharajas early in his career, Byramji raced horses for many an industrialist, business tycoon and breeder.By virtue of his stellar performance, Byramji ruled the Indian racing turf like none other, never before or after. That this third generation professional lasted fifty years in this trade was literally a tribute to his virtuosity.

Record achievement

Byramji effectively hung his boots at the end of the last Bangalore winter season, in March 2017, when he took the painful decision of not renewing his horse-trainer’s license anymore. He would have quit the sport long ago when age started telling on his efforts but his love for the noble four-legged creature and the fact that the racecourse was virtually a second home prevented him.

It was only befitting that the legendary figure was accorded a fond farewell by the racing fraternity during a timely felicitation ceremony hosted by the Bangalore Turf Club’s management on summer Derby day.

Words literally fail to reflect Byramji’s achievement though, for the record, he amassed an all-India tally of 3170 wins including 230 classics, 10 Indian Derby winners and 12 Indian Invitation Cup winners. The veteran was crowned champion trainer 42 times in a career that started six decades back in 1956.

Although Byramji started his career at Royal Western India Turf Club, he was forced to settle permanently in Bangalore apparently after an ugly spat with the turf club’s management. In a rare display of his rebellious character, Byramji refused to take lying down the injustice sought to be inflicted on him by the RWITC’s erstwhile managing committee in 1979.

The institution

Not only horses, Byramji honed the skills of jockeys who were also recognised as champions.His yard was like a one-stop shop for all aspiring horsetrainers! Over the years, Byramji became an institution in his own right and a guiding light for at least twenty horse-trainers. Even Aslam Kader assisted him soon after giving up horse-riding.

Aptly summarising Byramji’s personality, Pesi Shroff said: “That Byramji was good human being mattered more than him being a good horse-trainer. We got to learn in five minutes the skills which could have taken him years to accomplish.Although his training skills are folklore stuff now, I would say Byramji was a `trainer of trainers’.”

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