How a multi-community produced a bumper annual for 72 years

In a small Kolkata street named after the Jewish David Ezra, Aziz-mian deftly worked the manual flatbed machine printing the Diwali ‘ank’ of a Gujarati weekly owned and edited by a Parsi, Eduljee Kanga, who had chosen this Hindu festival over his own new year for the bumper annual. The typesetters were Bihari. Eduljee had to teach their migrant fathers the Gujarati script and then the skills of handsetting when he founded the Navroz in the fervour of 1917.

The bundles of printed sheets would be taken deeper into the city’s gut, where Khalique-mian would be awaiting the Parsi’s Diwali deity with his own votive glue and thread. His part of the ritual done, the portly binder would lead the procession of handcarts trundling through the pre-dawn lanes to deliver the final product to Navroz Printing Works in time for Dhanteras. Then, on the muhurat hour, Eduljee in formal dagla and pheta would ceremoniously hand over the first issues of the ‘Diwali ank’ to his oldest patrons. His son Navel and daughter-in-law Jaloo would continue this ritual for 72 years till the Navroz closed with their passing. The glossy annual would be distributed to subscribers by the UP-brahmin durwan, Mishra-ji. He’d be aided part-time by Saifuddin, the family’s much-valued cook. He too had come as a callow lad from Bihar’s village Karanja as ‘Burra-sah’b’s chhokra’, was promoted as ‘house-boy’, and then upped to ‘bawarchi-khana’.

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One comment

  • hi
    just wanted to tell you..this info comes from my mom, dr. arnavaz m. havewala.

    this magazine that naval and jaloo kanga printed and published came out of the “navroz press”.
    my grandma, nergish manekji havewala and jaloo aunty kanga, were cousins.jaloo aunty visited us at dalal estate often, and had come to visit my grandma just a short while before she passed away.
    jaloo aunty’s daughter, bachi karkaria, is an excellent and well-known mother, arnavaz, has many stories to tell about their family relationships as well as bachi’s famous writings.

    bachi had written a superb piece in the illustrated weekly of india, titled–“ear plug-ear plug-here comes the parsi.” and i believe my grandma had kept a cutting with was a tongue-in-cheek article on the parsees. bachi is still writing, of course, and is really good at it.

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