Of Greeting Cards and New Year Nostalgia – By Manek Deboo

newyearimageThe Parsi New Year 1385 Y.Z is upon us and most of us are brimming with the fervour that the days leading up to the auspicious day brought with them. Ten days of faith and respect to our dear departed ones are set to culminate in a day of festivity and fellowship.

Plenty of great memories have been associated with New Year days gone by. To me, this time of the year evokes fond memories of my childhood days spent in the sylvan surroundings of the Dadar Parsi Colony.

A very special feature of the colony – and one which I still miss – is that one gets almost every commodity at the doorstep. From ‘doodh na puff’ in winters and kulfi in summers to gowns and hairpins throughout the year – you name it and a vendor would find his way towards the many tranquil lanes and bylanes of the world’s largest settlement of Parsis.

Each of these vendors had a typical way of shouting out and one could easily guess which one of them had come to sell his wares. Most of them were regulars on a daily basis. However, amongst them was one intriguing vendor who would come only once a year, religiously for about a fortnight prior to Navroz. He was the one who stood out from the rest, selling the popular ‘Karani and Co.’ New Year greeting cards and also separate cards for the occasion of Khordad Sal. He would announce himself around the first week of August on a pleasant rainy afternoon and one would suddenly hear his mellifluous voice – the same voice for many years – “Papeti na postcard, fancy postcard ne jaat jaat ni chitthi….” Hearing him would create a sense of excitement as one would realise that the days of yet another another year were well and truly numbered. My father was very particular about sending New Year greeting cards to all relatives and his friends and fellow Parsis at his workplace.

So one afternoon we would call out to the card-seller and he would enthusiastically display his lovely collection of cards, placed in his green ‘peti’ and neatly stacked price-wise, available in both English and Gujarati. What a colourful array of cards he used to have! Most of them had floral pictures or designs whereas others had photos of Asho Zarathustra or the Atash. The prices ranged from 50 paise to three rupees. The Gujarati cards had all the blessings printed in detail in red.

Once the final selection was made, my father would start writing out the cards and I was given the task of noting down the names and addresses from his big diary and then stamp them. Much before the New Year dawned upon us, the entire lot was ready to be dropped into the nearest charming red post box.

Receiving such cards from well-wishers was equally joyful. This was an annual ritual, until the card-seller stopped coming.

The beginning of his non-arrival significantly coincided with a rise in the usage of telephones in most households of the colony. Sadly, over the years the trend of sending greeting cards lost currency and today with the prevalence of WhatsApp, Facebook and Instant Messenger – which are rather unpersonal media for wishing – it has almost become archaic.

The advent of the New Year is a harbinger for many such sweet memories to flood the mind. Even after four decades, the voice of the card-seller rings fresh – “Papeti na postcard, fancy postcard ne jaat jaat ni chitthi….”

Sal Mubarak to one and all!

Manek Deboo

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