Monthly Archives: September 2015

Veterans in the fray

These are Parsi war veterans who have served our country and have reached their highest positions with discipline, grit and determination. These 4 veterans are standing for the BPP elections. Names: Gen. Soli Pavri, of Kargil War Gen. Khurshid Bulsara, Commodore Mike Bhada and Squadron Leader Minoo R. Wadia.We need these capable Zoroastrians who have tough experience in administration to take charge of our community affairs.Would anyone like to help them out with their campaign etc. Need everyone’s support and blessings.My fellow Zoroastrians let us help them and VOTE for them.All bawajis pls Vote for them

Pourush BehramKamdin


Zuleika Homavazir

Dear Zoroastrians,
I present my profile alongwith my commitments to help you decide your precious exclusive vote.
Having achieved success in the corporate and the education sector, my calling directs me to work for our Community which is in dire need of compatriots who are ego-free, intelligent, compassionate and legally oriented.
Hence I would request your support to support our Community.
Should you have any queries, you are welcome to call (9821033786) or reply on the mail.
Best regards,
Dr. Zuleika Firdosh Homavazir (Sattha)
Mobile: 9821033786.
Zuleika Homavazir

Maneck Davar

Dear Humdins,

As my name has been mentioned as the candidate of trusteeship of the BPP, especially as part of one panel or other, I would like to issue a clarification. My purpose in contemplating contesting these elections is because the BPP has reached its nadir, the actions of all 7 trustees has seriously eroded the credibility of the community, and the stay from the Charity Commissioner has denied housing and financial support to the needy. I felt that as a self made entrepreneur, and someone who have been involved in managing many NGOs, I have the capabilities to see the BPP out of its present crisis.

Apart from fiscal prudence and management, if I contest and am elected I wish to introduce principles of e-governance so that all activities of the BPP, including housing allotment, is done without bias and favouritism as it would be a process without human intervention. All matters pertaining to auctions and sale of property be done by a committee of eminent finance professionals and not the trustees. I look upon the trusteeship of the BPP as a position of responsibility, and not one wielding power and pelf. To that I propose that the election scheme be suitably amended wherein the term of a BPP trustee will be only five years and for not more than two consecutive terms. I do not intend to seek re-election for if I have not managed to complete the task I have set myself in the space of five years, I would not be able to do it in ten. I also propose a Trustee Mentorship Program wherein bright, capable and professionally qualified young people, who wish to serve the community, would be provided exposure to the workings of the BPP, preparing them as future trustees. I come from a humble and poor background and I understand the needs of the poor and disadvantaged and I have tremendous compassion for them.

To achieve all this and make BPP once again an institution which its beneficiaries would trust and respect, I would need the co-operation, if elected as a trustee, of other members of the Board. I also perceive the trusteeship as a duty that needs to be performed without effecting compromises. I am pained at the politicking which is going on at present and want no part of it. I also will not support tacitly or otherwise any of the present 7 trustees; they have so badly let the community down that they deserve only condemnation, not redemption.

I pray to all my community members to please cast their vote in this election with great care, because the way things are there will be no second chance.

Maneck Davar

Parsi lamb stew

This week our food columnist Mallika Basu settles into autumn with a Parsi lamb stew also known as Jardaloo ma Gosht.

Mallika Basu's Parsi lamb

Sweet, sour and with just a hint of chilli this lamb in apricot stew is the perfect shoulder season stew. Jardaloo ma Gosht is traditionally Parsi, the community of Zoroastrians who left Persia over a thousand years ago and settled in the West of India. They brought with them a unique cuisine that combines sweet and sour, stewing meat in fruit and vinegar to a delectable end.


His thought is intensive. His vision is artistic. His sensibility is detailed. His fashion unfolds history. Ashdeen Lilaowala has not only preserved the culture of Gara embroidery but revived it successfully making his Gara creations extremely coveted.

I fell in love with his beautifully embroidered and contemporary chic sarees when I spotted them on the runway. His eye for design and composition combined with intense research and knowledge into the evolution of Gara embroidery affects fabrics that are inventive.

Traveling through Iran and China, Ashdeen collaborated with the UNESCO Parzor Foundation conducting a detailed research on Parsi embroidery for the Minister of Textiles. Documenting various Parsi Gara embroideries across various cities in India, he trained 120 crafts people in the art of Gara.

He showcased at the Lakme Fashion Week recently and I am looking forward on getting my hands on his chinese porcelain inspired saree. The uber chic Radhika Gupta of brings him to Singapore on Wednesday the 23rd at The Four Seasons Hotel.

The keeper of crafts talks to me about his journey with Gara and its immeasurable rewards. His creations ensure, you will leave an heirloom behind.




Do you have a fashion background in terms of academics or family lineage?

I wanted to be a doctor. I did well academically and was encouraged by my family and teachers to pursue medicine. While I was in middle school, my elder sister started studying fashion and that triggered my interest in design and fashion.

In school, I would be constantly drawing fashion illustrations in all my textbooks. Soon, I was convinced that I wanted to do something creative but didn’t know what and where. My parents made me meet a neighbor who was a commercial artist and he suggested I apply at National Institute of Design (NID). I did a reccee of the institute and immediately knew I wanted to join NID and study Textile Design.

As luck would have it, I got admission in my first attempt and joined NID in 1998.


How did your label Ashdeen start?

In 2005-2006 with UNESCO Parzor Foundation, I conducted a detail research project on Parsi Embroidery for the Ministry of Textiles. I travelled through Iran and China to trace the routes and origins of the craft. I also documented several private Parsi embroidery collections in various cities of India.

I conducted four training workshops in Ahmedabad, Navsari, Mumbai and Delhi. More than 120 craft’s person were introduced and trained in Parsi Gara embroidery. I organized a symposium and exhibition, “Painting with a Needle” at NCPA, Mumbai and curated an exhibition titled “Parsi Panorama” held at IIC, New Delhi in 2011.

All through I had an embroidery workshop in which I did extremely fine Haute-Couture embroidery for a client in Los Angeles. People had started asking me to make gara saris for them. I made a few garas, which were replicas of antique pieces. All along I was thinking of ways in which they could be contemporized. With great support from my parents, I started my own eponymous label in October 2012.




What has influenced you in your fashion journey?

Influences come from all corners. I just try and keep my mind and senses open to receive them.


Strong cultural references and embroidery are key features in your collections. How did that happen?

I have always wanted to create a cinematic journey in which magnificent examples of Parsi Gara Embroidery explore the long history of interaction between the Parsis of India and China. With the sea trade, the Parsis imported fabulous textiles and ceramics, giving rise to a lasting legacy of chinoiserie. I have always been inspired by this Chinese imagery and aesthetic. Each season, I decode the rich motifs, patterns, colours and details to create my romanticized notion of the exotic East. Each sari and garment is painstakingly created with a clear debt to old Chinese fine and decorative arts without slavishly reproducing it.


Can you elaborate on the different types of the embroideries used from the Zoroastrian craft?

Parsi Gara embroidery is a beautiful amalgam of Chinese, Persian, Indian and European influences. There has significant exchange of motifs, fabrics and ideas to create a unique garment patronized and worn by a very miniscule community in India. Parsi embroidery is largely done with satin stitch. Various types of satin stitches are modified to do the rendering. The popular types of satin stitches are the long & short stitch, encroach satin and a void stitch. The other popular stitch was the forbidden stitch or Peking knot.




Your design process…

Since the inspiration is largely the Orient and Parsi gara embroidery, I start with finding visuals and details from the craft for inspiration. I always sketch the full sari, as women would wear it, all the details are thought of. Then we start to find the right fabric for the embroidery. A detailed khakha or tracing is made of the embroidery design. This is pinned and then placed on the stretched fabric for transferring. The sari is embroidered on the adda or wooden frame. Often, four to five craftsperson work on the frame collectively. Once the sari is embroidered we decide on a detail for the finishing.




How do you contextualise embroideries into a contemporary woman’s life?

We have been making timeless, elegant saris, which women often wear on special occasions. These are not your everyday saris and thus the embroidery is special. I think most contemporary Indian women want a slice of tradition and culture in their wardrobes. Today, a lot of young women want to be connected to their roots and culture, a gara or any other sari, which has a strong tradition, gives them this bond. In a fast mass market, a unique sari can give any women a great sense of pride and individuality.




A designer needs to experiment with techniques and a vary of materials all the time. How do you keep evolving in every collection?

We have been experimenting with fabrics and materials from the very first collection. The idea is to adapt the embroidery on new materials and take it in a new realm. For dupattas, we have used hand-woven silks from Bengal. Fine matka and tussar silks for our saris. We did a full collection in which we used leheriya dyed fabric for the saris and accessories. We have also been using metallic yarns in shades of silver and gold to do the embroidery. This has been our innovation for Parsi embroidery. We also combine traditional Indian techniques of applique, chikan and cutwork in our range.




What are the motifs commonly seen in the craft you endorse?

Parsi Embroidery is full of exotic patterns where flora and fauna mingle effortlessly with architecture. Dancing peacocks and soaring cranes are interspersed with blooming bunches of chrysanthemums, peonies and roses. Elegant pagodas and delicate bridges are embroidered with daily life of Chinese people. The most famous motifs are the China-chini (china man and chinese woman gara), the chakla-chakli (male and female sparrow) margha-murghi (rooster and hen garo). Other quaint gara motifs include the polka dots, which are called kanda-papeta gara (onions and potatoes) and the spinwill motif is known as karolia or spider.




What’s special about the line you are bringing to Singapore?

For Singapore we are bringing a range of classic ASHDEEN Garas along with our recent collection, “The Scent of the Orient”, which was showcased at Lakme fashion Week 2015.

In this collection, we have infused Chinese imagery on traditional Indian saris and jackets. We have also introduced a range of Gara embroidery lehengas for the contemporary Indian bride.

The collection explores the charm of Blue & White Chinese Porcelain. Flora and fauna from these fine pieces have been delicately embroidered in tonal shades of blue and cream on the saris. Fluid chiffon and crepe silk saris have been dyed in rich tones of cobalt, crimson, burgundy and slate giving the perfect contrast to the embroidery.

Border details from Chinese Imperial jackets have been interpreted in saris and blouses. Floral patterns of roses, peonies and chrysanthemums along with exotic birds from chinoiserie and traditional Japanese kimonos have been have been embroidered with silk yarns, silver and gold metallic threads to give an elegant, yet opulent look.





Radhika Gupta of brings Ashdeen Lilaowala to Singapore on the 23rd of September @ The Four Seasons, Singapore.

Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw as I knew him

File Photo:Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw  Source : 

Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw was hero of India. Under his command the Indian Army had defeated the Pakistan Army meat and proper in December 1971 and taken into custody over 93,000 soldiers and civilians of Pakistan as prisoners of war (POWs in the military lingo). The morale of an average Indian person was sky high.
When General AAAK Niyazi of Pakistan Army signed the surrender document at the Ramna race course, Dakha and handed over his revolver to Lt.Gen. J. Aurora, Chief of the combined armies of India and the Mukti Bahini of the then East Pakistan, there was a thunderous applause and pro-India slogans were raised time and again.
It was there on the afternoon of 16th December 1971 that General Maneksha’s strength of character in dealing with Bangladesh citizens and refusing to handover Pakis to Mukti Bahini to be lynched, came into prominence. Sam followed the Geneva Convention in dealing with the PoWs while the large and angry crowds were baying for their blood.

General Sam Manekshaw’s firmness was appreciated by one and all. The Government of India had other plans up its sleeves. After a long time an announcement was made.

General Sam Hormusji Framji Jamshetji Manekshaw would be elevated to the rank of Field Manekshaw in recognition of his services to the country during the war and leading the Indian Army to a massive victory leading to dismemberment of Pakistan, this fact was a foregone conclusion.

The one and the only one

The Indian Army never had an officer of the rank of a Field Marshal. The problem was: what shape, size and colour the badges of rank would be. Books and pictures of the Royal British Army were consulted, drawings made and emergency orders placed. Fortunately everyone played the ball and both the badges of rank and the Field Marshal’s Baton were delivered to the ceremonial desk of Army Headquarters well in time.

President Varahgiri Venkat Giri anointed Sam with the badges of rank of a Field Marshal, the first and the only one up to that moment in the post independence Indian Army. Of course, the wartime Indian Army did have British officers of that august rank like Field Marshal Slim of the Burma campaign who made history and wrote a book “Defeat Into Victory” that is read by the staff and students of all Staff Colleges as a masterpiece of military history. Sam Manekshaw too had played an important role in the Burma Campaign when he fought bravely in the battle of the Sittang Bridge. More on that a little later in the present narrative.

Akashvani Interview

Here was the time and opportunity to record and broadcast an interview with Sam in conversational Hindi in a chatty style and inform all soldiers-in -arms to tune in. Administratively it was all hunky dory and culturally just hilarious. A sober newspaper like the Statesman commented positively on it.

Sam was at his best behaviour wise and did not lose his cool even once while the recording went on for an hour plus. Of course the broadcast time allotted was only 40 minutes. Sam never asked me what I would do with the remaining 20 mts. I had not made any plan either.

I was a Major then and worked in the Akashvani for the Forces Programme. This was my first interview with the senior most serving officer of the Indian Army who had a halo too. As the tape started rolling and the light turned red I shot my first question to find out what the secret of his success was.

His prompt answer floored us “Major Sawant, you have used a word – aap ki safalta ka raaz kya hai?Let me be frank and say that I have not followed your question, especially RAAZ.” I immediately substituted the word – Rahasya or Secret” and we got going.

The battle of Sittang bridge did come in. On being requested by me to describe in detail what all had happened, he narrated with gusto that being young in age he was a little foolhardy. The Japanese forces were in full military control of the area and yet Sam received orders to take a combat patrol out and dislodge the enemy. He charged full steam ahead and inspired his troops to keep pace and make the Japs turn tail.

The Japanese soldiers were made of sterner stuff and put up a stiff resistance. One Japanese soldier got so near Sam that he could pump nine Sten gun bullets into his body. Sam fell on the ground but kept on encouraging his soldiers to fight on which they did. Ultimately Sam’s soldiers captured the strategically important Sittang bridge and drove the Japanese away.

When the Divisional Commander, Sir Cowans heard of it and that Sam could breathe his last anytime, the General rushed to the battle site, cheered up Sam, took off his own Military Cross and pinned it on Sam’s chest anointing him with the gallantary medal which is awarded to the Living and not the Dead. Lo and behold, Sam survived and was evacuated to Madras for better treatment.

The Governor of Madras Presidency came over to look up the brave young Captain who displayed gallantary beyond the call of duty and drove the resilient Japanese soldiers away, he asked Sam whether he could do anything for him. Sam, in his inimitable style requested for two pegs of Scotch before dinner. His request was granted.

Next morning the Military Hospital Commanding Officer found Sam’s morale sky high despite bullet wounds still oozing blood and asked for the secret behind this miracle. Sam smiled and just said, “Scotch Whisky, Sir”. The Commanding Officer wrote on the medical sheet “Continue with the extra-ordinary treatment.” Sam said he was mighty pleased and fully recovered from the Japanese assault much sooner than medically expected.

Looking back I find that I have had met the Field Marshal many times before when he was a Divisional Commander in the rank of Major General commanding 26 Infantry Division in Jammu. It was time when peace prevailed and training for war was the order of the day. Of course, relaxation was thrown in between at appropriate places. Indeed the emphasis was on training and training but relaxation in one form or the other was never neglected.

When Sam became an Army Commander in the rank of Lieutenant General he visited the Tri-junction of India, Bhutan and jungles of NEFA, now Arunachal Pradesh. I have had no opportunity as a Captain to interact with him except a handshake when he visited the Brigade Headquarters where I happened to be posted. Anyway, it was a good experience to see him from close quarters and shake hands firmly when the aura and halo of the 1971 war were yet to adorn him.

On assuming the appointment of Chief of the Army Staff in the rank of a four star General Sam went to the Indian Military Academy, Dehra Dun to take the salute of the Passing Out Parade. I too happened to be there and went trigger happy with my famous camera of the Japanese make that I had bought in the PX while studying Chinese-Mandarin with the US Defence Forces in California.

In one of my colour slides I caught him off guard with his missing tooth rather conspicuous by its absence. I screened it in a slide show at Pachmarhi (where I was posted as a Company Commander of the Chinese-learning Indian officers and Jawans) a couple of years later when the Chief visited the Queen of Satpuras for a Scouts Jamboorie. He whispered into my ear, “You can do without the missing tooth slide in your next show” I dutifully obeyed.

I happened to have another pleasant encounter with Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw in an Indian Airlines flight from Madras to Coimbatore when he was visiting his home in Conoor, Nilgiri Hills. I reminded him of all the interviews that I had the pleasant duty to record at various places in the last few years. I requested for one more at the airport lounge and he was pleased to oblige.

There was no point in going through what all had transpired in between the glorious years and a little bad blood that he and some politicians had over a remark of his. And yet he touched on it saying that it is necessary to have a sense of humour to appreciate various off the cuff remarks made jokingly.

In one of his unguarded moments Sam had remarked jocularly that had he been on Pakistan’s side,India would have lost the 1971 war. Many a military strategist opined that jokes must not be cracked at the expense of honour of the motherland. Sam did say to me somberly that he had forgotten the episode as a bad dream. The Nation did not. The responsibility for the episode lay at Sam’s door indeed.

Sam Manekshaw seemed to be cut up that the Government of India of the day did not accord him the honour that was indeed due to be given to him as a Field Marshal. He emphasized time and again that a Field Marshal never retires and continues to be on the rolls of active serving officers of the Army until he breathes his last.

Sam thought that he deserved to be given the pay and allowances, accorded all protocols and ceremonials that a Field Marshal receives in Service. The views of the Government were indeed different.

When Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw expired in his house in Conoor in the Nilgiris, none of the three Service Chiefs attended the funeral to pay their last repects to the deceased Sam. It was business as usual. In any case Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw has etched a niche in the hearts and minds of his compatriots that no unsavoury incident can erase. Sam will live in the annals of military history of India forever.