Wanted! Young Parsis to maintain agiyari

When the Parsi agiyari in Sayajigunj recently celebrated its 90 years of existence, the entire building was cleaned and lit up by the community members.

While many admired the spic and span agiyari, few knew that the fire temple management is finding it increasingly difficult to maintain and clean the huge building.

The trustees have even begun looking for young Parsi volunteers to clean up and maintain the agiyari every weekend.

“Only Parsi community members are allowed in the agiyari premises. So we cannot hire non-Parsis to maintain and clean the building



Ratan Tata Backs This Engineer’s Generous Plan To Save Stray Dogs Around The Country

Shantanu Naidu is an engineer at Tata Elxsi but more than that, he is a man with a golden heart. This 24-year-old engineer from Pune is winning hearts for his wonderful contribution for man’s best friend: dogs. He has developed a reflective dog collar which works with a running dog leash and glows at night and hence prevents them from being accidently run over by motorists and car drivers. Ratan Tata,who is a self proclaimed dog lover, himself took no time in backing this amazing initiative and decided to fund Naidu’s production.

Currently ‘Motopaws’, the initiative being run by Shantanu, has over 15 vounteers and is getting success in cities like Goa, Bangalore, Assam, Mumbai, and Pune. Many organisations have offered to fund this establishment but Naidu wishes to keep his loyalty with Tata only, as he feels that with him, it is much more than just the money. It is a connection of hearts.


18 facts about Farokh Engineer

The Original poster boy of Indian cricket

Farokh Engineer was known for his quick glovework and audacious batting

Farokh Engineer plays a sweep shot. (Photo Source: PA Photos)

Farokh Engineer can be described as the actual swashbuckler of Indian cricket who set examples for other future dashers like K Srikkanth, Ganguly and Sehwag to follow. The wicket keeper-batsman was versatile and batted as an opener as well as a lower order pinch hitter during his career. His agility behind the stumps made him India’s first choice keeper in the late sixties and seventies and kept wickets for the famed spin quartet of Bishan Singh Bedi, Erapalli Prasanna, Bhagwat Chandrasekar and Srinivas Venkataraghavan. At the peak of his career, the colorful character was a respected for his mastery as a wicket keeper in the India as well overseas.

1. Born on:

Farokh Engineer was born to Minnie and Maneksha at Bombay Hospital on February 25, 1938, in Bombay (now Mumbai), Maharashtra.

2. Family:

Farokh, which means happiness in Persian, grew up with his parents and had an older brother. His father was a Medical doctor by Profession while his mother was a housewife. He is of Parsi background and studied at the Podar College, Matunga.

3. Love for cricket:

Farokh’s love for sports came from his father who loved playing Tennis and was a club cricketer himself. His older brother, Darius, was also a good club cricketer and inspired the young Farokh to take up the sport.

4. Unique surname:

‘Engineer’ is an occupation-related surname. In the late nineteenth century, Farokh’s great-grandfather joined the newly built engineering industry. Hence, the last name ‘Engineer’ was adopted by his family.

5. The art of catching:

Farokh grew up studying in the Don Bosco School and was a mischievous kid. On one occasion, his mathematics teacher Mr. Lobo got annoyed at the kid who was talking with his classmate and threw the duster. To everyone’s surprise, Farokh caught the duster and this remains one of most discussed moments of his childhood.

6. Early cricketing career:

His father enrolled him to Dadar Parsi Colony Sporting Club where learnt the nuances of the game from the seniors and later became a regular member of the team.

7. Flying ambitions:

Farokh aspired to be a pilot and had passed his private pilot’s licence at Bombay Flying Club. But his mother did not want Farokh to be a pilot since she was afraid of losing her son. So Farokh, who had already taken giant strides from being a club cricketer to becoming a Test cricketer, began concentrating on his cricket.

8. Initial stardom:

Farokh routine was like every other young cricketer in Mumbai. He would attend college in the morning and then would take a train from Dadar to Churchgate and go to Cricket Club of India. He would often travel in crowded trains and would hang on the door with his kit hanging outside. However, everything changed after the Test selection as people recognised him, making way for him and gave place to sit in the train

9. A prized possession from Dennis Compton:

Farokh and his older brother were avid cricket lovers. Darius took Farokh on his shoulders at the East Stand of the Brabourne Stadium. Farokh saw Dennis Compton fielding there and started calling him. Compton was impressed by the little fellow and gave him a chewing gum to eat which he saved it as his prized possession for many years.

10. Doting Mother’s last words:

Farokh was the closest to his mother, Minnie and accompanied her everywhere. When Minnie was dying, Farokh was playing at Jamnagar. As soon as Farokh came to know about his mother’s deteriorating health, he rushed to Bombay. The Maharaja of Jamnagar had ordered the Indian Airlines flight to wait for him as Farokh rushed to his mother. Seeing his son weeping like a child, she promised Farokh that she will return to him as his first daughter. Those were Minnie’s last words. Farokh was sure that his first child would be a daughter and those words came true as his first child was a girl.

11. International debut:

Farokh made his Test debut during the 1961-62 season against England in Kanpur. He came out to bat at number 9 in a batting line-up which consisted of the likes of ML Jaisimha, Nari Contractor, Vijay Manjrekar and Salim Durani

12. Tames the famed West Indies to cement his place:

Farokh faced intense competition for the place of wicket keeper in the Indian team from another fine wicket keeper Budhi Kunderan. He struggled to cement his place until he struck a belligerent century against West Indies in Chennai in 1967. He batted audaciously against the bowling line-up consisting of Wes Hall, Charlie Griffith, lance Gibbs and Gary Sobers.

13. Contribution India’s historic win:

In 1967-68, Engineer also played a pivotal role in India’s first ever Test series victory away from home in New Zealand. He showed good glovework behind the stumps and also chipped in with useful runs. In fact, he ended that series with more than 300 runs to his name.

14. The famous catch of the famous tour:

The 1971 tour is fondly remembered for India’s first Test series win against England in England. Farokh Engineer, who was the wicket keeper that series, also has his great moment in the series after he grabbed an acrobatic catch to dismiss John Edrich off Bishen Singh Bedi. A quicker one from Bedi hit the rough and jumped off to clip the shoulders of Edrich.

15. ‘The Brylcreem Boy’:

Farokh became a household name successful 1965/66 season after his performances against West Indies and New Zealand. There were a lot of commercials waiting to sign Farokh as their brand ambassador. He was offered a contract by Brylcreem. The sales of the cream went up and Engineer was known as the ‘Brylcreem Boy’. One of the UK tabloids also offered him handsome money to endorse for them. He had to be without his shirt on and carry his daughter Tina on his shoulders.

16. Best in the ‘Rest of the World’:

Farokh Engineer was the wicketkeeper for the “Rest of the World” team that played matches against England in 1970 and against Australia in 1971-72.

17. Lancashire man:

In 1967, Lancashire signed him up as an overseas player. He got used to the life in Manchester. He was provided with a house and a car to commute daily. Later, Engineer became a revered figure in Lancashire which had become his second home. His wife Julie is also a Lancastrian.

18. Honors:

Farokh was announced as the Indian Cricket Cricketer of the Year in 1965 and was awarded the fourth highest civilian award in India, Padma Shri in 1973.

By Veeran Rajendiran – Feb 25, 2016


International Day of NowRuz- 21 March

A Word from FEZANA’s  United Nations / NGO committee:
International Day of NowRuz – 21 March
celebration of Nowruz

A choir singing traditional melodies during a festivity celebrating Nowruz In Tajikistan. © UNESCO
International Nowruz Day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly, in its resolution A/RES/64/253 of 2010, at the initiative of several countries that share this holiday (Afghanistan, Albania, Azerbaijan, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, India, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan.
Inscribed in 2009 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity as a cultural tradition observed by numerous peoples, Nowruz is an ancestral festivity marking the first day of spring and the renewal of nature. It promotes values of peace and solidarity between generations and within families as well as reconciliation and neighborliness, thus contributing to cultural diversity and friendship among peoples and different communities.


Khurshid Mistry – Best Athlete of the Year!

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Responses to Questionnaire of Jame Jamshed- 17.2.16

Q 1. Please tell us about your latest award at the All-Parsees Meet

Ans: I was awarded the Best Athlete of the Year Award at the All Parsees Annual Athletic Meet which was held on February 14, 2016 at University Stadium. This award was across all age categories.

Q2. Tell us about your achievements in year 2015.

Ans: 2015 was a very successful year for me for both Sprinting and Marathon running:

  • I started with Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon- 2015 in January 2015 where I secured 3rd position under my age category. Completed 21 kms in 1 hour 56 minutes.

  • In March 2015 I represented Maharashtra for the Masters National Athletic Championship 2015 held at Rohtak where I won 5 Gold Medals in 100 mts, 200 mts, 400 mts and 4*100 mts relay and 4*400 mts relay.

  • In May 2015 I represented by organization, UTI Mutual Fund in the National Mercantile / Corporate Masters Track and Field Championship 2015 held at Mumbai where I won 4 Gold Medals in 100 mts, 200 mts, 400 mts and 4*100 mts relay. I also received the Individual Championship as Best Female Athlete under my age category.

  • In September 2015 I won the Satara Hill Ultra Half Marathon in 1st position under my age category. Completed 21 kms in 1 hour 59 minutes. The Satara Hill Ultra Marathon this year entered the Guinness World Record Book for most people running up a single mountain was achieved by participants of Satara Hill Marathon 2015. This makes it a very special occasion for all its participants.

  • In October 2015 won the Bangalore Half Marathon 2015 in 3rd Position under my age category. 1st and 2nd winners were both foreigners. Completed 21 kms in 1 hour 56 minutes

  • In November 2015 I won the Vasai Virar Marathon 2015 in 1st Position under my age category.

  • In November 2015 also won the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon 2015 in 3rd position under my age category. 2nd winner was a foreigner. Completed 21 kms in 1 hour 53 minutes.

  • I have started the New Year with a bang by winning the Standard Chartered Mumbai Marathon 2016- Half Marathon in 1st Position under my age category. Completed 21 kms in 1 hour 54 minutes.

Q3 . Is recognition from the community more special — and why

Ans 3. It’s important, because recognition is about feeling special, and when it comes from those we hold in high esteem and close to us, its special.  I am a proud “Parsi athlete” and accolades from my community for my efforts means a lot. It is an honour for me that my community has recognized my efforts.

Q3. What is your typical training routine like

Ans3: My training routine depends on the competition I am participating in i.e. whether it Sprinting or a Marathon since the training routines for both these activities are different.

Round the year I do speed and strength training. A typical week comprises of 6 days of training in the morning at Priya Darshani Park under my coach Dinanath Maurya from 6 am to 8 am , evenings at the office gym alternating between weights and core exercises. Sundays are for unwinding and resting the muscles. On weekends I mostly complement my routine with swimming for relaxation.

Three months prior to the Marathon, I stop speed training and start long distance endurance training to build the required endurance for the marathon. Long distance running will involve endurance training, slope running, long runs on the road (once a week), repetitions, tempo runs etc. My training routine requires total dedication and 100% effort from my side.

Q4. What motivates and keeps you going even at this age

Ans 4:Remembering my passion and purpose, allows me to stay disciplined and there is always some unreached potential waiting to be tapped and fulfilled. Like they say – Motivation gets you going, Discipline keeps you growing. It is never too late in life to pursue your passion and excel in it. Age is immaterial.

Q5. What future milestones have you set for yourself?

Ans. 5 I would like to participate in the World Masters Athletic Meet. I would also like to keep running half marathons in different places both in India and Abroad and improve my timings.

11. What/Who is your driving force?

My father, who is now with me in spirit. He is the one who always encouraged me in any endeavour that I wanted to pursue/achieve. This is what he taught me – never give up, keep trying and the goal will be achieved. Today the only regret I have is not achieving this while he was around – seeing the pride on his face when I brought home these accolades.

Today my strength and support is my mother.

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Homi Bhabha in India’s Role In The Discovery of Gravitational Waves

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(L-R) Albert Einstein, Hideki Yukawa, John Wheeler (the one who coined the word ‘black hole’) and Homi Bhabha at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Princeton (Image Credit: Princeton University)

The three stages of black hole collision as observed in supercomputer simulation of Einstein Equations. C V Vishveshwara from the Raman Research Institute, along with S. Chandrasekhar (Nobel Prize, 1983) did the historic work in understanding of the “ringdown” stage after collision of black holes (Simulation and Image Credit: K. Jani, M. Clark, M. Kinsey, Center For Relativistic Astrophysics , Georgia Institute of Technology)

On the morning of 11 February, when the executive director of the gravitational wave experiment LIGO, David Rietze, announced the greatest scientific discovery of the century — the first detection of gravitational waves — at the National Press Club in Washington DC, there was one Indian at the front row, who carried with him the legacy of Indian science. Bala R Iyer, a senior professor from Bangalore and chair of the Indian Initiative in Gravitational-Wave Observation (IndIGO), has spent decades of his research in modelling the gravitational waves from a pair of black holes, similar to the one we detected on 14 September, 2015. The observed gravitational waves from black hole collision is such a landmark feat that future historians will mark this as a transition much like BC to AD in mankind’s understanding of the universe. And when a future Ramachandra Guha will discuss the role India played in this discovery, the first scientist’s name to emerge in the list should not surprise any Indian.

Bhabha was rather like Rancho of 3 Idiots… he was set to pursue metallurgy and lead. Instead, like a classic rebel, he went on to study cosmic rays…
Exactly 77 years ago before this historical announcement, an emerging young Indian physicist at Cambridge, who had already marked his place in the international arena of quantum physics, decided to come back to his hometown, Bombay. At a time when all other important Indians were occupied with freedom struggle, this man came toSwadesh with an aspiration of starting a fundamental physics research centre. Modern India owes big thanks to this man, Homi Jehangir Bhabha, for making that bold career move, because of which India has been part of every historical scientific feat in the last 50 years — from the first independent test of the nuclear bomb, to the first success on Mars, and now with the future of astrophysics relying very crucially in the hands of LIGO India project.

Bhabha was rather like Rancho of 3 Idiots. Belonging to an influential Parsi family closely related to the Tatas, he was set to pursue metallurgy and lead the Tata Steel Mills at Jamshedpur. Instead, like a classic rebel, he went on to study cosmic rays at the iconic Cavendish Laboratory in the University of Cambridge and computed the interaction between electron and its antimatter (positron), which in his honour is named as the ‘Bhabha Scattering’. At Cambridge, Bhabha interacted with emerging legends of physics like Niels Bohr, Paul Dirac and Enrico Fermi. It is said he was well aware of the Manhattan Nuclear Bomb project by noticing a sudden absence in the scientific publications of his fellow physics buddies. When Bhabha returned to India in 1939, he soon became a close ally of emerging Congress Party leader, Jawaharlal Nehru. For Nehru, Bhabha proved to be his intellectual soul mate. Unlike any other leader or scientist of the time, Bhabha had the vision and technical skill to develop an ambitious nuclear program that was required to preserve the sovereignty of independent India. And with Nehru at the helm of affairs post-independence, Bhabha had a free hand to chart the path for modern India’s role in science and technology.

Over the last 70 years, TIFR, where Bhabha served as the founding director, has nurtured world class researchers in the field of Einsteinian relativity.
One of the first research centres that Bhabha set up was the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in 1945. To persuade the Sir Dorabji Jamsetji Tata Trust to fund this institute, Bhabha wrote an aggressive letter, in which castigated the mediocre applied research institutes that were wasting the scientific talent in the country. Instead he proposed a dedicated institute where research in physics and fundamental sciences could lead a national movement of science and technology towards national security and industrial applications. In a mark of an ingenious visionary, he wrote in the letter:

“It is neither possible nor desirable to separate nuclear physics from cosmic rays since the two are closely connected theoretically.”

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Homi Jehangir Bhabha, father of the Indian Nuclear Programme (Image Credit: Homi Bhabha Fellowship)

Over the last 70 years, TIFR, where Bhabha served as the founding director, has nurtured world class researchers in the field of Einsteinian relativity. In 2007, TIFR opened a new campus in Bangalore — the International Centre for Theoretical Sciences — where the chair of IndIGO consortium, Bala Iyer is leading the effort for the LIGO-India project. The legendary Indian cosmologist Jayant Narlikar (Padma Vibhushan) started his career at TIFR and later formed the Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA) in Pune in 1988. The team at IUCAA, led by one of the leaders in space-based gravitational-wave experiments, Sanjeev Dhurandhar, will lead the gravitational-wave data-analysis effort for the proposed LIGO-India project. LIGO-India, the third of the LIGO detectors (currently one is in Louisiana and the other in Washington, USA), is a mega science project in collaboration with the United States to build and operate a gravitational-wave detector on India soil, like the one that detected the first gravitational waves.

LIGO-India, the third of the LIGO detectors, is a mega science project in collaboration with the United States to build and operate a gravitational-wave detector on India soil, like the one that detected the first gravitational waves.
It is believed that Bhabha convinced Nehru and Ambedkar to add “scientific temper” as one of the fundamental duties [in the Constitution].
As the director also of the Atomic Energy Commission of India, Bhabha formed the Atomic Research Centre (named in his honour as Bhabha Atomic Research Centre; BARC) for peaceful, use of nuclear technology. BARC channelized the formation of the Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology (RRCAT) at Indore in 1984. The advance lasers and quantum optics that are crucial to maintain sensitivity of the LIGO-India experiment will be lead by scientists at RRCAT. In 1986, the Institute for Plasma Research (IPR) in Gandhinagar was set up by the governing council of BARC. The scientists at IPR will lead the ambitious effort of building 16sq km of vacuum chambers that will form the L-shaped interferometer path for the LIGO-India experiment.

When Bhabha led the Scientific Advisory Committee for the Government of India, he initiated plans for ambitious space programme in 1962, which later evolved as the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and the formation of Department of Space. These organizations, along with Department of Atomic Energy and Department of Science & Technology, have remained central funding agencies for astrophysics and fundamental science research in India. Bhabha’s legacy in 21st century India is well captured in the LIGO detection paper, “Observation of Gravitational Waves from a Binary Black Hole Merger”, which has over 30 Indian researchers. The LIGO scientific collaboration gratefully acknowledges the role of these Indian funding agencies, which Bhabha charted within just 25 years of his active role in India. This detection paper will be cited by every scientific publication in the field of astrophysics and Einstein’s Relativity for at least the next 50 years.

If we want to Make in India, and Discover in India, then without any dilution, we should work towards promoting a “scientific temper” in India.
Among the most critical contributions of Bhabha to modern India and the new era of gravitational-wave science in our country is the inclusion of the term “scientific temper” in our Constitution. India is only the country that places constitutional values in scientific logic and rationality. It is believed that Bhabha convinced Nehru and Ambedkar to add “scientific temper” as one of the fundamental duties.

At time when we Indians are participating in the greatest scientific feats by mankind, we are also being fooled by pseudo- and anti-science practices that are rampant in every corner of this nation. It is a sad state when miracle-making godmen, astrologers, vastu-shastra, and hoax medical products get more income revenue from our citizens than the total science budget of institutes like IUCAA. The acknowledgement to the Indian scientist by Prime Minister Modi on the day of the announcement of the gravitational-wave detection thus and today a historic announcement for approval of LIGO-India project set the right tone on the priorities of our scientific nation in the making. And if we want to Make in India, and Discover in India, then without any dilution, we should work towards promoting a “scientific temper” in India. It is only then we carry forward Homi Bhabha’s legacy for India in the science of tomorrow.


Finding Happiness In A Bowl Of Prawn Curry

prawn curry1Every family has their own version of prawn curry. Photo: Perzen Patel

A lesser-known fact about Parsis is that more families have traditions about their prawn curry than they do about the talked-about dhansak.

As a child, my Mamaiji made her prawn curry for me every Saturday when I visited her along with a big bowl of the kachubar (onion salad) that used to be kept aside exclusively for me. I loved her curry so much, that once when I was sitting on her lap and she asked me what I wanted were she ever to pass away; I innocently told her that all I really wanted was a big, never-ending bowl of her curry that I could always have and remember her by – an admission my stomach is most shameful about.

Not all Parsi kids grow up enjoying curry though. Food and travel blogger, Roxanne Bamboat of The Tiny Taster fame admits that as a child she would turn up her nose at curry, and demand a plate of dhandar or kheema instead. However, as her palate evolved, she too started enjoying the family tradition of Sunday curries – her weekend Instagram feed is a testimony to this tradition. Roxanne admits to being impartial and loving all sorts of Thai, Goan and Malaysian curries, but she brought a smile to my face when she said that despite tasting many curries as part of her job, her favourite was still the Parsi prawn curry.

While prawns is the best accompaniment to a curry, some Parsis prefer adding chicken or mutton to it, and that radically changes the taste of the curry. My friend, Zenia who blogs as the Branded Bawi remembers eating chicken curry as part of the free lunches Parsis were entitled to at the Avabai Petit School mess. Sadly, the mess used to make the curry so bland and watery that she grew up hating it. It’s only when her aunt made her a bowl of prawn curry a few years ago that she realised what the real deal tastes like and became a convert.

prawncurry3The Sunday curry is every Parsi’s favourite. Photo: Roxanne Bamboat

Grandma’s and Aunt’s weren’t the only safe keepers of good curry, and for food author Nicole Mody, her favourite version of the curry came from the family’s Goan cook. It was the first dish she learnt how to cook (I feel shameful admitting mine was white rice!) and for her prawn curry is the ultimate comfort food, which can be enjoyed any time of the day, be it 3 in the morning or 4 in the evening.

In a way, prawn curry is like the black sheep of Parsi food. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen it feature at a Parsi wedding, or even being served at a Parsi restaurant. There, the only dishes reigning supreme are the Sali Jardaloo Chicken and Pulao Dar. I remember as a kid, my friend D opted for prawn curry instead of mutton pulao for her Navjote. And, while the cranky old Parsi aunties were scandalised at not being served pulao, I remember pigging out on serving after serving of Godiwala’s curry complete with king-sized prawns.

Like dhansak, every family has their heirloom curry recipe, but if I’ve made you hungry for some Parsi curry, here’s a great version you can try. For this recipe, you will get optimal results with the best slow cookers, the tenderness achieved over time is the goal!

Recipe for Parsi prawn curry


For the curry masala

1/2 fresh coconut chopped into pieces

1 tsp poppy seeds

1 tsp white sesame seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsp coriander seeds

50 gm raw peanuts

30 gm chopped cashews

10 cloves of garlic

15 dried Kashmiri chilies

3 small tomatoes chopped

For the prawn marinade

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp red chilly powder

½ tsp salt

For the curry

350 gms of prawns shelled and de-veined but with tails on

2 tbsp wheat flour

2 tbsp cooking oil

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp red chilly powder

1 tsp curry powder

2 large potatoes quartered

Salt to taste


  1. Before you make the curry masala, accumulate everything you will need onto one plate. This makes life easier once you start roasting and grinding.

  2. Once ready, dry roast all the seeds, peanuts, and cashews until their aroma starts wafting in the kitchen.

  3. Now, blend the seed mixture along with the coconut, garlic, chilies and tomatoes adding water as needed to make a thick paste. Keep grinding until you have a fine paste.

  4. While grinding the masala, you also need to marinate about the prawns in a turmeric, red chilli powder and salt marinade and set aside for about half an hour.

5.Once this is all ready, in a crockpot add some oil and fry the wheat flour making sure no lumps remain. Add in the curry masala and sauté for about 5 mins until the wheat flour is mixed well into the masala, and it no longer sticks to the sides of the crockpot.

  1. Next, add the turmeric, red chilli and curry powder along with water into the crockpot to get the curry to the right consistency. Ensure that you don’t put too much water. Add in 3-4 chopped potatoes into the crockpot and let the curry simmer for 20 – 25 minutes. When the potatoes are cooked, add in the prawns and simmer for a further 10 minutes.

  2. Enjoy the curry hot along with steamed rice, kachubar and lemon juice.


Looking for Dr. Pervin Sorab Madon

I am looking for contact details of one of my seniors by name Dr. Parvin Sorab Madon who was a scientist at B.A.R.C., Mumbai. She retired in 2002 and I am unable to get in touch with her. I was told that she might be living in Parsi colony, Dadar.

I appreciate if you could pass on my message to her with a request to contact me by mail or telephone on my behalf.

With regards,

(Dr. P. Venu Babu)
Scientific Officer

A few good Parsi women 

 The Bombay Parsi Punchayet’s (BPP) April election is going to be a women’s power war with sitting trustee Armaity Tirandaz’s term coming to an end. Challenging her candidature is former trustee and social worker Arnavaz Mistry, who in the last election trumped her opponent with an 80 per cent majority. Mistry’s efforts at encouraging young Parsis to marry (and within the community) and her work for senior citizens finds permanent place in community newsletters, with elders and the Parsi press gushing over her “obvious victory”.

Arnavaz Mistry and Armaity Tirandaz
Arnavaz Mistry and Armaity Tirandaz

“I am not bothered about anything else other than helping people. The election is a way for me to reach out [to the community] better. Barring a few, the new trustees have not really done anything worth mentioning,” Mistry told this diarist.

Given Mistry’s fan following, the defiant Tirandaz is quick to say, “I have never indulged in a popularity contest in any case, I have always been a silent worker.” Tirandaz, who earned the not-so-flattering sobriquet of Rabri Devi after she won the seat that was left vacant by her husband and trustee Rustom Tirandaz’s demise in 2009, is known to be a staunch traditionalist, trashing reforms that the community is debating, given the falling numbers and endogamy’s fading sheen.

If aggro and April go together, it is not just because of the alliteration. The BPP is a battlefield.

Mid-Day, Friday, February 19, 2016



By Dara M. Rivetna, Chicago.

My dear wife Dinsoo passed away at the WZO Trust Funds Senior Citizens Centre at Navsari on 24th December 2015 around 7 am.

I reside in Chicago, but for the last many years we have been spending the winter months in Mumbai as my wife Dinsoo had been keeping indifferent health and unable to bear the severe cold of Chicago.

During our sojourns in India, I used to volunteer for work with the WZO Trust Funds, visit houses of beneficiaries at Mumbai and other places to investigate firsthand the appeals they received for a variety of causes. Dinsoo & I also visited the villages of Gujarat with Bachi & Dinshaw Tamboly, and raised funds for converting a few huts into cottages, besides personally donating ourselves for the replacement of a few huts into cottages.

This year, Dinsoo’s health took a turn for the worse, and being unable to look after her on my own, I requested Bachi Tamboly, who is in charge of the WZO Trust Funds Senior Citizens Centres to allow Dinsoo to stay there for a few months before our return to Chicago in the summer of 2016.

Thanks to the kindness and help of Bachi and Dinshaw Tamboly we were allowed to stay at the WZO Trust Funds Senior Centre.  Dinsoo and I arrived at the centre in Navsari on October 27, 2015 by a private taxi from Dadar, Mumbai where we stay at our Nephew’s house in Dadar. It was our intention to spend the rest of our time at Navsari during this trip to India till our return to Chicago in summer.

Let me first tell you all a few things about the centre. It is a place for elderly retired persons, 60 years and more who are mobile and able to look after their personal needs. It is like home in some ways and for many a resident it is more than home. It is here that they come to spend the evening of their life. Most residents are single except a couple of husbands and wives.

No matter the disability everyone is treated with respect and dignity. Residents help each other with small chores. One can stay to himself or socialize – to each his own. Some residents stay in common room where there are 4 residents to a room. There are rooms where there are two to a room and some rooms are singles.

Residents are allowed to go out at their will, the only thing is that they  have to inform the manager that they will be out, which of course is for their safety and well- being. The day starts at 7:00am for tea. Breakfast is at 9:00am and most residents take their shower get ready by breakfast and then it is leisure time till lunch, which is at 12:30pm. After lunch it is siesta time till 4:00pm when it is afternoon tea and breakfast (what we call snack) Lot of seniors go for a walk in the neighborhoods, some sit on the veranda and gossip. At 8:00pm is call to dinner. All meals are served in the dining room.

Allow me to give you an idea of what we eat. Sample breakfast—it is either Parsi Poro; akuri; Masala eggs; scrambled eggs; Upma with lots of vegetables and nuts; Thepela, etc. There is always a choice of rotli or bread slices with butter and jam.

Sample lunch – DhanDhar ne patio; curry rice with fried slice of fish, kacumber+Lemon; Masala na Dhar chawl with cucumber; Khichdi ne dahi ni kadhi+papad; Parsi style Rus chawal – often there is a piece of fried fish such as a Pomfret or Boi.

Sample Dinner – rai na papata+murghi in masala; Turkey chicken; guvar-sing; girola; some vegetable or the other, chana ni dhar with shish-kebab. Homemade pickles are always available.

A portion of the food is preplaced on the plate and there are ladies walking around asking if anyone wants more. There is never a shortage of food, you can get as much as you want. A menu is posted one day before and there are some old folks who do not like veggies or meat so they can write their name and there is alternate stuff for them. ALL THE FOOD IS PARSI STYLE, NUTRICIOUS, DELICIOUS AND PLENTY. There are 4 ladies in the kitchen to look after the preparation of meals. One day Dinsoo mentioned to one of the cooks that she would like to eat Bhelpuri, and a few days later we had Bhelpuri with three different chutneys for her.

The operation at the centre is a well-oiled machine. Every morning there are ladies (local workers) who come and sweep and mop the rooms and wash clothes. They help with bathing and make hot water for shower for those who do not have geyser in their rooms. We were happy there and enjoying our stay.

NOW LET’S TALK ABOUT NAVSARI AS I KNOW IT. Some of the information has been gleaned from the 1st Dasturji Meherji Rana Library.

Earlier Parsis had been living all along the west coast of India mainly in the area of Gujarat. There are two distinct towns that have a long history of being Parsi strongholds. One is Surat and the other is Navsari. This place was called nagmandal (Snake pit, house of snake) but it seems that some Parsis thought that it looked more like Sari in Iran and they named it Nav  Sari.

Navsari was considered to be the stronghold of Parsidom. Even now there are many Parsi institutions here but sadly very few Parsis to take advantage of the facilities. Some of the most famous Parsis were from Navsari and in the past those who were not from Navsari came here to pay homage to the heart of Parsidom.  Three of the most recent outstanding Parsis are Jamshetji N. Tata, Dadbhoy Navroji and of course the greatest philanthropist of all times Sir Jamshetji Jeejebhoy.

These three were not just for Parsis but for the country- India’s first PM Nehru has known to have said that Jamshetji Tata was a one man planning commission for India. Navsari is also considered to be the Dharm ni Takdi (Top of the hill or Seat or pillar of our religion). His holiness Meherji Rana. represented Parsis at the court of Emperor Akbar.

Navsari has the oldest Daremehr in India called Vadi Daremeher, which is well over 875 years old. There have been more Navars, Martabs performed at Vadi Daremehr than at any other place. Vadi Daremeher is considered to be akin to Harvard or Stanford of Parsi priests. (I believe you can only do a Sampurno mobed from here. Navsari was also the home of Iranshah for three hundred years. Navsari’s Atash Bahram is considered to be the 2nd holiest place for Parsis after Udvada. It is also set in a nicer setting than many other agairies and Atash Baharams. It is located in an area called Tarota).

Navsari was estimated to have had a Parsi population of 30,000+ but like all other Parsi population it is declining and is now estimated to be approx. 2,500. Presently a lot of Parsis live in an area called Ava Baugh. There is an old Ava Baugh and a new Ava Baugh. Ava Baugh was built by late Mr. Shapurji Jokhi. Shapurji Jokhi was a modern day philanthropist whose life  story runs almost similar to Sir Jamshetji Jeejibhoy. He was born in Navsari in a poor family and made his money thru hard work and business in Hong Kong, China.  As the population has declined so have the Parsi houses. They are either sold out to non-community members or some of them lying in total decay. The old city streets are called Mohalla (street). A lot of Mohallas have Parsi names. Vacha, Antiawad (Most Antias Lived on that street) Dasturwad, Kanga street, Dudha Mohalla, Damaka Mohalla, Pinjar Mohalla, etc.

There may be many hospitals in Navsari but there are two that are known to all and sundry in Navsari. One is D. N. Mehta Sarvajanik Hospital which is locally known as Parsi hospital and the other is Daboo Hosp.  The D. N. Mehta Hospital used to be earlier known as Parsi Suvavad khanu (maternity hospital). It is now a full fledged hospital. I have yet to remember a town where we  have visited and Dinsoo has not been interned in one of the hosp. She did not make an exception for Navsari.

There are many well known Parsis from Navsari both from Yore and new. Everyone knows about Meherji Rana who was invited to Emperor Akbar’s court. Another great person and sometimes considered as the savior of our faith was a man called Changasha. Changasha was a Desai, (Desai is like a mini king in a kingdom). He was very religious and very orthodox Parsi and was troubled by the fact that many Parsis in the villages and small towns had taken on Hindu customs, names, names like Jaloo, Dhunmai, Mani, etc. and followed Hindu practices. Almost all the rituals performed before the Parsi wedding are all Hindu. He held Mehfils – conferences and gave them sudreh and kusti. One person by the name Nariman Hoshang from Baruch had come to the Mehfils and Changasha deputed him to go to Kerman in Iran and other religious places in Iran and have discourses with the learned Dasturs and bring back information and religious practices. These practice of interchange continued for over 300years and are now popularly known has Revayats. Another achievement of his was to bring the holy Iranshah to Navsari from Vasanda where it stayed in Navsari for 300 years. He also settled Parsis in an area of Navsari which is now called Malesar. Chagsha name is recited in our prayers with other great Dasturs and scholars.  He had a son called Manecksha. Manecksha was called Raja probably the first Parsi Raja in India. Manecksha built the first Stone Dokhama in Navsari. There were many learned scholars from Navsari, to name a few, Dastur Darab Pallon, Dastur Jamspa Asa, Dasturan-Dastur Darabji Mahiarji Meherji Rana, Dastur Farmroze Kutar and his brother Dastur Kaikhushru Mahair Kutar of Dastur Darab Pahlon family. Dastur Kaikhushru Kutar was a scholar and use to recite and sing the Shah-Nameh at Dadar Rustom Farmana Agairy after his lectures on religion and stories from the Shah-Nameh. (My brother Jamshed and I never missed his lectures and singing of the Shah-nameh. He also held religious classes at Wadia Vacha High School in Dadar). Navsari has produced many other Dasturs and scholars. This is probably why it is called Dharm ni Tekri. A little known fact is that a Parsi by the name of Rustom Maneck Sett of Surat went to Aurangzeb’s (Aurangzeb was the son of Shah Jahan) court to plead for rights for the British to trade on the west coast. Why is this important? Because, if they were refused then the History of India or Mumbai for sure would be different.

Two well-known Parsis of today’s Navsari: one is Hormazd Avari who is a horse breeder and has a stable of 16 to 20 horses, this stable is kitty corner from Pinjar Mohalla. (Pinjara – a person who takes an old mattress which has flattened out and hardened working with an instrument like a bow fluffs up the cotton and it becomes like new) When I was young we use to get our mattresses done once a year or more. It is a lost art. The other well known Paris is Dara Daboo who has his hand in everything you want to do in Parsidom in Navsari. Both Hormazd and Dara do Navjotes of poor Parsi children and sponsor wedding functions each year on 21st March.

There is one more person who is a silent worker and does a lot of social and community work, both in Navsari and Mumbai; he goes to the remote villages of South Gujarat to help the helpless and needy. He is none other than Dinshaw Tamboly. You name it and Dinshaw has been there. I say that Bachi & Dinshaw do God’s work. I had the good fortune of meeting him some time in the 1990s when we lived in England. He had come for a meeting of WZO.

I will begin my monologue with modern day Navsari as I see it. The following are my comments and mine alone.

A few days ago early in the morning before 7:00am I was sitting on the aganiu (A small stretch of landing before entering the main door of the house) when I see and hear a Parsi shouting the name of a person that Mr. so and so had passed away this morning and relationships and then saying the Paidust will be this afternoon and the Uthamna will be tomorrow at the MinocherHomji Daremeher. Coincidently this happened again the next day so I got curious and asked the manager if this is normal. I thought that he was making an announcement since the person deceased in the morning. Today announcement was for someone who passed away yesterday. He told me that he had lived here all his life and this has been a normal practice ever since he remembers. He goes from Mohalla to Mohalla where Parsis have homes. This reminded me of the town crier when we lived in Sunningdale, England. Question in my mind did we (Parsis) copy them or they (British) copied us. Or is this totally coincidental?

Every mid-morning a whistle blows (Like the ones that train guards of my days used) and a garbage truck similar to the one we have in the US but of a smaller size arrives. A man walking on the side as the truck rolls by blows the whistle and folks living on upper level in the houses lower a basket containing a small package of garbage and the man picks it up. There is a large Plastic bag hanging from the back of the truck and that is for recycling materials.

One very good practice here is (like what I had seen in Southern Europe and South America) that there are no street sweepers, every house cleans up to half the street in front of their house first sweeping and then throwing water. I believe water solely for the purpose of keeping the dust down. Remember there is no water from the heavens before or after the monsoon.

There are no side-walks (foot paths) so naturally everyone walking shares the road with the traffic. Most of the traffic is 2 wheelers (mostly scooters) and Auto-rickshaw. In all my roaming around Malesar there are two small stretches of sidewalks and guess what, like everywhere in India there are cars parked on the sidewalk. I believe this is mainly due to lack of infra-structure the traffic has picked up but the govt. is way behind. I think our New PM Na Mo will change it. Hope so!

Speaking about two wheelers, when we first came some longtime residents saw me wheeling Dinsoo out. When they saw me they said watch out for Kids on the scooters, so I said Kids! Yes there are 12 to 14 year olds who ride them like maniacs I was skeptical said okay a few days later I was standing at my room window and guess what this young girl across the street getting on a scooter in the morning with a back pack on her shoulder driving away. I doubt even if she is 12 years old but then I am not sure how old because most Gujaratis are rather short.

There are two lakes in the city limits one is called Dudhyo (Milky) taloa and this particular lake supplies water to Navsari. The other lake is called Sherbetia taloa, this talo gets all the dirty water from most of Navsari.  A well-known place in Navsari is Lunsiqui. This is a big open garden where people come and sit in the evening to relax. I am told that at one time it use to be a nice place (posh) with single family bungalows all around. Now it is surrounded by tall buildings both commercial and residential. We are located in an area called Junathana (old jail house) which is a part of Malesar or adjacent to Malesar. I am told that it is called Malesar as Sir J J use to meet people in this area. People use to come to meet Sir J J hemce the name Male-sar. (Sir is Sir JJ)

One evening while Dinsoo and I were out on our walk in Malesar on Vadi Mohalla I saw through the window a big pile of diamonds on a table with men and women using some kind of a device to grind them. So out of curiousity I asked if I can come in to see what they are doing. They were holding a tool like a door handle and kind of grinding it on a disc sander. (It looked like a sander but it is something different – I cannot explain) This is what Hira gasu is and these are people who are called Hiragasu (Diamond grinders). I asked who are these for I was told some a very little portion for Jewelers in India and most for foreign. (Do not forget Surat is the 2nd largest diamond center on our planet after Anthwerpen).

There is a place called Tata Baugh. This is where Mr. J. N. Tata had mango trees planted from each state of the country. He loved mangoes. There is a type of mango that is called barmasa – 12 months. This tree gives mangoes 12 months of the year. There are a couple of rest houses inside the baugh and these are for Tata company officers who come here for rest and recreation.

There are a lot of strange business combinations like optician+perfume store. Lot of businesses have names such Ram’s sweets and dairy. The one that I find interesting is “GODS” mobile store. Incidentally he is a Parsi and I get my Internet and Mobile phone from him. They are very nice people. If anyone has a mobile phone problem please call God for help! “The biGer bUrGerrr” this store has pictures of burgers like the “BIG MAC”, “Whopper”, and a “hamburger”. There is a store called KOLA G. As most of us know there is a famous Parsi business selling pickles, ice cream, strong vinegar, pickles, etc is called KOLAHJI. This store sells COLA made in a soda machine (carbonated water making machine with flavor of your choice. He is located at the junction of Junathana and Panch Hateri. (Panch Hateri means 5 markets). This is a major intersection in Navsari after you leave the Highway N-8 that goes  from Mumbai to Delhi. Incidentally it takes approx. 3and1/2 hours to come to Navsari from Dadar, Mumbai by road- a total distance of 251KM (approx. 157 miles)

Since 16th December 2015, the days have been a little chilly. The temp. is 16C or 60.8F for my non-European friends. Both the elderly residents and the people on the street have monkey caps, Sweaters, some of the ladies wear long johns or Pyjamas under their gowen. For my younger friends not used to Gujerati a Gown is a gowen – usually a night gown.

Before I end this monologue I would like to thank Bachi and Dinshaw Tamboly for their help in making all the necessary arrangements for Dinsoo’s funerary services both with the local agairy, holding Dinsoo’s body at the local hospital mortuary till the paidust as we were waiting for my daughter Jehan to arrive to do the sachkar for her mom. I would be most ungrateful if I did not thank the WZO SCC staff. The administrator, managers and the entire staff went into action to help my family and me.

In ending I must mention that Dinsoo was so happy residing at the WZO Trust Funds Senior Citizens Centre that she asked me “Dara can Dinshaw let us live here for the rest of our lives?”. At least for my dear Dinsoo, her wish of spending her final days in peace and happiness was fulfilled.