“If someone asked for a special chai, he would say take the regular one, it tastes better. Even though the price for the special one was double,” said Rupesh Junawane, a regular at the cafe.
Survived by his wife Sanober and son Sarosh, ‘Bawaji’ — as he was fondly called — had visited the cafe even on his last day. “Not only did he go to the cafe but he drank his cola too. The doctor had asked him to go off cold drinks and salt, among other things. But he was defiant, in fact he had resisted going to the hospital too on Monday,” said Sarosh, a chartered accountant.
On Tuesday morning, Sarosh ensured that his father’s body was taken to his beloved cafe, one last time. While the cafe would remain closed until Thursday, Sarosh said he would ensure it never closes its doors.
Meanwhile, the cafe’s regulars say that Vohuman Cafe would never be the same. Prachit Kadam, a Dubai-based operations manager, said, “I am Sarosh’s classmate, I have been going to Vohuman since school days. It is a tradition now. I was in Pune last Friday when I went to Vohuman and asked for uncle who wasn’t there. I will miss his humour.”
Tales of his quick wit are far too many. “If I had to say something about Vohuman Uncle, all I’ll have are inappropriate jokes, or like he had called them ‘non-veg jokes’. But yes, whenever I’ve gone there with friends, especially guys with long hair, he used to ask, ‘Tereko lambe baal wala pasand hain kya?’ (Do you have a thing for long-haired guys?),” recalls Menon.
Calling him the “human” in Vohuman, Anirudhha Patil, founder of Pune Eatouts, said, “Be it his jokes on Salman Khan or his popular flirting, he had not aged till his last breath.”
Another regular, Chandrakant Redican said he had the coarsest mouth and the purest heart. “I have long hair. He used to say that no one would know if I am a girl or guy,” he said.
Recalling the smiley faces he drew smileys in the zeros on the bill, another regular Rohit Thomas said, “They always made us smile. Once he forgot and when I told him, he said, ‘Nahi dala toh paisa nahi dega kya? (Won’t you pay if I don’t draw a smiley?)”
Rupesh Junawane, who visits the cafe at least thrice a week, said Irani wasn’t business-minded. “If someone asked for a special chai, he would say take the regular one, it tastes better. Even though the price for the special one was double. If someone asked Irani if bun maska would stay fresh in parcel till they reached home, Uncle would say that you go to Lonavla and return and it would still be fresh. The cafe was his pride,” he said.
While in Iran we decided to pay a visit to the Zarathushti Kurds and get to know them. We went to Marivan the Kurdish border town in Iran and from their crossed the Bashmahk border into Suleymania in Iraq. We had our own car and had planned to drive across the border and be mobile. At the border, we were told that we need to get the ‘Green Slip’ for the car from the Iranian customs, who required the original papers of the car and the presence of the owner. Since we had neither of them we were forced to park our car at the border and go without it.
There are several shops that sell Parsi sarees in Mumbai… most of them are located near Cama Baug, Grant Road. You can also try RTI-the Ratan Tata Institute at Hughes Road (although most of their sarees are hand embroidered and hence very expensive).
Here are a few details…
First up is Coronet. One of the oldest shops in the area. They sell things that are essentially used for Parsi weddings (ses, madhosaro kits, net sadras, wedding sarees) and the Parsi household (torans, asho farohars, night lamps, divos).
What is a gara saree? It is a saree that has white (or light coloured) embroidery on a dark shade saree. The designs are inspired by Chinese motifs. They include cocks, parrots, Chinese men, Chinese houses and bamboos.
There are several other shops that deal with similar items. Most of them sell machine-embroidered gara sarees and white lace wedding sarees. The lace sarees are mostly German lace and French Chantilly. The range of the sarees is from Rs 18K to 40K. Depending on the type of lace, amount of sequins, crystals and beads on the saree, the price increases.
A shop that deals with garas, lace sarees, sadra material and jewellery
They also have a different kind of outfit… something like a jacket kurti that can be worn by those who are not comfortable wearing sarees. Same gara design on it.
Below is a list of shops I visited along with numbers… for those of you who want to call before going.
Damania and Co. 23888187
Shree Pushpam: 23853228
Felinaz Collections: 65258044
An ode to the Parsi cafes of Sobo with Zazie’s high ceilings and the old and rustic lights – it’s a cafe started off by couple Pallonji and Supreet, and it’s providing much-needed Parsi cuisine to the residents of Navi Mumbai.
It has a familar Parsi cafe vibe to it with its high rising ceilings, antique art pieces stowed in and on every corner and wall, and of course, an old grandfather clock hanging in the background.
No Parsi cuisine is complete without its meaty dishes, especially the famous minced keema. We recommend trying out their mutton keema samosa – it’s spicy and fried really well. Also go for the the edu Chutney nu pattice– which is basically boiled eggs covered in mashed potato layer. Last up, Delshad’s crede butter – with mashed potatoes, crede butter, herbs and loads of cottage cheese is a must-have.
However, our favourite was the chicken a la Kieve, a crispy chicken cutlet shaped like a duck sat on a bed of herbed fried rice. It’s served along with fries and grilled veggies – and we absolutely devoured it.
The good old Raspberry and ice cream soda is what we went for – it kept us hydrated and cleaned our palate in-between courses.
So, We’re Saying…
Zazie Bistro & Grill, though has a very non-Parsi name is super chic, Parsi and serves lick-smacking food. It’s a great addition to Navi Mumbai – they too needed some Bawa loving.
Photos source: Zazie Bistro & Grill
Parsi influence on Karachi’s architecture is immense. Parsi businessmen and philanthropists commissioned some of the most remarkable structures in Karachi especially at the turn of last century. People still don’t hesitate to spend lavish sum of money on buildings in present day Karachi but the city suffers from our collective lack of aesthetics and sense of community living. We can all learn a few things from Parsis, not just sense of aesthetics but life in general too. Drive to Katrak Parsi Colony and you will get to see the city you never knew. With low boundary walls, manicured gardens, old trees and community areas taking central stage, it showcases how Parsis envisioned living in modern day Karachi.
The Karachi Walla was with a British visitor, born to a Pakistani and Iranian couple. We parked our car at the entrance of the colony and walked towards the central park. The central park has Banu Mandal, the community center on one side while there is a library on other side known as Bhedwar Library. There were trees and some beautiful trees and not the usual conocarpus which has descended on our town like plague.
We walked from one end of the colony to another. I was uber excited as I have not found leisure walk such a pleasure anywhere else in the city. But it was not just me as my partner kept running from one house to another.
She told me that she found it weird when her family in Karachi did not let her walk to the grocery store in their neighborhood. She soon realized the norms and limitations of women in Karachi and hence was as delighted to find such a perfect getaway.
MA Jinnah road has become a perennial favorite of religious and political parties for holding rallies and protests. Therefore most of the lanes connecting Parsi Colony to the main road has been blocked permanently with the help of containers. Parsi population has been dwindling in the city and a lot of houses are lying vacant but Banu Mandal still brims with life during festivities.
God Bless Parsis. God Bless Karachi.
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‘Seasoned’ for Family and Friends (Contemporary Recipes with an Old World Flavour and Reminiscences and Vignettes of Life in Provincial India)
For the past thirty-six years Morvarid, her husband David, and daughter Katrina have lived on an organic farm deep amid the jungles of the Western Ghats. Though agriculture has always been the family’s mainstay, in 2003 they opened a guesthouse. Working in her ‘Green and Yellow’ kitchen, Morvarid cooks for the many guests from around the world who visit The Hermitage.
This book she has written draws on her experiences of living in a rural community, of forging a deep, unbreakable bond with the surrounding environment, and growing her organic food. Morvarid’s family background, drawn from Zoroastrian, Irish, and Dutch ancestry gave her childhood a delightful insight into a melting pot of cultures, and this reflects in her cooking.
Morvarid loves dogs, and grows ‘heirloom’ vegetables; collects owls, glass bottles and anything that’s old, and when she’s not cooking spends her time doing needlework, craftwork, and gardening.
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Also available on Flipkart
Khorshed Gandhy and Priya Maholey’s book of portraits of Parsis takes you back to a rich chapter of India’s past
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His love for stories about Zorostrianism, told often in his family, was so immense that Yazad Karkaria (31) became a researcher. Since June, Yazad, his wife Meher and friend Nauzad Irani have been researching the religion, its roots, and have found stories from it, 12 of which have been turned into a calendar.
“We came across a lot of interesting stories which did not have any visuals or illustrations in books. As I dug deeper, I found a wealth of knowledge for people to know. To keep these stories alive, give them a face and also make the younger generation aware of the rich Zoroastrian culture, we thought making this calendar is the best way,” said Yazad, who is also studying the Avestan language.
Time well spent
The trio met religious scholar Ervad Parvez Bajan, who has a doctorate in Avesta and Pahlavi. He is a sixth generation priest and serves as the main priest at Byculla’s Seth BM Mevawala Fire temple.
“He has seven cupboards in his room, six of which have books,” said Yazad, who ended up spending days with the scholar. One of the main stories, which Yazad is fascinated with remains Kae Khusraw’s.
Talking about the text, Yazad said, “We wanted to explore the legends and miracles that have remained ignored. For example, after the reign of the King Kai Kaus during the Kayanian dynasty, the court was divided between two contestants to the throne: Fari Burz and Kae Khusraw. Khusraw, who went ahead with a few soldiers, recited the Avestan verses, and destroyed the evil forces. Upon return, the small army witnessed an illuminating fire, which guided them home.” This fire is also one of the three most venerated ancient Iranian fires.
Talking about another story, which is based on Tansen’s involvement in the Zoroastrian history, Yazad said, “After speaking to Zoroastrian scholar JJ Modi, I found out that the story talks about Tansen composing a song for one of our priests, praising him and mentioning that the prayers of the Parsi community have been accepted by God. In another story, during one of the interactive sessions between a king and his subjects, a tantric created a sun in the sky and asked the other religious leaders present to identify the original sun. By reciting the Avestan verses, the king could easily do it.”
Power of Nirangdin
Yazad further said, “We have a liturgical ritual called Nirangdin, a Yasna ceremony that is performed over a period of nine days in the honour of Sarosh Yazad. It was challenged in the 1960s by a few reformists, who raised questions on the purity of the bull’s urine used in the ritual. Dasturji Dr Sohrab Kutar took it upon himself to prove the power of Nirangdin. Two specimens of Nirang, one six months old and the other six years old were sent to Dr Saunders, consultant bacteriologist of St Nicholas Hospital in London. Both the samples were found to be sterile and did not contain a single germ. Dr Saunders mentioned that he hadn’t seen anything like it in his career.”
Nauzad Irani, who has backed the creative end of the project, by designing the prints along with Meher said, “A lot of passion has gone into the project. We are not just trying to save the stories, but also to make it visually appealing for the youth so that they see and remember them. Otherwise the stories would just remain in cupboards, done and dusted.”
By Aparna Shukla