Tata Trusts today signed a pact with Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) for setting up a cancer centre in Tirupati to address increasing cases in the region.
“Given the rising cancer burden in the region, Tata Trusts has joined hands with TTD to address this concern by bringing affordable cancer care closer home to the people of the region,” Tata Trusts and TTD said in a joint statement.
The centre will strive to provide care to the patients without denying it to those with financial constraints, it added. It will be constructed on 25 acres of land provided by the TTD, the statement said.
As per the MoU, Tata Trusts will set up a project management vehicle that will be responsible for all aspects of construction, execution and operationalisation of the facility.
The Trusts will also rope in a team of experts from Tata Medical Center, Kolkata and Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai to provide technical assistance to the project, it added.
Tata Trusts Managing Trustee R Venkataramanan said: “Our aim is to ensure the provision of equitable, affordable, high quality cancer care for the masses. We are positive that this centre will be a landmark institution in this part of the country”.
The centre to begin with will address the increasing numbers of cancer cases in the region and will evolve to become a centre of excellence in oncology education and research as well, the statement said.
“Today is another important milestone where the Tata Group and primarily the Tata Trusts are embarking on another important project a charitable state-of-the-art cancer hospital, which will help patients in Tirupati and outside”, Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrasekaran said.
“We have worked together with them to make the pilgrim experience better through technology,” he added.
The proposed facility will be a comprehensive centre, with in and out-patient facilities, diagnostics, therapeutics, rehabilitation and other such support services. AKT SA
My great aunt was not the timid sort. Every Sunday, for years, she would invite her extended family for lunch and then proceed to wage war with the ingredients in her pantry, jousting with vegetables and meat alike. Deep into the afternoon, she would emerge from the scrum, red-faced and frizzy-haired, but triumphant. Plates brimming with burnt eggs, watery curries, and shards of rice would make their way to the table. Almost always, the dessert was a baked caramel custard that had sparred with gravity and surrendered, collapsing into a milky clot. It was a meal my family and I braved each week, only because my great aunt had a golden soul.
But there was another reason for those Sunday lunches, and that was the paneer that came after. The strained silence that followed lunch was usually speared by the cry of the paneer vendor, his aluminum milk cans heavy with palm-sized cushions of topli (basket) paneer, afloat in a bath of salty whey. The paneers were trembling, velvet-soft, salty, tangy, like blancmange crossed with mozzarella. My aunt would buy a dozen, one for each of us, and serve them to us in little bowls. Each bite dimmed the chaos of the lunch and painted the afternoon in a warm, honeyed light. To my younger self, they were the most scrumptious part of the week.
Topli paneer is a delicacy beloved by the Parsis, Zoroastrian Iranians who fled to the western Indian state of Gujarat in the 8th century to escape religious persecution from Muslim invaders. They later seeped through to Mumbai, where they contributed immensely to the vivid tapestry of India’s cultural and economic landscape.
The Parsis’ aptitude with the English language propelled them into powerful political and commercial roles under British colonial rule in the 18th and 19th centuries. They were key in building colossal industries and trading empires that veered from China to Aden to the east coast of Africa. Thanks to their exposure to different cultures (traveling abroad was forbidden by Hindu strictures for many years), Western education, and canny business sensibilities, urban Parsis were progressive and socio-economically advanced. They patronized cultural institutions, and streamed their wealth into community housing, libraries, scholarships, and scientific and educational institutions. (There are many ways in which we are flawed, of course, but that’s a story for a different time, when there is no topli paneer involved.)
The first Indian newspaper—the Bombay Samachar—was started by a Parsi in 1822 and still lumbers along today (as the Mumbai Samachar). Dadabhai Naoroji was one of the founders of the Indian National Congress, and the first Indian to be elected to the British House of Commons. The redoubtable Sam Manekshaw was India’s first Field Marshal. Homi Bhabha pioneered India’s nuclear research program. Homai Vyarawala was India’s first female photojournalist. Rohinton Mistry’s books have won the Commonwealth Writers Prize and been shortlisted for the Booker. Freddie Mercury (né Farokh Balsara) and Zubin Mehta are probably the most famous Parsis on earth. Parsi contributions are scattered like tesserae through the mosaic of Indian history.
Yet among the best-known stories of Parsi history is one involving food, at the time of the very first Indo-Parsi encounter. The legend (from the epic poemQissa-i Sanjan) goes: When a local Gujarati ruler hesitates to admit exhausted Iranian refugees into his land, a Zoroastrian priest among them dissolves a spoonful of sugar into a bowl of milk to illustrate that Parsis would sweeten the land, but not overwhelm it. An apocryphal tale, but a telling one that many Indians believe holds true until today.
Nowadays, the trope of the eccentric, ebullient, cosmopolitan Parsi bon vivant has captured the Indian public imagination, a cheerful hybridity that is mirrored in the community’s cuisine. Parsis absorbed strands of various cultures, including a roving palate that encompassed a love of meat, eggs and dried fruits in their dishes (a leftover Iranian legacy); coconut and seafood, through their proximity to the western Indian coast; the use of vinegar and potatoes that reaches back to the Portuguese; baked goods via the Dutch colonies that infiltrated Gujarat; and white sauces and custards from the English.
Topli paneer almost certainly has Persian origins, but our knowledge of its journey to India flounders a little after that. Archaeologist and caterer Kurush Dalal tells me that up until a generation ago, both Parsis and Bohri Muslims in the Gujarati city of Surat (and in Mumbai) were avid consumers of the dish. “In fact, the paneer used to be far more popular in Surat than in Mumbai,” he explains. “The mohallas (neighborhoods) in Surat were once full of Bohri men hawking them.”
Even Mumbai’s most well-known paneer vendor would import his wares from Surat. “The most famous large scale vendor was Fakirji E. Paneerwala,” says Dr. Dalal. “He would get his paneer in the large milk cans, all the way from Surat, by train. The cans holding the paneers would be packed with crushed ice, as a sort of cap. His paneer would come in different sizes—the largest being the size of a quarter-plate.” Paneerwala would then distribute the paneer to various wedding caterers—the paneer was (and is) offered as a precursor to a lavish Parsi wedding feast that is served on banana leaves.
But as the Parsi community’s numbers dwindled in Surat, the once-familiar dish was pushed from the frame. (India, the country with the highest concentration of Parsis in the world, can now only count about 61,000 of them in its vast population. According to the BBC, about 40,000 more Parsis are globally scattered.) Still, the elusive topli paneer can be found today in the kitchens of a handful of intrepid Parsi ladies. A few paneer vendors still wander through the Parsi colonies of Mumbai. And the only remaining wholesale paneer seller in Mumbai, Abdul Paneerwalo, now makes a somewhat modified version that he supplies to Parsi caterers for weddings. Dr. Dalal is dismissive of this paneer, though. “It’s an approximation of the original; not firm, very jelly-like, and there’s no whey!”
The recipe for the original paneer is daunting enough for topli paneer to be considered a special dish. In the 1926 edition of Vividh Vani, an old compendium of Parsi recipes by Meherbai Jamshedji Wadia, nine, gloriously dense pages are given over to its making.
Topli paneer, unlike regular Indian paneer, uses a coagulant—traditionally calf intestines or chicken gizzards that have been cleaned with salt and rice-flour and butterflied. One version in Vividh Vani suggests sun-drying and steeping the gizzards in vinegar for three days. On the fourth day, the vinegar is stirred into milk, left to set in an enamel bowl, then nimbly transferred to baskets that imprint a distinct craquelure on the surface, and finally plunged into the whey that the paneer excreted.
Today, most Parsi home caterers put a spin on the classic by using synthetic vegetarian rennet. It diminishes the time spent on making the paneer but lends the finished product a less fervent flavour than the original. Some are pushing the boundaries even further. An item not often spied in restaurants, it crept onto the menu of the much-feted Bombay Canteen restaurant, helmed by Chef Floyd Cardoz and Chef Thomas Zacharias. “At Bombay Canteen, we’re constantly looking to source indigenous and local ingredients. A year ago, I was researching cheeses made in India, and that’s how I came across the topli paneer,” says Chef Zacharias. “Once I found a good version of the paneer, it took a few weeks to figure out how to showcase it. It has a very subtle taste, but its texture is key; we want to showcase its texture and creaminess, within an Indian context. We want to play up its fat component.”
The result is their best-selling vegetarian main course—a bowl of maa ki dal, crowned with the topli paneer and served with a sweet potato paratha, pickle, chutney and raita; it makes for a creamy, warming, comforting meal. My younger self would have approved.
Toronto is an excellent choice for the next convening of the world’s spiritual communities. The United Nations has declared this progressive city the world’s most diverse locale, so to have it host the largest and most diverse global interfaith gathering is wonderfully fitting! Its splendid facilities, supportive local government, engaged academic and corporate stakeholders, multiple ethnic populations, and dedicated core team of religious and civic leaders will serve us well as we move toward this 7th World Parliament.
I look forward to the busy days ahead as hundreds of us work to make our dreams for Toronto 2018 a reality. This energized and creative team in Chicago, Toronto, and around the world will help our staff and trustees to envision and carry out what can become the largest and most successful Parliament in history. Building on the many successes of the past yet striving to be visionary and courageous, we pledge ourselves to this enormous task with excitement and hope.
Looking forward to seeing you in Toronto next year!
Dr. Rob Sellers
Chair, Parliament of the World’s Religions
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Here are some of the websites which give you the substitutes:
In this edition of Mumbai Local presented by Junoon, playwright and author Zubin Driver will be conducting a session. Zubin will share with you how he captures the Mumbaikar experience and how Mumbai becomes a `living metaphor’ in his plays and writing. At this session named The Playwright As A Terminally Ill Mumbaikar, he will explain more about his obsession with the `city of dreams’. Don’t miss this one, we say.
An appeal for Medical Assistance for Er. Sohrab R. Bharucha, Panthaky of Poonjiaji Parsi Agiyari, Nargol 396 135
Er. Sohrab Bharucha, (40) Panthaky Saheb of Poonjiaji Parsi Agiyari, Opp Tata Wadia High School, At & Post: Nargol 396 135 met with a serious accident during the twilight hours on April 24, 2017 when the two wheeler that he was riding crashed headlong due to darkness and poor visibility into a water buffalo sitting on the road.
Er. Sohrab Bharucha has suffered brain injuries, and has been brought to Mumbai where he has been admitted to the ICU of Saifee Hospital, Charni Road, Mumbai.
Er. Sohrab is presently in a coma; his recovery is expected to be a very long drawn out affair that will necessitate heavy expenditure that the family of this young Mobed can ill afford.
Whilst we along with some others have provided financial support for immediate use by the family, the requirement of funds is going to be substantial as the hospitalisation is going to be for a minimum of at least 2 months, perhaps more, and thereafter recuperation.
Mrs. Dilnavaz S. Bharucha, wife of Er. Sohrab Bharucha has written to us requesting us to assist the family, towards meeting the medical expenses by raising funds through a ‘Public Appeal’ in community media and other avenues.
A young Mobed and his family are currently passing through an acute crisis. It is recommended that community members contribute generously towards supporting Er. Sohrab Bharucha and his family during this very difficult period when they will be saddled, with substantial medical expenses way beyond their modest means.
Individuals and institutions that wish to extend support towards meeting the medical expenses of this young Mobed, may send their donations by way of cheques / drafts made out in the name of – The World Zoroastrian Organisation Trust – to:
The World Zoroastrian Organisation Trust,
C-1, Hermes House, 3rd floor,
Mama Parmanand Marg,
Mumbai 400 004.
a) Donors from India are requested to note that their names, address and PAN should be mentioned in the covering letters. Donations to the Trust are eligible for claiming exemption u/s 80G (vi) of The Income Tax Act., 1961.
b) Donors from overseas may note that The World Zoroastrian Organisation Trust is permitted to receive donations from overseas as per The Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) 2010.
I have a dreaded fear that I am sharing in the open. When I grow old, I may become feeble. When I become old, my children may be far from me. When I grow old, I may become lonely. In perhaps no other prominent urban community is this reality more evident, than the Parsis. This community resides at the other end of India’s demographic dividend; even as India is getting younger, the Parsis are getting older (60 per cent of the community in Kolkata is above 65). Even as India’s population is growing, the Parsis are shrinking (down from 4000 in Kolkata about 40 years ago, for instance, to 450 today).
The Kolkata community was illequipped to address shrinkage, so it is addressing the challenge of age, a game over which at least some control can indeed be exercised. The Calcutta Zoroastrian Community Religious and Charities Fund allocated annuity income (generated from property ownership) for a project that addresses the needs of their elderly. This is what CZCRCF (trust only the Parsi ingenuity to create this tonguetwister) did: it identified 27 individuals needing periodic care; it created a team of five women caregivers; it created a regular roadmap of who would need to be visited by whom on which day and what time; it ensured that each individual would be attended at least eight times a month; it allocated a fund to remunerate the care-givers (not a fancy salary plus dearness allowance, but a ‘we would be grateful if you accepted this’ kind of emolument).
There are some remarkable things to be learned from this model. One, it is utterly simple. What Kolkata’s Parsis have achieved is not some fancy multi-competence operation: just afew individuals getting together to make things happen. This Kolkata operation is stewarded by a lady (who incidentally told me thrice during my conversation ‘please don’t mention my name’) who opted for a VRS with a multi-national and was the happiest to start this service. Two, this is a serious day-job for care-givers. They start at ten, visit one home, spend about half an hour, engage in chitter-chatter, say their goodbye (‘Oh sweetie, time over already? Havey kyaarey aavso?’), take public transport, move to the next individual and repeat the exercise.
Three, the caregivers have customised their act: they recognize that Freny aunty cannot be visited early because her BP is usually high before noon, that Jal uncle is usually irritable before lunch and best left alone at that time, and that since Katy aunty lost her husband the only thing that perks her up are walks to the club. Four, the caregivers are not just engaged in a home-delivered service; they need to put the recipient at ease – and that could mean taking an 86-year to the bank to withdraw cash from the ATM during demonetisation, arranging avisit to the doctor followed by a visit to the diagnostic centre for tests and purchase of corresponding medicines.
Five, the service has extended beyond the functional; the old and the informed don’t only want someone to periodically visit and ask ‘Tabeeyat kem chhey Cyrus uncle?’ But someone who can take them for a Dangal multiplex screening on World Elders’ Day, or drive them to Bakkhali for a spray of the sea breeze (crazy but that’s how it is), or take an 83-year-old for her manicure and pedicure, or even take someone to Jamshedpur (which for those who don’t know is the Parsi’s Avalon from where they dissolve and go straight to heaven). Six, the engagement can often become a 24×7 calling.
There are a number of times when the caregivers need to respond with urgency to shift an elderly to hospital at 2am; the families of the care-givers have gradually been drawn into providing logistical support; two community youngsters have volunteered to provide an anytime car pick-up-and-drop service. Seven, the service is beginning to evolve. One of the care-givers – she is nice, pretty, effervescent and youngish based on her WhatsApp DP before you assume that this must be a grim exercise for grim people – has graduated to preparing the expired body for the final rituals.
This has brought her eyeball-to-eyeball with mortality; she tells me philosophically that ‘all we really need in life is a room with a view, sun in the sky, a cupboard and a toilet – the rest is life’s overheads.’ There are fun moments too. Like coming across 86-year-old Roshan aunty who needed to be shifted from the hospital after an operation to someone else’s place for recuperation but who insisted (‘ziddi’ was the word used) on going home first to get her hair dyed and set. I am going to take the money I earn from this column and create a seed fund to start this initiative in my Dawoodi Bohra community in Kolkata. Wish me luck.