Monthly Archives: March 2018

Professor Emeritus Farhang Mehr Dies at 94


Farhang Mehr, Professor Emeritus at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University, has died. He was 94. Since retirement, he had moved permanently to California, where he died on March 4, 2018.

Dr. Farhang Mehr was a professor of international relations at what is now the Pardee School from 1981 to 1997, teaching courses on the international politics of oil and Iranian history. With law degrees from Tehran University and the London School of Economics and a Ph.D. from the University of Southamption, Mehr made a stellar career in business as well as public affairs in his native Iran. Prior to the revolution in Iran he held high office in the National Iranian Oil Company, in the Ministry of Finance, and led the national insurance company.

Before coming to Boston University, Farhang Mehr had taught at Tehran and National Universities and at the Military Academy in Iran. He was also President of the University of Shiraz in Iran for eight years. He served Iran under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as Vice-Prime Minister and Acting Finance Minister, and represented Iran on OPEC’s Board of Governors for 5 years.

He was also active in the Zoroastrian community, writing books and giving lectures to acquaint the world with Iran’s oldest religion. He served as the President of the Zoroastrian Anjuman of Tehran for 12 years.

Houchang Chehabi, Professor of International Relations and History at the Pardee School, recalls that “although the revolutionary authorities initially reappointed him in 1979 [as President of the University of Shiraz], he became a victim of later purges and had to go into exile in 1981″ and his “appointment as a professor at Boston University allowed him to reconstitute his life.”

Prof. Mehr leaves behind his wife, Parichehr Naderi, and three children: Mehrdad, Mehran and Mitra. A biography of his life, Triumph Over Discrimination, by Lylah Alphonse, was published in 2000.

Families in Food: A Taste of Old Poona

Why people keep coming back to this 140-year-old institution.


Darius Dorabjee at work in his restaurant Dorabjee & Sons in Camp which is established in 1878 and the Fourth genaration is running it now. Express photo by Arul Horizon, 06/03/2018, Pune

Old is gold: Darius Dorabjee at the restaurant’s kitchen. (Source: Arul Horizon)

At 10.30 on a Tuesday morning, when we land up at the Dorabjee & Sons Restaurant in Camp, Pune, Darius Dorabjee is in the kitchen fretting over the mutton biryani he has just made — he wants it quickly off the chulha lest it is overcooked. He is also shooting off instructions to the staff, who are moving the food from the oversized kitchen to the large pantry. Business begins at 11.30 am — as it has for the past 140 years.

His great-grandfather, Sorabjee Dorabjee, started the restaurant in 1878. Back then, the Pune Cantonment area had one place to eat out, El Moretos, an Italian restaurant and bar, meant only for British officers and their families. “It had a strictly no-Indians policy. My grandfather seized the opportunity. He took up three adjoining houses on rent and started a bun-maska and chai stall. Soon, customers demanded he open a restaurant. In those days, Poona’s moneyed class had no restaurant to go to. That’s how Dorabjee & Sons restaurant started. Since my great grandfather knew only how to make Parsi food and we had no cooks or help, the restaurant automatically started serving only Parsi food,” says Darius, the 47-year-old fourth-generation owner, or “working partner” as he puts it, since the family is quite big and all members are “shareholders” in the restaurant.

Back then, the family bought a house across the road, so the women of the family could grind masalas at home and sift the rice, while the men cooked in the restaurant. “The women still don’t cook, the men do the cooking. Our entire family eats all meals at the restaurant till today. See, that’s how good the women have it,” says Darius with a laugh.

Sometime in the 1950s, folding metal chairs and wooden tables were brought in — until then, patrons sat on the floor and ate. A photo of a young Bal Thackeray in his early teens eating at the restaurant, seated cross-legged on the floor with his family, is a reminder of that era. Today, marble-top tables and plastic chairs are used but that is probably the only change the restaurant has seen in the last one-and-a-half century. “We are pretty archaic in our ways and we are proud of it. Our customers love it, they ask us never to change. I am a lazy fellow, so I am happy to oblige,” says Darius.

The food is still cooked on chulhas and the masalas are still added by a family member. Darius, who has manned the kitchen since he was 15 (when he was asked by his late father, Marzaban, to work for pocket money), says there has never been a day when a family member wasn’t in the kitchen. The menu has withstood change as well — it ranges from chicken and mutton pulao or biryani to dhansak, salli boti, farcha (chicken fried in eggs) and akuri on toast for breakfast, and desserts like lagan nu custard. In fact, the restaurant remains one of the few places in Pune to serve Ardeshir raspberry soda drinks, a legacy fast fading out.

But the prices have changed. The menus of the 1940s, ’50s, ’60s and ’70s still occupies pride of place on the “wall of fame” at the restaurant entry. The 1940s menu has mutton chilly fry priced at two annas, today it is Rs 250. Back then, the chicken items were priced double that of mutton, the latter used to be the “poor man’s food”.

“A young man once came in and said that his father, a retired defence officer, wanted to meet me. He had the 1940s menu, but he lived in Chandigarh and would give it only to me. So I packed food and went to meet him. He gave it to me and told me so many stories of his association with us,” recalls Darius.

Spend an hour at the restaurant and it’ll be clear that it is this “association” with regulars which is at the heart of Dorabjee & Sons. From 80-year-olds throwing birthdays for the grandchildren at the restaurant, to a 96-year-old customer bringing his 94-old-wife on a bi-weekly date, these are the stories that make the restaurant a true icon of the old city of Poona.

Parsi Gate to be restored soon

 The Parsi Gate structure has two pillars of Malad stone with concrete pedestals.

Mumbai: The Parsi Gate, a heritage structure located just opposite Taraporewala Aquarium at Marine Drive, will soon be restored by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). The place is used by Parsi people to offer prayers to water.

The Parsi Gate structure has two pillars of Malad stone with concrete pedestals having a height of 4.97 metres. There are stone steps, which have access to seashore, enabling people to enter the sea for offering prayers.

According to civic officials, the structure is in damaged condition with top portion of the pillars dislocated from its original position. The pedestal of concrete is also damaged at many places. Both the pillars are damaged and require repairs and extensive cleaning. The pavement is uneven and has to be replaced with basalt stone for its identification. The stone steps are also eroded due to sea waves.

“Since Parsi Gate is a heritage precinct, we had to take no-objection certificate from the Mumbai Heritage Conservation Committee for its restoration. We have sought details about the historical significance of the structure from the Parsi community. A plaque of information will be installed at the place,” said a senior civic official.

Maneck Dastur, a prominent Parsi citizen, said, “The structure was constructed long time ago even before Marine Drive was built. The Parsi donors, who built it, kept a small space there to offer prayers. We were lobbying to restore the structure, but the BMC said it would do it on its own.”

Noshir Dadrawalla, another prominent Parsi, said, “The place has got historical significance as Parsi congregate here once in a year to offer prayers to water that is seen as a keeper of wisdom and knowledge from the Zoroastrian point of view. The prayers are offered during the ‘Festival of Ava,’ which is celebrated to revere divinity of water. The pillars there represent part of the ancient Persian architecture.”

The estimated cost of restoration of Parsi Gate is Rs 12.46 lakh. The scope of work include fixing the top portion of pillars in its original position by providing steel pin for binding, repairs to the fracture stone, cleaning of stone, applying protective coat to prevent deterioration of stone surface due to high humidity and laying basalt stone flooring to match with pillar and steps.