Aapro Busybee (Behram Contractor) on Parsis
A few Words about Parsis, most lovable & peace-loving people:
The first Parsis I knew were statues. There were scores of them, all over Bombay (now Mumbai), most of them wearing glasses: Dadabhoy Naoroji, Pherozeshah Mehta, Jamshedji Tata, Cowasjee Jehangir, Bomanji Petit, the Khada (standing) Parsi at Byculla Bridge.
Later, I met other Parsis, at the Central Bank, Cusrow Baug, Rustom Baug, Albless Baug, Cama Baug, Godrej Company (find me a Parsi house
and I will show you a Godrej steel cupboard in it), Colaba Agiary,
Bombay House, piano recitals by Austrian pianists at the NCPA, Ripon Club.
Most of the Parsis I know are Bombay Parsis, the older ones born at Dr. Temulji’s lying-in hospital f or Parsi ladies, the younger ones
delivered by Dr. Rusi Soonawala (Aapro Rusi). But there are also Delhi Parsis, Calcutta Parsis, Udwada Parsis, Toronto Parsis, one or two Mhow Parsis, Karachi Avaris, Minwallas, Sethna, etc. They are spread all over the world.
Whoever says that the Parsis are a dying community does not know what they are talking about. The Delhi Parsis are mainly Bombay Parsis now settled in Delhi, such as Soli Sorabjee and Fali Nariman. The Bombay Parsis themselves may be divided into further categories.
There are Colaba Parsis, Tardeo Parsis and Dadar Parsi Colony Parsis. The Colaba Parsis work in advertising agencies, act in Hosi Vasunia’s (now with The Indian Express Newspapers) plays and have relations in Toronto. The Tardeo Parsis would like to be Colaba Parsis. The Dadar Parsi Colony Parsis are Dadar Parsi Colony Parsis.
Their language is Gujarati, with a generous mixture of English or
English with a generous mixture of Gujarati. Some people say that they borrowed the language from the Gujaratis, others that the Gujaratis learnt it from them.
I have not resolved that point yet. But the Parsis have certain
Gujarati words that are exclusive to their language.
Putting aside the abuse words, I refer you to ‘faregaat’. It is what a Parsi does when he returns home after a hard day at the office. He has a wash (Godrej or Tata soap), removes his clothes, and gets into a ‘sadra’ and ‘lengha’ and settles down in the easy chair with his legs stretched along its extended arms, sipping phudina tea. That is being ‘faregaat’, changing into sadra – lengha and relaxing. Say the words slowly and gently extend it: ‘fare-gaaat’.
There are several other such words and phrases: kit-pit bandh ker,
dahi na kar, doodh pau. Doodh pau is a somewhat goody-goody person, a bit of a sissy. I invite the members of the community to add to my collection. That takes care of the language, though most of them use English.
They are very fond of things English and particularly the English
royalty, though that does not mean I am questioning their loyalty one bit. On that score they are unimpeachable. When I first visited
London, a Parsi friend took me to see Buckingham Palace – from outside naturally, in those days they did not issue tickets to wander around the palace. We stood at the gates, he pointed at the palace, and said, “Aapri rani no mehel.”
A lot of things are ‘aapri’ or ‘aapro’ or ‘aapru’.
For instance: Apro Zubin Mehta, kevoo majehnu conduct karech.
Aapro Sam Maneckshaw.
Aapro Nani (Palkhivala), bahuj intelligent and bholo che.
Aapri Bachi Karkaria, soo lakhech, soo lakhech.
Aapro Dorabjee of Dorabjee’s of Pune
Aapra Oliaji of Duke’s Hotel, Devka
Aapri Princess Street ni Parsi Dairy Farm, bilkul pani nahi doodh ma, bilkul nahi.
Aapro Cyrus Broacha, ketlo comic che.
Aapro Adu (the late and lamented Adi Marzban).
Aapro Rusy (Karanjia), ehni toe soo pen.
Aapru Taj te Taj, choro Oberoi.
Every Parsi takes a proprietary interest in the Taj, in Baliwalla & Homi, Bombay’s opticians since time began, and Air India when JRD Tata was the chairman. Even Rajiv Gandhi was aapro from his father’s side. Aapro Rajiv aaje hote toe he would have ,,,,, (add your thought here).
On Parsi New Year, one of the 3 or 4 New Years they have in a year, in the morning, a couple of Nankhatai Bands will come over from Pydhonie to Cusrow Baug and with a great flurry play Sare Jehan Se Acha and Colonel Boogie’s March in front of whichever flat (apartment) pays them. There will be prayers at the two major fire-temples at Dho bi Talao and vermicelli, Sev-kheer, and sweet curd with rose petals, marghi na farcha and dhan dal and kolmi patia at home.
And there will be drinks, the Parsi pegs. A Parsi peg is the largest peg in the world! You may measure it by your palm – it extends over 5 fingers. The Patiala peg is also 5 fingers, but in the Patiala peg the fingers are held together, in the Parsi peg they are spread out.
Chalo, Saheb, salamati lev.