January 16, 2020 is the birth centenary of Nani Palkhivala. Every year, on this day, The Nani A. Palkhivala Memorial Trust organize an annual lecture by eminent persons. This year, along with the annual lecture, the Trust is releasing a festschrift in honour of Palkhivala.
The festschrift also contains few articles written by Palkhivala in his youth. These were originally published in several periodicals between 1937 and 1947. This is followed by reproduction of selected letters and correspondences, and other documents like written submissions etc.
Title of the book: Essays & Reminiscences: A Festschrift in Honour of Nani A Palkhivala
Commonwealth Prize-shortlisted Author and 6-times Pushcart Prize nominee Murzban F. Shroff’s Mumbai-based novel, Waiting for Jonathan Koshy, has been recently published by Zhejiang Literature & Art, one of China’s most reputed publishing houses. In acquiring the book, the publisher said, “Waiting for Jonathan Koshy is a brilliant story for readers, not only because it is dramatic enough, but has great humor and passion. Besides, it provides us with a real picture of how an Indian looks like in his own country, in his hometown. It is both, complex and fascinating.” The novel which follows the turbulent (and often hilarious) life of an irrepressible character, Jonathan, was nominated as a finalist for the Horatio Nelson Prize in New York and received high praise from two top-drawer American authors, including a Pulitzer Prize winner and a National Book Award Finalist. Shroff’s other works include Breathless in Bombay, a collection of Mumbai-based stories, and Fasttrack Fiction, a one-of-its-kind digital book for cell phone readers. Shroff, who defines Mumbai as his perennial muse, says: “I am delighted that the cultural nuances of our country will now be enjoyed by readers in China. It is a deeply satisfying experience and proves that well-intentioned literature can, indeed, transcend borders.” The English edition of Waiting for Jonathan Koshy is available on www.amazon.com and at independent bookstores in Mumbai.
Mr. Kersie Khambatta is a semi-retired lawyer practising in Auckland, New Zealand. He is also a part-time writer of articles, short-stories, and illustrated books for children. His writing is recognizable by his simple style, with short sentences and carefully-chosen words. He has a diploma of Associateship of the British Tutorial Institute, London, in English, Modern Journalism, and Journalism in India, and a Certificate in Comprehensive writing awarded in October 2005 by the Writing School (Australia and New Zealand).
He has written five illustrated books for children and a book of short stories.
(1) Chetan and Lollipop
(2) The monkeys of Matheran
(3) Sam and Snowy
(4) The broken bullock cart
(5) The horse, the hare and the cat
(6) Pandu the Dabbawalla and other simple short stories.
On Monday June 24, 2019, he received the writers award from His Worship the Mayor of Auckland, Phil Goff, at the 6th Annual Indian Newslink Sports, Community, Arts and Culture Awards 2019, Auckland, New Zealand.
He has received good reviews of his books in Parsiana (21st April 2019) and FIRES May 2019, the journal of FEZANA.
I am Gurpreet Kaur from Ranchi. My sister Ramnik Kaur is a research scholar doing Ph.D on topic “Contribution of Dina Mehta to Indian Writing in English”. Ms. Dina Mehta, a play writer from Parsi Community has written plays like Brides are not for Burning, Getting Away with Murder, Myth Maker, Tiger Tiger, A Sister Like You, novels like Mila in Love, And Some Take A Lover and many short stories. She won the first play writing competition sponsored by BBC for her play Brides Are Not For Burning in 1979. She wrote to highlight the problems of Indian Women focusing on issues like dowry, female foeticide, witchcrafting, child abuse, infertility blames and many such burning topics. Highly impressed by her work, we thought of writing thesis on her works and after much effort we could get few short stories and the play Brides are not for Burning. However we could not buy other plays and novels written by Ms. Dina Mehta even after our sincere efforts. The books are not published any more by the publishers. Ebook are not available. Amazon cancels the order. We want to request through your page if any member can help us with the novels and plays written by her, we shall ever remain obliged. We tried to search about her on Google but all in vain. We wish to talk to her or someone from her family in context of our research paper. Please help us with whatever information you can share about this gem of your community. Email us at email@example.com
The smell of dried Bombay duck infiltrates the air.
Mum is making the Parsi dish Tarapori Patio, a ruddy pickle made from the quintessentially Bombay fish, the curiously-named Bombay duck, assertively spiced and humming with the tang of vinegar. An old cookbook lies next to her, the pages brittle, dog-eared, covered with scrawls—“Add chopped coriander, 1/2 cup”; “easy for tiffin.”1
This kitchen treasure is Recipes from the Time & Talents Club, an iconic Parsi cookbook passed down from generation to generation. Mum’s came to her as a Christmas gift in 1975 through a dear old friend, her elderly piano teacher. There is an inscription within, scribbled in auspicious red—“Music has made my contact with you, but maybe cooking could become more important in the future. So here’s wishing you all the best for a bright and happy future. With love, Vera Aunty.”
Vera Aunty’s gift was the springboard from which my mum’s cooking took off. “Of course, I consult many Parsi cookbooks,” Mum says huffily, then relents to add, “but this one is for the ages.”
The history of Parsi food traces back to the Muslim conquest of Persia in the mid-7th century C.E. and the subsequent pressure, violent and otherwise, on the native population to convert from Zoroastrianism to Islam. A small number of Iranians fled, finding refuge across the Arabian Sea on the western coast of India, the modern-day state of Gujarat. From there, this Iranian diaspora seeped across India, enriching their adopted homeland’s cultural and economic landscape. Never a community of overwhelming numbers, there are less than 70,000 of us today and most live in Mumbai.2
Parsi food, therefore, is matted with influences, from the flavors of pre-Muslim Iran (a predilection for dried fruits and nuts, rose water, pomegranate, saffron, and a love of sweet-sour meat dishes) to British and Dutch cooking (thanks to their various imperial presences in western India) to the indigenous cuisine of Gujarat.
And when it comes to Parsi food, there was no greater influence than that of the Time & Talents Club. The Club, started by Gool Shavaksha in 1934, was peopled by a clot of upper-crust women, mostly Parsi, who yearned to be socially responsible at a time when many women were strangled by a lack of agency. The Club provided them an imprimatur of respectability, and its proceeds were shared with the poor. Such charitable pursuits were considered appropriate for women from respectable families; no doubt the Club was considered a passing fancy by several men. Yet it endured and grew.3
Although it may not have had the heft of government cultural organizations, the Club was keen on boosting Mumbai’s cultural scene. In 1963 they opened and oversaw the Victory Stall near the Gateway of India, once a culinary landmark, feeding the citizenry with their beer-soaked Parsi lunches and donating the proceeds to the widows and orphans of Indian soldiers. Club members wrangled concerts for the Mumbai public with the Berlin Chamber Orchestra and the Warsaw National Philharmonic, and they trundled in the maestro Yehudi Menuhinas and the famed pianist Benno Moiseiwitsch to perform for city audiences. Perhaps the ladies’ greatest triumph came when they secured a performance by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (whose music director at the time was Zubin Mehta, a Parsi son of Bombay) at the grand Shanmukhananda Hall. (This was despite the orchestra’s complaints of cockroach-infiltrated hotel rooms and, more terrifyingly, a bomb threat, though the latter was resolved by a quick call by a member of the Time & Talents Club to the police commissioner.)4
Almost everyone I know is connected to the Club in some way. My pediatrician juggles saving the lives of sick children with managing the Club’s many events. My great-aunt was a lifelong member, despite her husband constantly teasing her that it was “The Only Time & No Talents Club.”
But the Club is most heavily stamped onto our community identity through its cookbook. My London-dwelling cousin uses it as a emergency plan for when homesickness strikes. My friend Dilnavaz Contractor built her Parsi food pop-up around the book, inscribing into it her own personal inflections along the way: “The recipe for Parsi vegetable stew is one I fall back on every time. It’s a crowd pleaser. The one I secretly love though is the kharia ma chora (goat trotters cooked with beans), although unfortunately, only Parsis seem to like this one.”
The first edition was put together in 1935, all the profits from which went to charity. It was a time when India was still struggling to throw off the British yoke; a time of unrest and revolution, but therefore also a time of cross-pollination. Eased in with typical Parsi dishes such as caramel custard, patra ni macchi (chutney fish swathed in banana leaves), and the offal dish bhujan (heart, kidneys, and liver), were such recipes as undhiyu (a Gujarati dish made of root vegetables) and the south Indian mulligatawny. If Bhicoo Manekshaw (who later became an iconic Parsi cookbook author and chef in her own right) sent in her recipe for the voluptuous Fish Roxanne (fish crisped on a pan, then served in a bath of melted butter, caviar and lime juice), and Pinky Gindraux proffered her Pork Chops in Mushroom Soup (requiring the chops to take a long soak in butter and mushroom soup); then Khatta Tyabji sent in her recipe for mutton biryani, while Mani Kumana volunteered her recipe for Hyderabadi corn salan.
As one traces the various publications of the Time & Talents Club, it becomes clear why Niloufer Ichaporia King, author of the recent Parsi cookbook My Bombay Kitchen, calls the Club’s cookbooks a “perfect window into Bombay’s changing food-of-everywhere culinary culture.”5 During World War II, the ladies published a booklet of anti-waste recipes, including one that transformed a beloved Parsi egg dish (akuri) into an eggless one made with rotis cooked in masala. When I sift through my mum’s 1975 edition, I find Parsi regulars such as chicken farcha, and colmino saas (prawn sauce), but I also find snows, soufflés, and chiffons. The book is also sprinkled with food-related limericks and witticisms of both Gujarati and English origins, such as one epigram clearly of its time: “A woman who cannot make soup should not be allowed to marry.”
As later versions unspooled through the years, I encounter the further waxing and waning of culinary fashions: fewer snows and soufflés, more microwave recipes. The regressive sayings were tactfully weeded out. In this way, the older Time & Talents cookbooks become capsules of a vanished past.
Some things remain the same, though. There are always helpful tips throughout. The cooking instructions are crisp, almost clipped. There is no pandering to modern proclivities, such as pictures of the recipes. Even the latest edition, duly updated for modern living, is an oddity in an age that prizes a completely different vocabulary of cooking—it has neither the aggrandizement of restaurant cooking nor the glossy, flattened photographs of Instagram. It is simply good home cooking, mother’s cooking, standing stolidly in its own lane.
1. The Time & Talents Club, Recipes (Mumbai: Bombay Chronicle Press), 1975.
Meher Mirza is an independent food, culture and travel writer with a special interest in exploring the anthropology of Indian food and culture through a postcolonial prism. You can follow her on Instagram @bigmlittlem.
Dear Friends, This is to inform you that The Collected Scholarly Writings of Dastur Firoze M. Kotwal Vol.1, is available at Mumbai from Zoroastrian Studies. Orders can be placed from firstname.lastname@example.org and phone orders at +91 2222047990 (Monday to Friday 11 am to 5.30 pm). The price of the book at Bombay is Rs. 3,500 + Courier/ Postage charges at cost. For 20 copies or more the price will be Rs. 3,000/-. For journalists and media persons who would like to cover or review the book please contact Cashmira who will pick up Dasturji Kotwal’s cell number +91 9920958757 (Monday to Friday 11 am to 1 pm) and Cashmira will give you an appointment. With best wishes, Dr. Shernaz Cama
Darayas Kavina, hails from Ahmedabad in Gujarat, the youngest of five brothers and one sister. Darayas is an arts graduate, an ex-banker, a father of two, a Mohammed Rafi aficionado, a classical tabla player and a former body builder. Ask him about what led to his passion of the ancient Persian texts and that’s when the details start emerging. Like all young children, Darayas and his five siblings often begged their father, Hoshangji, for a late night story after dinner. What emerged, day after day, year after year, were a series of tales & epics from all faiths & religions, involving saints & sadhus, maharajas & mahatmas, peers & fakirs; and above all, the magnificent Persian epics – all narrated by the master raconteur, Hoshangji, in the ancient narrative tradition of oral story-tellers (now sadly extinct) and imbibed and absorbed by young Darayas, from the age of nine onwards. Like many of his kind, all of Darayas’s talks are delivered purely from the heart without any written script. And like many artists he believes that it is often not the individual himself who is writing or painting or performing, but a higher power doing it for him. Often times, while compiling his father’s narratives in form of a book that he published some years ago, he would not recognize the next morning, what he had written the night before. Having lost all their family wealth and possessions due to an unscrupulous business partner in early childhood, Darayas attributes all that he has today to his mild-mannered, deeply religious father, as well as his caring mother, Veera, who sold away her jewellery to educate her children. Shortly before he passed away, Darayas’s father handed him six volumes containing excerpts of scribblings that he was in the habit of jotting down, and said: “this is all I have to leave you. It is not money but far more precious, which no one will be able to steal from you.” Interestingly – and rather unfortunately, Darayas says – while most religious texts have been written by people from their respective faiths; in this case, the Shahnama was written by a Muslim. And that is what he is here to share with us.
A few words about Firdausi and the Shahnama itself: Firdausi or Ferdowsi, who lived from the year 940 – 1020, was a Persian poet and the author of the Shahnama. Except for his family name, Firdausi, which means ‘Paradisic,’ nothing is known for sure about his full name. He was also given the title of ‘Philosopher.’ He is celebrated as the most influential figure in Persian literature and one of the greatest in the history of literature itself. Little is known about Firdausi’s early life. He was born into a family of Iranian landowners and aristocrats, who flourished under the Sassanid dynasty, the last pre-Islamic dynasty to rule Iran. They saw it as their task to preserve the pre-Islamic cultural traditions, including tales of legendary kings. The Shahnama or Shahnameh, which means “Book of Kings,” is the world’s longest epic poem created by a single poet, and the national epic of Greater Iran. Consisting of some 50,000 couplets or two-line verses, it mainly tells of the mythical, and to some extent, historical past of the Persian empire; from the creation of the world until the Arab conquest of Iran in the 7th century. Modern Iran, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan and the greater region influenced by Persian culture (such as Georgia, Armenia, Turkey and Dagestan) celebrate this national epic. The work is of central importance in Persian culture and Persian language; regarded as a literary masterpiece, and definitive of the ethno-national cultural identity of Iran. It is also important to the contemporary followers of Zoroastrianism, in tracing the historical links between the beginnings of the religion and the death of the last Sassanid ruler of Persia during the Muslim conquest, which brought an end to the Zoroastrian influence in Iran. An interesting little snippet here: the early Persians were known for the equal rights they bestowed upon their women. Firdausi supposedly completed writing the Shahnamah on 8th of March 1010 which is celebrated today as – Women’s Day. Co-incidence?? You decide!
Mumbai-based author, Murzban F. Shroff, will represent the city of his inspiration at the Emirates Literature Festival in Dubai. Shroff, a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize shortlisted author and a 6-times Pushcart Prize nominee, will have three events on 8 and 9 March 2019. https://www.emirateslitfest.com/authors/murzban-f-shroff/
Shroff is the author of three books: Breathless in Bombay, a collection of short stories, rated by the Guardian as among the ten best Mumbai books; Waiting for Jonathan Koshy, a postmodern novel which qualified as a finalist for the prestigious Horatio Nelson Fiction Prize in New York; and Fasttrack Fiction, a book written specifically for the cell phone reader.
Shroff publishes extensively in the U.S. and UK with premier literary journals and has been invited to speak about his work at universities such as UC Berkeley, UCLA, and the University of Southern California. His work approach and contributions have been acknowledged and featured in a book titled “The Parsi Contribution to Indian Literature,” published by the Sahitya Akademi.
I am really happy to inform you that my book, ‘Zenobia Mistri, Teacher Par Excellence’, is now available worldwide on Kindle. The Kindle version can be accessed at Amazon. Simply go to the Amazon website and type in my name, Shireen Isal. To cite a few examples:
It is also available in Australia, New Zealand, Japan and a host of other countries worldwide via their Amazon websites.
I have been advised that putting the book on Kindle would enable easier access and thereby increase its readership. I really hope this will be the case. Accessing the book has certainly just been made easier; you may even purchase a Kindle copy and directly gift it to a friend.
Thank you for your continued support. And do inform your friends and contacts.
The book, ‘Zenobia Mistri, Teacher Par Excellence’, was the focus of a gracious event organised in Mumbai on 12th February 2019. Shireen Isal, the author, read extracts from the biography, followed by a Q&A with a small but enthusiastic audience. The event, arranged by Mehli and Saker Mistri and moderated by Firdaus Gandavia, Ph.D English Litt., was attended by, amongst others, students of Zenobia Mistri, one of the most iconic teachers of French language and literature in the Mumbai of the last century.
There were moments of nostalgia, when many of those present recalled their teacher with affection. Moments of humour too at her lovable eccentricities. But, above all, an all-round acknowledgement of her immense teaching talents, from which scores of students over five decades greatly benefited.
Teachers devote their lives to the cause of their students’ education and well-being, moulding and framing who they are without their even realising it. Zenobia Mistri was one such teacher and this was unanimously acknowledged at this reunion.