Many may not know that India used to have two time zones.
One is Indian Standard Time, ahead of GMT by 5 hours 30 minutes. Another was Bombay Time which was 4 hours 31 minutes ahead of GMT.
Thus the Bombay Time was full 59 minutes behind the Indian Standard Time.
The Bombay-Time was abolished in 1955.
For some inexplicable reason, the Parsee Community of Bombay continued to adhere to the Bombay-Time.
A marriage invitation or Navjot invitation always used to mention Bombay- Time.
This story is of the early Sixties when Mr Aspi Bhesania died at the ripe age of 90 years, the age at which or much beyond which, most Parsees tend to depart. He was a philanthropist also a social worker who had many good deeds to his credit. He, as a Municipal Councilor, had contributed a lot to the City’s development.
Aspi’s funeral was held at Dungerwadi – the Tower of Silence – where the dead Parsees are rested – ultimately to be one with nature. The Tower of Silence complex is a huge piece of real estate on the slopes of Malabar Hill in South Bombay. The premises has a hall where condolence meetings are held before the dead body is transferred to the Tower of Silence. The non- Parsees are permitted to go up to the hall, beyond which only Parsees are permitted.
Aspi’s condolence meeting was scheduled to be at 5-00 PM. Sir Homi Modi, KBE, himself beyond 80 years of age then, was to preside over the event. Sir Homi assumed that the meeting would start at 5-00 PM Bombay Time while the organizers had scheduled it for 5-00 PM Indian Standard Time. So, Sir Homi who wanted to reach 15 minutes before the schedule, had reached 15 minutes late for the meeting. As per the Parsee tradition, the meeting had commenced on the dot, without awaiting Sir Homi’s arrival.
Sir Homi, being a stickler for punctuality was flustered and upset with himself as he was rushed to the dais. As Sir Homi sat down, a gentleman who was already talking hurriedly finished his speech and invited Sir Homi to speak.
Sir Homi thus rushed, began his speech “We are meeting here to bid goodbye to a great soul. He was a great human being and his contribution to humanity –—” Sir Homi went on in that vein for a few sentences and realised that he had forgotten the name of the deceased. Without realising that the microphone was “ON” Sir Homi turned to Ronnie Sakhlatwala sitting to his left and asked in a whisper: “ ए रॉनी, ए घेलचोदयाने नाम सूं? ” (Hey Ronnie, what is the name of the fuXXr?)
The entire audience heard what he said. Sakhatwala was taken aback. He also could not recall the name. The man sitting on Sir Homi’s right stood up and whispered the dead man’s name in Sir Homi’s ear.
The audience could barely control its laughter. There were a few suppressed outbursts of mirth.
Parsees have a wonderful sense of humour. I will not be surprised if the late Aspi Bhesania also may have smiled as he lay dead on the stretcher.
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.
Jiyo Parsi Friday Forum – An Evening with Yazdi Karanjia; 28 May 6 pm IST onwards
Come join us for an evening of fun, laughter and interesting insights into the life of legendary theater artist and director, educator and social worker par excellence Yazdi Karanjia in conversation with his lovely daughter Maharukh Chichgar, renowned actor, educator, entrepreneur and motivational speaker. They will take us down memory lane and discuss Parsi theater through the decades.
I have written, directed and acted in 2 parsi gujerati nataks which are now uploaded to my youtube channel. Besides that my husband and i have written directed and acted in several plays in hinglish, a simple language that anyone can understand. We have performed many plays in bahrain purely for entertaining the Indian community here. Below are the links to the 2 gujerati plays. Anyone who subscribes to my channel will be able to see all our plays. No payment involved. We request you to kindly publicise the links to entertain our community for free, especially when people are stuck at home.