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The Parsis of Sri Lanka


  • A small but vibrant community

Very few people today have heard of the Parsi community in Sri Lanka, because there are only about 60 in all including men, women and children. Although small in number, the contributions to our nation by this intriguing community throughout the years, have left an indelible mark in the history of Sri Lanka. They have produced eminent citizens, including a Government Minister, a Judge of the Supreme Court, barons of business and industry, high ranking military officials, media and educational personalities and philanthropists, among others.

Prominent Parsi families in Sri Lanka today are the Captain’s, Choksys, Khans, Billimorias, Pestonjees and Jillas. Their ancestors were originally from Persia, who later migrated to Gujarat in India. The Parsis are a very religious community who follow the Zoroastrian faith which is basically a monotheistic one, centred on the belief in the One True God whom they call Ahura Mazda or ‘Wise Lord’ in the Gathas of Prophet Zarathustra and his Great Maga Brotherhood.

The Parsis have made invaluable contributions to the economy and development of Sri Lanka. The Captains are a Parsi family who have long settled in this country. Sohli Captain owned Wellawatte Spinning and Weaving Mills and his son Rusi went into corporate investments. The Captains are well-known for their services to humanity. Sohli Captain developed Sri Lanka’s first Cancer Hospital, and his sister Perin Captain has contributed immensely to the Child’s Protection Society.

Another long established Parsi family in Sri Lanka were the Billimorias who established the Britannia Bakery in 1900. Homi Billimoria, a renowned architect who designed Mumtaz Mahal, the official residence of the Speaker of Parliament and Tintagel, which became the family home of the Bandaranaike family. The Khan family owned the Oil Mills in Colombo and built the famous Khan Clock Tower, a landmark in Pettah. The Jillas, another well-known Parsi family, established Colombo Dye Works. Homi Jilla became an army Physician, Kairshasp Jilla became a Naval officer, and Freddy Jilla served as a civil aviation officer.

The Pestonjee family arrived in Sri Lanka much later. Kaikobad Gandy was the father of Aban Pestonjee, the founder of the prestigious Abans Group. He was a marine engineer who sailed around the world and finally made Sri Lanka his home, which he called ‘the best place in the world’. In 1930 he was awarded a Distinguished Citizenship by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike in recognition of his services to the country’s ports as Chief Engineer. His daughter Aban founded Abans Group, a business conglomerate that handles everything from hospitality and electronic goods, janitorial services to garbage disposal and keeping our streets clean.

“Sri Lanka is our home, we love this country, and our small community lives in peace and harmony with the people of this country, always looking for ways and means to contribute towards its development and prosperity,” said Aban Pestonjee.

http://www.ft.lk/news/The-Parsis-of-Sri-Lanka/56-678549

Cooking with the Time & Talents Club


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

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By Meher Mirza | Photographs by Meher Mirza.

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.”

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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.

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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.

2. Rashna Writer, “Parsi Identity,” Iran 27 (1989): 129–31; Sayeed Unisa, R.B. Bhagat, T.K. Roy, and R.B. Upadhyay, “Demographic Transition or Demographic Trepidation? The Case of Parsis in India,” Economic and Political Weekly 43 (Jan. 2008): 61–65; PTI, “Parsi population dips by 22 percent between 2001-2011,” The Hindu, July 26, 2016.

3. Anisha Rachel Oommen and Aysha Tanya, “This old Parsi cookbook is as singular as the community whose recipes it documents,” Scroll.in, June 13, 2018.

4. Vidya Prabhu, “Nostalgia Lane,” Indian Express, May 9, 2013.

5. Niloufer Ichaporia King, My Bombay Kitchen: Traditional and Modern Parsi Home Cooking (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 21.

About Meher Mirza

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.

https://parsikhabar.net/food/cooking-with-the-time-talents-club/19948/

Sad demise of Dasturji Dr. K. M. JamaspAsa


Vada Dasturji Dr. Kaikhusroo Minocher JamaspAsa, High Priest of Zarthoshti Anjumanna Atash Behram, Mumbai has left for his heavenly abode. He passed away in London on 19th May. He was 87 years of age. In his passing away, the Parsee community has lost a renowned scholar, a religious leader and a friend.

He was born in Mumbai on 11th March 1932. He undertook his under graduate and graduate studies in Avesta and Pahlavi from St. Xavier’s College in Mumbai and thereafter, in 1966, he obtained his Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Bombay.

He was installed as the High Priest of the Zarthoshti Anjumanna Atash Behram on 3rd October 1956 and continued to hold this position till his passing away. He comes from a long line of illustrious scholar priests, with his great grandfather, Dasturji Dr. Jamaspji M. JamaspAsa, who consecrated and installed the Anjuman Atash Behram. Soon after, he held the position of Honorary Professor of Iranian Studies at St. Xavier’s College for over 3 decades. Concurrently, he also became Principal of the Sir J. J. Zarthoshti Madressa for 10 years and served as the Senior Lecturer of the Mulla Firoz Madressa, in Mumbai, as well.

Dasturji was fluent in German and French due to his orientation in European scholarship in his chosen field of Iranian studies. he also served as a Visiting Professor at the Asia Institute of Pahlavi University in Shiraz.

Dasturji has many scholarly books to his name. His most important publications are on ‘The Pahlavi – Pazend Text of the Aogemadaeca:The Vaetha Nask; and the Pursishniha’. He has written a number of learned articles in renowned international academic journals.

Under his hand, hundreds of boys from priestly families have undergone their Navar and Maratab ceremonies. Under his religious authority, over 200 Nirangdins and other higher liturgical ceremonies have been performed.

During the many years that he was a Vada Dasturji of the Zarthoshti Anjumanna Atash Behram, he steered the community onto the path of tradition and has upheld the beliefs and practices of the Zoroastrian faith. He has constantly advocated the need for the community to adhere to the time tested belief and practices of our religion. Dasturji firmly believed that the only way to ensure the survival of the faith in the times to come was to maintain the socio-religious laws of the community fused to the religion, in order to safeguard the religious institutions such as the Fire Temples, Dakhmas and other religious bodies.

Dasturji is survived by his wife Dr. Bakhtavar, son Jamasp and daughter Shirin.

We extend our heartfelt condolence to his family in this their hour of loss. May his immortal soul gain the divine protection of Sarosh Yazad and may he progress from Tanasakh to Tanpasin at the earliest.

In grief

On behalf of The Parsee Voice team

Hanoz M. Mistry

This Self-Made Millionaire’s Story Will FIRE YOU UP


For the latest and today’s episode, we have another crazy motivational and inspirational stories. This episode is another one of the Indian startups and an Indian entrepreneur story. On “The Ranveer Show”, we have an Indian businessman interview – Jimmy Mistry. This interview with Indian business leaders will tell you the business story of the Indian Businessman, who is also an Indian crorepati.

This Indian millionaire is the owner of Della Adventure and Della Tecnica Architects. Della Tecnica is the brainchild of Jimmy Mistry Architect.

This interview with Indian business leaders will tell you the business story of the Indian Businessman, who is also an Indian crorepati. This Indian millionaire is the owner of Della Adventure and Della Tecnica Architects. Della Tecnica is the brainchild of Jimmy Mistry Architect. This success story is all about Jimmy Mistry Della and narrates the Della and Jim story on how Della Adventures came into existence. Jimmy Mistry interview is a true motivation video and inspiration of how this Della started from being a mechanic to owning a multi-million dollar business and empire. He started at the age of 19 and is still hustling as he looks at growing the business and expanding his business.

This success story is all about Jimmy Mistry Della and narrates the Della and Jim story on how Della Adventures came into existence. Jimmy Mistry interview with Ranveer Allahbadia from BeerBiceps, it is a true motivation video and inspiration of how this Della started from being a mechanic to owning a multi-million dollar business and empire. He started at the age of 19 and is still hustling as he looks at growing the business and expanding his business. I am hoping that this motivational video provides the necessary motivation for understanding how facing failure leads to success. Keep going, guys! Never give up!

Jimmy Mistry’s Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jimmy_mistry

Jimmy Mistry’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jimmyrmistry/

Della’s Website: www.dellaadventure.com/

Mission Safeer gets Dadasaheb Phalke Award!


With a deep sense of pride and joy, we would like to inform you that Our Documentary..MISSION SAFEER  THIRTY SEVEN DAYS TO FREEDOM
has won the award for Honourable Jury Mention at Prestigious 9th Dada Saheb Phalke Film Festival 2019 which has a world wide participation.The response from the audience was overwhelming and they said they were not aware of this rescue operation.
We are grateful for your support and encouragement on this journey.
With HIS Blessings, we are continuing our endeavours to take this documentary all over India and Internationally.
Best wishes,Capt. V R Kekobad and Mr Hanif Modak.
https://missionsafeer.blogspot.com/


The Collected Scholarly Writings of Dastur Firoze M. Kotwal Vol.1


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 zstudies@gmail.com 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

DirectorUNESCO Parzor

Parzor Foundation

New Delhi

Anahita’s Law – a film by Oorvazi Irani


Excited to announce my next film
“Anahita’s Law”
Redefining the identity of women in the 21st century

Directed, Produced and Performed by Oorvazi Irani

Screenplay by Farrukh Dhondy

The short film is Releasing Online on Humaramovie on 3rd June 2019

Follow us for more updates on:
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/anahitaslaw

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Oorvazi

Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/oorvaziirani

Fezana Scholarships – 2019


FEZANA Announces the opening of its Scholarship cycle. Applications are now being accepted for FEZANA Scholarships in the following categories:
Academic Scholarships
Performance and Creative Arts Scholarships
Excellence in Sports
Religious Education
Each of these scholarships have different application processes, requirements and deadlines. Please visit the Scholarship page to get the most current information.

Click Here for the FEZANA Scholarships page

Looking for Pesi Daruwalla and his progeny


Hello,

I am Firdosh Khurshed Tolat, residing in Parel, Mumbai.  My Paternal Grandmother was Manijeh Ratanshaw Tolat.  She had a brother Pesi Daruwalla.  Pesi Mama, as my Dad used to call him, had one son – Jehangir, and 3 daughters – Jaloo Arjani, Mehru Tarapore and Sheroo Engineer.  We are trying to locate and contact them and their children.  If anyone has any information on them, please contact me at firdoshtolat@gmail.com

Thank you and Tan Darosti …

Firdosh Tolat

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