Udvada Station To Get New Lease Of Life In 2018

Two months after Aspi Sepoy, 46, caretaker of the Parsi community museum in the holy beach town of Udvada, lost his legs after slipping into the gap between the train and platform at Udvada station, the Railways have started work on increasing the height of the platform. Repeated follow-ups by mid-day led to the Railways not only fast tracking work at the 1895-built small halt station, but also deciding to give it a complete makeover, which should be wrapped up by January 2018.

Work being carried out to repave and increase the height of the platform

Located around 182 km from Mumbai, Udvada is one of the most important spiritual and religious centres for Zoroastrians in the world. At the Iranshah temple, the holy fire — consecrated in 1742 when the Zoroastrians came to India to escape religious persecution in Persia — is still burning.

As part of the makeover for the station that falls on the Mumbai-Surat railway line, platforms are being raised, paved and passenger amenities upgraded. Further, the old foot overbridge (FOB) has also been dismantled and is being rebuilt and strengthened. It is expected to be ready by the end of this month.

Udvada station sees a lot of pilgrims from the Zoroastrian community

When mid-day visited the station two days ago, work on raising platform one had been completed and paver blocks and tiles were being laid. On platform two and three, the edges were raised on either side, but the surface is being filled up and plastered.

According to a source, work is moving at hectic pace with a number of labourers being hired for the job. Besides raising the platform, the Railways will be laying tiles and paver blocks with tactile markings. A small walkway with paver blocks has also been built over the tracks at the Churchgate-end of the station so that senior citizens can access the platforms easily. “Udvada will get a new station in the new year,” said Ravinder Bhakar, chief public relations officer Western Railway.

Work being carried out to repave and increase the height of the platform

However, with the raising of the platform height, one peculiar problem that has emerged now is that the seats and benches at the station have become shallow and unusable.

Khurshed J Lawyer, actor and a regular commuter, welcomed the changes at the station but said there were a few other issues that needed to be addressed. “The platform length needs to be increased at the station. When longer trains halt at the station, at least four to five coaches are usually outside the platform and many passengers, especially senior citizens, find it difficult to board and alight.”

Aspi Sepoy
Aspi Sepoy

Railway authorities said that they would consider the request later when they begin with phase two of the station upgrade.
Meanwhile, if all goes well, Aspi Sepoy will, in the course of the next few days, get two imported artificial legs to replace his lost limbs, each costing Rs 5 lakh.



Parsis: The makers of Karachi

A Parsi religious monument in Karachi | AFP

Being Parsi works to your advantage at Karachi airport. “At the security checkpoint they often look at our names and say, ‘Let them go ahead; they’re OK,” smiles Arnab Lakdawala, 56, looking over at her mother-in-law, who is nestled comfortably on the drawing room couch. They live in Karachi’s Parsi Colony, a clean, gated enclave of the city. Shirin Lakdawala nods vigorously in agreement, gesturing with animated strokes that belie her 83 years. “Even when we go to shops, we get a little bit of preferential treatment,” she says. “Parsis are known for being honestand hard-working.”

She is not wrong. To conclude that Parsis (or Zarthustis, in the more traditional terminology) have enjoyed a relatively hassle-free existence compared to Pakistan’s other non-Muslim communities would not be an exaggeration. But perhaps this is because, upon arrival in Sindh in 1825, they wasted no time in getting down to business — pun intended.

According to the late Jehangir Framroze Punthakey,author of The Karachi Zoroastrian Calendar, Parsis are “the makers of the Karachi of today.” In the mid-1800s, around the time of the Indian mutiny, Parsis quietly setup shop while Muslims and Hindus were more preoccupied with one-upmanship. Records of Parsi contractors, doctors, watchmakers, tradesmen, candle-makers, jockeys, tax collectors and even auctioneers are abundant from 1830 onwards.

But despite the empires they once built, Parsis do not, by a long shot, have the influence they once did. “These days everyone feels a little unsafe here,” Arnab explains quietly, “so most of them are leaving Pakistan because of that. Many younger ones went abroad to study and stayed back.” And the community is not just spreading itself out — it is also shrinking. By 2020, it is estimated that there will be only 23,000 Parsis worldwide, reducing their status from rom a community to a tribe.

But Arnab has stayed in Pakistan by choice. Even though her entire family has a Plan B by way of either Australian or British citizenship, she is one of the few who is here for the long haul. “I have no plans to move,” she says. “This is home, whatever happens, and it will always be.” She pauses. “Sometimes I just regret that people are leaving, it’s the law and order situation, that’s what gets you. Otherwise it’s great.”

Arnab’s mother-in-law, Shirin, believes the community is dwindling because most of the older generation has died and their children are scattered across the globe. “There were 5,000 to 6,000 of us when we first came,” she says. “Now there are a little over 1,000 here. The youngsters migrated and the old people died, so what do you expect? They don’t come back, like my own children. My daughter took a Swiss husband and settled down there. My other son went abroad and stayed.”

The Parsi graveyard 'Tower of silence' in Karachi | AFP
The Parsi graveyard ‘Tower of silence’ in Karachi | AFP

Shirin herself was forced, in a manner of speaking,to move to Pakistan from India following Partition because her husband was working with Habib Bank at the time. “When they started in insurance, they asked my husband to come to Karachi,” she says.“We knew about Parsi Colony, we had heard of Britto Road and that’s where we ended up.” Hailing from Santa Cruz, a suburb of Bombay, Shirin did not know what to expect when she reached Karachi. “It’s funny but I never found any discrimination at all. I would be out all the time, walking freely in Bohri Bazaar and such. We went to the Gymkhana and Karachi Club, Boat Club, Sindh Club … we had a great circle of friends,” she recalls. “When we were leaving India they gave us a real scare. They said, ‘Look they’re all Muslims there,’ and this and that and God knows … but when we came here we found it was nothing.

And it was from nothing that the Parsis created a great deal of Pakistan’s economic infrastructure. Founded by Dinshaw Avari, the Beach Luxury was the premier luxury hotel in Karachi before the arrival, much later, of establishments such as the Pearl Continental and the Sheraton. Today, to picture a public – let alone swinging – party scene in Karachi requires imagination, but Beach Luxury’s now defunct 007 was something of a nightlife institution in the 1950s. There were other big contributors, such as the Cowasjee Group, which began shipping and stevedore businesses. It is now the oldest shipping firm still running in Pakistan.’

Today, Parsi culture seems to be bleeding out along with the community’s decreasing population. Jennifer, Arnab’s 28-year-old daughter, enters the room and joins the discussion. Three generations are now here, each with a different sense of identity. Jennifer recalls being much more involved in the Parsi community when she was a child. “I’ve definitely made a few more friends in the Parsi community since we moved to Parsi Colony around 15 years ago,” she says. “But most of my friends are still Muslim; I didn’t go to a Parsi school or anything. I used to be more active at the Karachi Parsi Institute before but now, well,” she laughs, “it’s just so hot there and it’s so far. Does Shirin still have any Parsi friends that she met when she first came to Karachi? “Darling, at my age it is very difficult to remember things like that,” she laughs

Some Parsi beliefs have recently been scrutinised and deemed impractical. It is Zoroastrian culture, for example, to take a person’s body to a Tower of Silence when they die so that it can quickly be consumed by vultures. Cremation and burial are not permitted because earth, fire and water are considered sacred elements that should not be involved with death. Of late, however, a shortage of vultures has developed in Karachi and Mumbai due to extensive urbanisation, which leads to bodies slowly decomposing outdoors.

Parsis are being urged to switch to other methods of burial. They now have to make a choice between efficiency and preserving their culture and customs. And with their rapid global displacement and numerical decline, Pakistan will soon have even fewer reminders of the builders of Karachi.

Names have been changed to protect privacy.

This was originally published in the Herald’s August 2009 issue. To read moresubscribe to the Herald in print.

Kolkata: A peek into Parsi tradition and culture at 4-day expo

If you’ve always wondered what lies beyond the closely guarded boundary walls of a Parsi fire temple, especially because tradition has it that a non-Parsi is not allowed inside, your curiosity is going to be satisfied. A Parsi agyari (fire temple), as it is called by the community, will be re-created as part of a special four-day exhibition that the community in the city is organising to explain its history, traditions, lore and culture.

The exhibition, Threads of Continuity, is being organized between October 26 and 29 by The Calcutta Zoroastrian Community‘s Religious and Charity Fund (a trust) – as part of its 150 years celebrations – in association with Parzor, a Delhi-based foundation that has been working with the support of the Unesco for the revival of Parsi culture and heritage. It’s being held at Olpadvala Memorial Hall.

There are about 650 Parsis in the city, a number that has dwindled from 2500 three decades ago. While on one hand the community rues that there has been a steady brain drain of Parsis from the city – thanks to the lack of business and career opportunities here – on the other, both the Parsi Club and the trust have tried to keep the community bonding strong by organizing cultural activities throughout the year. “But, we need to know more about our history that goes back to ancient Persia and the time when we as Zorastrians came under attack from the Muslim invaders/rulers of Persia. Facing persecution, we fled and reached the shores of Diu from where we entered Gujarat and chose to settle there after we were given shelter by the king…” said Cyrus Madan, a trustee.

“Most people do not know why non-Parsis are not allowed inside the fire temple, for that matter, many don’t know that we are not worshippers of fire. It’s just a medium through which we reach the God. We just want to de-mystify everything,” said Trista Madan, who is co-ordinating with Parzor.


First Dastoor Meherjirana Library: The Oxford of Gujarat

The restoration of the holdings of the 145-year-old First Dastoor Meherjirana Library in Navsari is an exercise in reclaiming the illustrious history of Parsis in India

The reading room of the First Dastoor Meherjirana Library in Navsari. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

I never saw such a fine collection in a small town, and it does honour to the generosity of the donors and to the zeal for instruction of the Parsi population at Navsari. This visit will remain one of the best remembrances of my short occasion in the Parsi mofussil.

This inscription, the first entry in the guestbook of Navsari’s 145-year-old First Dastoor Meherjirana Library, scrawled in the lithe, oblique hand of James Darmesteter, a French Orientalist, translator and scholar of Iranian philology and Zoroastrianism, dates back to January 1887. The son of a Jewish bookbinder, Darmesteter was elected chair of Iranian languages at the Collège de France in Paris in 1885. He travelled to India the next year to trace the origins of a few Pashto ballads. His 11-month-long itinerary included excursions to the Punjab, Peshawar and Abbottabad and brief halts in Bombay (now Mumbai) and Navsari. An article he wrote on Bombay’s oldest French library, Le Cercle Littéraire Bibliothèque Dinshaw Petit, located on Forbes Street (today V.B. Gandhi Marg in the Kala Ghoda precinct), published in Les Journal des Débats in November 1891, testifies to his visit to this thrumming commercial centre of colonial India. But what drew Darmesteter to Navsari, a sleepy town in Gujarat surrounded by chikoo plantations, about 250km from Bombay?

Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

Centre of learning

I first came to Navsari in 2015, looking for a house that had belonged to my paternal great-grandfather. The nationwide construction boom is visible here too as the town steadfastly embraces change—pastel-hued, one-storeyed houses with spacious otlas (porches) are now transforming into modest apartment blocks; grocery shops are making way for ritzy showrooms. When I went back in August this year, I made sure to stroll through the town, taking in the details—dense gulkand ice cream at the Yazdan Cold Drink House, the swathe of green that is Tata Baug, and the striking façade of the library on an arterial street.

It is believed that Parsi migrants settled in Navsari in the 12th century, some 400 years after their arrival on the shores of Sanjan. It is also believed that Navsari has the oldest existing fire temple outside of Iran, the Vadi Dar-e-Meher, consecrated between 1140-60—the exact date is contentious. It is revered as the most important centre of priestly learning in India, especially for those ceremonies that ordain priesthood. Navsari is so important to Parsis as a centre of learning, with the Vadi Dar-e-Meher being a key centre for initiation into priesthood, that in his Gujarati book Tawarikh-e-Navsari(1897), historian and sociologist Sorabji Mancherji Desai compares it to Oxford University.

James Darmesteter’s entry in the visitors’ book dated January 1887. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

James Darmesteter’s entry in the visitors’ book dated January 1887. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

The foundation of a library in this town of scholarship and erudition was perhaps only to be expected. The First Dastoor Meherjirana Library was established in 1872 in the town’s Dastoor Vad precinct, and is home to about 630 manuscripts written in Avesta, Gujarati, Pahlavi, Pazand, Persian, Sanskrit and Urdu. “Back then, it functioned as a kitab khana (or the space of a library-workshop; also known as khizana-al-kutub) where human and material resources were accumulated in order to manufacture manuscripts,” says Katy Antia, chairperson of the library’s board of trustees.

Katy Antia, chairperson of the library’s board of trustees (right), with Parinaz Gheewala, administrator. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

Katy Antia, chairperson of the library’s board of trustees (right), with Parinaz Gheewala, administrator. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

In 1872, Navsariwala Seth Burjor Bamanji Padam, a wealthy Parsi gentleman, gave Rs225 to construct the library. But soon there were too many books; a larger space was needed. In 1906, Jamshedji Kavasji Dastoor Meherji Rana gifted the building he owned in Tarota Bazaar, and the library still stands here today. An annexe was erected in 1967 after a donation of Rs16,000 by Seth Rustomji Hormusji Kolah. Kolah’s family were the original makers of the fêted brewed cane vinegar (sarko) and fish roe pickle (gharab nu achaar) that Navsari is known for. One of the outlets of the 132-year-old EF Kolah & Sons, in fact, is a stone’s throw from the library. In 2009, using funds from the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, a new building adjoining the existing structure was constructed. The library now has a reading room, a conference hall, accommodation for visiting scholars and a laboratory for the conservation of manuscripts. It was the second library in India to house important Zoroastrian manuscripts, founded 15 years after the establishment of the Mulla Feroze Library in Mumbai.

The upper level of the main reading room. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

The upper level of the main reading room. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

The library’s repository of manuscripts is impressive and wide-ranging—it includes sanads belonging to the Mughals; an Indo-Persian cookbook titled Kitab al Ma’qulat va’l Mashrubat; recipes from Unani medicine in Gujarati; Outlines Of Zend Grammar in Avestan; and copies of the 19th century illustrated and lithographed Shahnameh, a Persian epic by Firdausi first completed in 1010. It is also home to printed publications such as volumes of Parsee Prakash (see box), a record of the obituaries of prominent Parsis; the collected works of Friedrich Max Müller, including Chips From A German Workshop and India: What Can It Teach Us?; and parts of Harmsworth Popular Science, a British fortnightly on science and innovation first published in 1912. There are books on science, philosophy and popular literature, autobiographies and encyclopaedias. The library is often open until midnight, with students using the reading room free of charge. It is a space open to members of all communities.

The Meherjirana Library has attracted scholars from across the world—Australia, France, Germany, Iran, Japan, Spain, the UK and US. “We have hosted 56 scholars in the last six years,” says Antia. A three-day conference in January 2013 saw the library play host to scholars such as author Amitav Ghosh, historian and pedagogue Dinyar Patel and a researcher from the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, Anton Zykov, and was an occasion to showcase a selection of the meticulously conserved manuscripts. The library has also been working closely with Prof. Alberto Cantera and his team of researchers at the University of Salamanca, Spain, to digitize important Avestan manuscripts through the Avestan Digital Project (see box).

The story of its name

The name of the library can be traced to one of the manuscripts it holds, the Mahyarnama, a versified Persian biography of Meherji Rana. A boy named Mahyar Vacha, later known as Meherji Rana, was born in Navsari in 1514. Adopted into the lineage of the Bhagaria group of Parsi-Zoroastrian priests of his paternal uncle Vaccha Jesang, Meherji Rana soon won recognition for his devoutness. According to a translation of the Mahyarnama, an excerpt of which appears on the official website of the library, “Meherji Rana was chosen by the Mughal governor at Surat to have an audience with the Emperor Akbar…During his stay at the court from 1578-79 AD, Meherji Rana impressed the emperor so much that according to the Mughal historian ’Abd al-Qadir al-Bada’uni, the Emperor ordered his vizier Abul Fazl to keep a fire burning day and night at the court. Meherji Rana thwarted the sorcery of a Hindu priest named Jagatguru, who had caused a plate to ascend into the sky, appearing like a second sun. Before Meherji Rana left court he was given a land grant by the Emperor, in an area called Ghelkhadi, near Navsari.”

A restored ‘firman’ in the library. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

A restored ‘firman’ in the library. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

firman or sanad (deed) was issued under Akbar’s seal and signed by Abul Fazl. Today, it sits framed in the administrative office of the library. Restored with the support of the New Delhi-based Parzor Foundation, first initiated by UNESCO New Delhi in 1999 for the preservation of Parsi-Zoroastrian heritage, it was on display at the exhibition Threads Of Continuity: Zoroastrian Life And Culture, held at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA) in New Delhi in March last year.

Upon his return to Navsari, Meherji Rana was accepted as the head priest (vada dastur). There began a priestly lineage that continues today: On 25 January 2010, Kaikhushroo Navroze Dastoor was chosen as the 17th Dastoor Meherji Rana, and currently serves as the head priest.

The Atash Behram (fire temple) in Navsari. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

The Atash Behram (fire temple) in Navsari. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

A stately structure in cadet blue and white, the library is located a short distance from the Atash Behram (fire temple). A flight of stairs leads to the main reading room, where empty chaises longues dot the periphery. In the afternoon, the space sinks into sepulchral silence, save for the rare cry of a hawker ferrying wood apples and sweet-and-tart carambola (kamrakh) on a pushcart down the street. The air is filled with the musky scent of leather-bound covers. A wrought iron spiral staircase in one corner leads to more cupboards chock-full of books. A member of the staff arranges well-thumbed dailies on a pigeon-hole wall shelf. Students pore over tomes to prepare for entrance examinations, patrons go through newspapers with hawk eyes.

Ervad Rustomji Padsha Antia, one of the oldest residents of Navsari, at his 100-year-old house in Tarota Bazaar. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

Ervad Rustomji Padsha Antia, one of the oldest residents of Navsari, at his 100-year-old house in Tarota Bazaar. Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

Keeping up with the past

In 1923, the library commissioned Ervad Bamanji Nasarwanji Dhabar, a scholar of Zoroastrian studies and Avestan and Pahlavi, to catalogue the collection. They had 469 manuscripts. This was titled “Descriptive Catalogue Of All Manuscripts In The First Dastur Meherji Rana Library”, Navsari, known colloquially as “Dhabar’s Catalogue”. In 2008, a comprehensive catalogue of all the manuscripts received after 1923 was compiled by Firoze Kotwal, a community scholar-priest and adviser to the Unesco-Parzor Foundation project of manuscript conservation, Daniel Sheffield, a postdoctoral fellow and scholar from Princeton University, and Bharti Gandhi, the librarian at the time. They listed the 157 manuscripts that had been acquired over 85 years.

“The collection of manuscripts was built gradually as a result of contributions by various families and individuals from Navsari and elsewhere,’’ says Antia. Several manuscripts were donated by the Meherjirana family itself. The largest was by Dastoor Erachji Sorabji Meherjirana (1826-1900), a descendant of Mahyar and a remarkable scholar who mastered the art of writing Persian manuscripts by hand at a young age. He was appointed librarian at the Mulla Feroze Library in the early 1860s, and simultaneously assigned the task of copying a number of manuscripts in Avestan, Gujarati and Persian. According to Kotwal’s paper, A Treasury Of Zoroastrian Manuscripts: The First Dastoor Meherjirana Library, Navsari (2011), Dastoor Erachji not only made copies for the Mulla Feroze Library but for himself as well. When he donated his collection to the Meherjirana Library, there were more than 75 manuscripts in his own hand. He is also recognized for having compiled the first Pahlavi-Gujarati dictionary in 1869. More recently, the holdings of the library have been further enriched by the acquisition of manuscripts from families living in Mumbai, from Kotwal’s collection, as well as from non-resident Indians.

The exactitude of the “makers” of Zoroastrian manuscripts—the calligrapher, illustrator and binder—was of prime importance at each stage of creation. The same importance can be extended to the role of the conservator. The important manuscripts conserved at the library by the INTACH Conservation Institute, Lucknow, include two illustrated volumes of the Shahnameh, the Sikandar Nameh of the Persian poet Nizami, Jamaspi manuscripts in Gujarati, a Persian vanshavali (genealogical chart), and several firmans.

First undertaken in February 2006, INTACH’s ongoing conservation of rare manuscripts was planned in phases. A temporary climate-controlled laboratory was set up inside the library annexe. Twenty-five phases of curative conservation have since been completed, and 88,417 folios restored. Around 698 objects, including firmans, scrolls (one is 18ft long), vanshavalis, oil paintings and photographs were given a new lease of life.

Mamta Mishra, director of the institute, says: “The main problem was posed by the fugitive inks used and the charred effect of the iron gall ink, which is acidic in nature. The iron gall ink is initially black in colour but on ageing, chars, turns brown, and gets transferred on the rear side of the paper.” The most common causes of wear and tear, according to Mishra, are deposition of dust and dirt on the paper, brittleness due to acidity, warping and abrasion of the folios, and ink stains. Fungus growth and infestation by insects take a toll too. Defective repair using acidic paper too leaves splodges of adhesive on the folios. The pages are very delicate—there is a fearful crackle of paper; it crinkles at the slightest touch.

Yet the greatest challenge comes from the climate, which prompted the microfilming of almost 90,000 pages, a project funded by the Parzor Foundation. Other donors include the FE Dinshaw Trust, the Pirojsha Godrej Foundation and the World Zoroastrian Organisation Trust.

Membership of the library has grown. It currently has about 400 members, 100 of them lifetime members. The fee is modest—Rs240 for an year-long membership, and Rs5,000 for lifetime membership.

Acquiring funds is a recurrent challenge faced by the library, but its operation and upkeep are far from the bureaucratic malaise that plagues similar institutions in the country, owing to the dedication of trustees and staff. “There is endless conservation work to be done and more manuscripts await treatment,” says Mishra. “They are then beneficial to the research scholars who visit the library from time to time.”

Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

‘Parsee Prakash’

Born in Bombay in 1849, Bomanji Byramjee Patel collected newspaper cuttings of major events in the Parsi community of Bombay and the world. When he died in 1908, it is believed he left behind about 200 scrapbooks of cuttings. But a few benevolent Parsis had recognized its archival value earlier. They helped Patel establish a periodical that would eventually become a vital source of reference for the general public. It was named ‘Parsee Prakash’, and comprised unabridged obituaries of members of the community; letters drafted by renowned Parsis; government deeds; and even the eloquent writings of itinerant travellers. While the first volume, comprising 11 parts, was published in 1888, the second was put together after his death by his wife. Thereafter, Rustam Barjorji Paymaster, a Mumbai-based scholar and poet, was hired to edit and compile volumes (3-7), published by 1942. Following Paymaster’s death in 1943, efforts were made to renew the periodical, and by 1973, another four volumes were published, recording events until 1962. It is believed that an additional volume (12) served as a comprehensive index to the entire set. Most of the volumes are at present at the Meherjirana Library, the KR Cama Oriental Institute in Mumbai, and the library of the Bombay Parsi Panchayat.

Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint

Conservation of the KhordehAvesta from 1601

he INTACH restoration process salvaged a copy of the Khordeh Avesta, a prized manuscript of the library that is over 400 years old. The team from the department of preservation at the Royal Library in Copenhagen, Denmark, led by conservator Hanne Karin Serensen and book-binder Hanna Munch Christensen, received it in two volumes: one comprising 299 folios, and the other, 250 folios. Handwritten in red and black ink, it was partially restored by the late Nicholas Hadgraft in Cambridge, UK. The text arrived in Copenhagen in poor condition—the manuscript was unbound, the pages yellowing and infested. The red ink had corroded in portions, and the paper was prone to foxing, or the appearance of reddish-brown rusty blotches.

The restoration process

■Strips of thin Japanese paper were used to secure the insect-damaged parts

■ The adhesives were chosen to suit a warmer climate. In some places, wheat starch was used to create stronger bonds.

■ The loose pages were rejoined with strips of paper from both sides, the quires gathered and sewn together.

■ The book block was sewn on and woven with cotton-linen tape, and the sewing thread used was a linen yarn from Sweden.

■ The spine was glued with synthetic adhesive Evacon-R.

■ The end bands were made by hand and sewn with linen thread on a thin rope, followed by a piece of tape to further strengthen the structure.

■ Preparation of the leather cover involved paring with a hand-knife, to make the edges thin enough for a gathering which appears as discrete as possible.

■ The box was lined with cotton flannel, the spine covered in the same leather as the cover, and the lid and sides dressed with red-coloured bookbinders’ cloth.

The manuscript is now nestled in a cabinet under the watchful gaze of the librarian. It is available on request, and one is expected to wear a pair of gloves while leafing through its painstakingly restored pages.

Khorshed Deboo


World’s First Octacore Quantum Processor for use in Medical Devices & Health Care Systems


SystemX Research Centre, California announces the official launch of the World’s First Octacore Quantum Processor for use in Medical Devices & Health Care Systems.

CALIFORNIA – 13 September 2017 – Dr. Roozan Bharucha’s sole handed innovation that
was heavily in conversation all over the Medical Industry has finally taken its major leap at

(L-R) QRoz QTO 6 Microprosessor, QRoz 120 Socket, Dr. Roozan Bharucha (The Innovator), Dr. Prachi Tejpal (The Presentor)

The SystemX Research Centre Press Meet, California with the announcement of the
launch of The World’s First Octacore Quantum Processor (6 Qbits) for usage in Medical
Devices and Health Care Systems.

Dr. Neel Weber, The Chief Technical Officer, SystemX Research Centre, California said, “The
World’s first Octacore Quantum Processor with 6 Qbits has been rigorously tested and
certified for safe usage in all kinds of medical devices and health care systems including the
ones which require implanting the device in the patient’s body. This Quantum Processor will
not be used with Personal Computers and Communication Equipment as its design and
specifications have been drafted for its use in Medical Devices and Health Care Systems. This
Quantum Processor has been named as QRoz QTO 6 where Roz stands for its innovation by
the sole handed efforts of our Hon. Research Scientist Dr. Roozan Bharucha, Q and QT stands
for Quantum Technology, O stands for Octacore Processing Technology and 6 stands for 6
QBits. Our next step will be to use this Quantum Chip in AI-Prosthetic Devices as
demonstrated earlier by using just 1.2 Qbit Quantum Single Core Chipsets and replacing them
prior to launch with this great awaited chipset assembly and soft code language.”
After the brief address of Dr. Neel Weber, the brief exploration of the processor and its
features was given by Dr. Prachi Tejpal, Senior Research Scientist & Expert Neurologist,
SystemX Research Centre. Shee said, “The new processor based on Quantum Technology
QRoz QTO 6 is the first of its kind High Frequency Quantum Core Signal Process Agent which
has 8 cores and each of that core has the capability to register data up to 6 QBits which is
beneficial for core to advanced High End Medical Devices or Health Care Systems.” To brief up
his proceedings, the following are the features of this advanced hi-tech processor assembly
designed for Health Care Equipments as laid down by SystemX Research Centre’s Senior
Research Scientist, Dr. Prachi Tejpal during their Press Meet in California:

Processor Technology: Quantum Core where each core is designed based on the
Quantum Mechanical & Electronic Technology and processed using hi – calibrated
Nano chips for stable and safe results and extra strong durability under adverse

Cores (Subprocessors): 8 where each subprocessor or core is capable to handle 6
QBits of input – output data stream making it superfast and comparable to the
advanced processing ranges of the Super Computers.

Core Capacity: 6 QBits per Core where each core is capable to handle 6 QBits of input
– output data to be processed in 0.1 nanoseconds.

Chip Version: AI Ver 1.53E where 1.53E is the Artificial Intelligence database version
which handles various human body movements based on natural senses and nerve
reflexes in equivalent timings of a normal human movement.

Level: Artificial Intelligence Gradient 4 Version RBA 1.0 where AIG 4.0 version RBA 1.0
is the graphic intelligence factor replicated as per the normal pixel shade rating for
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SystemX Research Centre – PR Department

About SystemX
SystemX Research Centre provides artificially intelligent and quantum computing based
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Parsis collect Rs 15 lakh in 7 days for man who lost limbs

After WZOT and this paper appeals donors to help 46-year-old who lost his legs in a train accident, Parsis come forward to foot medical bill and get him prosthetics

Aspi Sepoy

The Zoroastrian community across the world has opened its heart, and purse, for Aspi Sepoy, 46, who suffered an accident on September 15 when his legs got stuck in the gutter between the train and platform. Now that funds are in place, doctors treating Sepoy have identified a German firm that will be approached to make the prosthetic limbs for him.

Udvada station inGujarat, where the incident occurred, is known to have caused commuters injuries due to the wide gap between halting trains and the platform.

Less than a week after the World Zoroastrian Organisation Trust (WZOT) appealed to the Zoroastrian community across the world to help Sepoy, and mid-day published his story, generous donors came forward to raise Rs 15 lakh for the Navsari resident to get back on his feet. According to sources, of the Rs 15 lakh raised by WZOT, Rs 10 lakh will be used to procure a pair of prosthetic limbs.

Platform raising work on at Udvada station where the accident occurred on September 15Platform raising work on at Udvada station where the accident occurred on September 15

Generous community

Sepoy was working as caretaker of the Zoroastrian Information Centre in Udvada since it was established in 2008. On September 15, Sepoy was dragged into the gutter between platform and train when he tried to board a moving train at Udvada station. mid-day reported the incident in its September 20 edition, highlighting how he had lost both his legs in the accident.

On the same day, Dinshaw Tamboly, chairman of WZOT, appealed to the Parsi community via a letter, asking them to come forward and donate money to cover Sepoy’s hospital bills, as well as to contribute for prosthetic legs. This, coupled with the appeal mid-day published, ensured the news travelled wide.

 As of September 25, WZOT has raised around R15 lakh. Tamboly says more donations are expected over the next few days. “The Zoroastrian charity funds of Hong Kong and Macau, which are the wealthiest in the world, contributed R3 lakh for the cause, while WZOT contributed another Rs 2 lakh. The remaining sum came from individual donors. We are very fortunate to have community members respond so generously and within this short a period of time,” Tamboly told mid-day.

He said that excess funds would be used to set up a fixed deposit for Sepoy. “In the meantime, we are going to continue his salary while he is in hospital, and ensure that he has his job once he is back.”

Dinshaw TamboliDinshaw Tamboli

Prosthetic leg trial soon
Top orthopaedic surgeon Dr Jamshed Bunshah, who is treating Sepoy at Parsi General Hospital and conducted an above-the-knee amputation, said that his condition is stable. “Before we operated on him, he was running a high fever, but that is under control now,” said Dr Bunshah. Sepoy is expected to be kept under observation for three weeks. Once the wound has healed, Dr Bunshah will work on the prosthetics. He shared that German firm Endolite had been approached to make the prosthetics. “They make the best prosthetics in the world. Only once Sepoy has healed, will we examine and decide which type of limb will suit him best,” he said.

Speaking about the rehabilitation process that Sepoy is undergoing, Dr Bunshaw said, “If the wound heals within the next few weeks, we will begin with general strengthening exercises. But what we have to be careful about is that the infection does not persist after the prosthetic leg fitting is done.”

Tamboly said that Sepoy has been making good progress since the amputation, and his spirit is up. “He has accepted what happened and has moved on.”



In a small, air-conditioned room in Hong Kong’s busy Causeway Bay area, behind a framed, larger-than-life portrait of Parsi merchant Jamsetji Jeejeebhoy, there is talk of dhansak.

Homyar Nasirabadwala is speaking of the fortnightly dinners organized on the middle floors of the Zoroastrian Building for the city’s 200-odd-strong Parsi community.

Resident priest Nasirabadwala, 62, explains that there are two chefs from India—one of them Parsi—who live and work in this building. They organize the lavish multi-course dinners dished out. Around 40 or 50 Parsis show up on each occasion.

There are no Parsi restaurants in the city, but here, lagan nu custard, patra ni machchi, and sali boti are all on the menu. “We love to eat and drink,” he says.

Do the chefs make a mean dhansak? “Of course,” he says. “They wouldn’t be here if they didn’t.”

Nasirabadwala is that delightful man of god with a devilish sense of humour. A slim gent in a black topi and a collared T-shirt, he is sitting behind a desk that has a copy of the weekly community newspaper, the Jam-e-Jamshed, and a Zoroastrian calendar.

Homyar Nasirabadwala is that delightful man of god with a devilish sense of humour. Photo: Bhavya Dore

Nasirabadwala is a transplant from Mumbai and one of a handful of full-time Parsi priests working outside India—there is one in London and perhaps one or two in Pakistan. The diaspora in other countries, such as the US and Canada, usually has other professionals who help out with priestly duties on a part-time basis.

On the fourth floor hall of this building, bearing a prominent image of the Faravahar, the religion’s symbol, he looks after a fire temple—more a prayer hall really—and attends to other tasks of the Association. He administers to the spiritual needs of the community, oversees religious functions and works on creating a broad awareness about the community in the city.

Nasirabadwala has been here since 2009, when the previous priest left to return to India, taking on the duties of a full-time priest for the first time. He had earlier been ordained as a 12-year-old, working part-time before leaving his corporate job and moving to Hong Kong.

There was an advertisement in the Parsi papers from the Incorporated Trustees of the Zoroastrian Charity Funds of Hong Kong, Canton and Macao, seeking a priest for the city. He wrote in and got the job.

Since he arrived, he has officiated at two weddings, four navjotes (a ceremony of induction into the community), two purification ceremonies for new mothers and 10 funeral services.

“This is a big responsibility,” he says. “It requires all my attention and I am on the job 24/7.”

The Parsi community in Hong Kong has always been slight in numbers but massive in impact. Businessman and philanthropist Hormusjee Nowrojee Mody helped found the Kowloon Cricket Club and made an important donation to get the Hong Kong University up and running.

In 1888, Dorabjee Naorjee Mithaiwala founded the major ferry service, the Star Ferry, connecting two of the islands. Two Parsis were part of the original group that helped set up the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank.

By some accounts, exchange between the Chinese and Zoroastrians from Persia go back to the sixth century, when Zoroastrian merchants traded with the Chinese empire. There is even some evidence of fire temples having been set up in parts of China.

But modern-day connections came with the advent of the British Empire, and Parsi merchants began arriving in east Asia from India in the 18th century, moving through Canton, Macau and Shanghai and flourishing in the spices, silk, opium and tea trades.

Though there were some that continued to stay in China, almost nothing of the community remains now on the mainland.

In Hong Kong, on the other hand, the dwindling community has managed to keep the spirit of the faith alive. “It all depends on the community and the people,” says Nasirabadwala. “They wanted someone and had the resources.”

In Hong Kong, the Parsis have had their own cemetery since 1852—rather than the traditional method of disposal via the towers of silence—where 194 people have been buried and the first grave goes back to 1858.

Nasirabadwala explains that the rituals he performs are virtually unchanged; the same prayers are uttered, and the body washed. The dog of the cemetery caretaker is pressed into action for “sagdid”, or the ritual of relying on a dog to reconfirm that the body is indeed dead. The only difference is that, here, other Parsis volunteer as pall-bearers in the absence of professional ones.

At navjotes, the tradition of sipping nirang, or consecrated bull’s urine, is not in practice here. Instead, pomegranate juice is given to the children.

The prayer hall has a fire burning all hours of day and night; a slight flame stoked by sandalwood in a room surrounded by portraits of the prophet. It is what is described as an “Atash Dadgah”, since it hosts a “grade three” fire, or one that has not been consecrated (most of the ones outside Iran and the Subcontinent are Atash Dadgahs).

Non-Parsis are allowed in this space. “It is a bit more liberal,” he says.

Like everyone else in the community, Nasirabadwala is also concerned about the declining numbers of Parsis worldwide. “We know it is a worrying factor,” he says. “We are encouraging young people to get married early. There might be a change in later years.”

But whatever happens before that, there will be dhansak. Last month, there were celebrations for the 100th birthday of a Parsi resident of Hong Kong. The twice-monthly dinners will continue.

The bar is stocked and the kitchen staff is busy preparing. “We joke that in the Parsi community there is no fasting, only feasting,” he says. “We go all out.”

When asked about the highlights of his time in Hong Kong and what he will remember when he returns to India, he pauses to think for a minute. “The vibrancy and tolerance of the city,” he says.

Oh, and one other thing: the “dim sums”.

Bhavya Dore is a Mumbai-based freelance journalist.

Comments are welcome at feedback@livemint.com

Uncover Mumbai’s most loved community this weekend through Dadar Parsi colony trail

This weekend, take a break from Ganpati pandal-hopping and set out on a walk through the Dadar Parsi Colony, which is home to heritage structures, leafy bylanes and one of Mumbai’s most loved communities
What makes the Dadar Parsi Colony so special? How did it end up becoming the largest Zoroastrian enclave in the world? Who lives here now? Learn all there is to know about this locality, which is sandwiched between Matunga’s Five Gardens and Wadala’s BeST bus depot, with a free guided walk this weekend.

Organised by Sahapedia, an open online resource on the arts, cultures and heritage of India, the walk will be led by Vimala MV. “The idea is to understand the Parsi community better and look beyond the stereotypes. The walk will be filled with fun trivia and interesting facts about the colony and community,” she says.

On: August 27, 9 am to 10.45 am 
Meeting point: Outside Cafe Madras, King’s Circle, Matunga.
To: register
Log on to: goo.gl/xiUMM1 
Call: 9886687912

Heritage buildings
According to architect Kamu Iyer, most buildings in the Dadar Parsi Colony were designed by architects, unlike the nearby Hindu Colony, where structures were commissioned to contractors. This is why most of the structures in the former were different – ahead of their time and planned for a western style of living. Several of these buildings are used as settings for period dramas. Among the movies recently shot in the locality are Raees, Rustom and Special 26.

Cafe 792
Although shut on Sundays, this little café run by a Parsi is a great snack stop if you happen to be in the area on any other day. Grab a quick bite – they stock sandwiches, wraps, puffs, desserts and more – and sip on a cup of piping hot coffee while you’re at it. They also have a daily meal menu, offering traditional Parsi eats such as Dhansak, Kaju Chicken, Patra Prawns, and more.

Time: 10.30 am to 8 pm (Sundays closed) 
At: 792, Dina Manzil Outhouse, Jam-e-Jamshed Road
Call: 9619585792

The bust of mancherji joshi
The construction of the Dadar Parsi Colony in the 1920s was a response to the outbreak of plague in the island city, and an attempt to get members of the community to move to the suburbs. The man responsible for the planned layout of the area is Mancherji Joshi, who was an architect with the Bombay Improvement Trust. Every aspect, from how tall the buildings could be, to what kind of trees could be planted in the locality, was taken care of by Joshi himself. Although you won’t be visiting his home, where his granddaughter Zarine Engineer continues to live, you can stop to admire his bust, located at the entrance to the colony.

Rustom faramna agiary
This 88-year-old fire temple is named in honour of hotelier and philanthropist Rustom Faramna, who built it when he realised there was no place of worship for members of the community residing in the colony. When he passed away, the management of the agiary fell to his brother-in-law, and it is now managed by a board of trustees, which includes Faramna’s descendents. At this agiary, you will find an exhaustive record of every single person who has lived in the Parsi Colony since its establishment. The agiary was given a facelift on its 75th anniversary.

‘It was the start of middle class housing’

Simin Patel, Founder, Bombaywalla
The Dadar Parsi Colony is fascinating for many reasons. It marked the beginning of affordable housing in the city for the middle class, and today, it houses the largest concentration of Parsis. The way other communities can interact with the space differentiates it from other Parsi baugs, which are gated.

‘Its exclusivity is what makes it unique’

Kamu Iyer, Architect
The locality has managed to retain its structures and look thanks to the conservative nature of the Parsi community, which shielded the colony from redevelopment. A British-era covenant ensures that even today, most of the houses here can only be owned by or rented out to Parsis.

By ShraddhaUchil