Category Archives: Miscellaneous

How citizens helped make Dadar Parsi Colony streets disabled friendly

NEED FOR MUMBAI INFRASTRUCTURE TO BE DISABLED FRIENDLY

I am a resident of Dadar Parsi Colony in Mumbai with cerebral palsy. I’ve been using a motorised wheelchair for the past two years. Before that, I used elbow crutches, but a nerve compression in my spine forced me to make the shift to a wheelchair. While a wheelchair could mean more independence to move around, I quickly realised that most of Mumbai’s roads were not accessible to me. The dangerous conditions of road travel in the city made it difficult for me to do basic chores like going to the grocery store, chemist, bank, or visit public spaces recreationally.

My conversations with my physiotherapist, Dr. Unnati Shelar, on inaccessibility in Mumbai, developed into action. In July 2021, we decided to visit several authorities  hat could potentially support us. At first, we tried to contact Amey Ghole, the area corporator, whom I knew personally. We were attempting to execute this initiative when the pandemic was at its peak, so it wasn’t a surprise that we didn’t receive a response, and decided instead to move on. The next stop was the BMC ward office. This time, we were accompanied by another active citizen, Kersi Ujwala.

 

We reached the ward office after only a brief call with the officer’s personal assistant, who was informed of my condition and why we were asking for better infrastructure in our area. We made a few more trips to the offices after that, each time bringing more documentation of inaccessible streets and encouraging healthy conversations on solutions.

Within a month of the meeting, without any follow up, the work started in my neighbourhood. I was sent an acknowledgement of footpaths named, and our initiative landed us new ramps and railings. As of last week, after a few trials and initial mistakes rectified, we have successfully made the entire lane adjacent to my building, disabled-friendly, with smoother footpaths, ramps and railings wherever required.

inaccessible footpaths
Footpaths before the accessibility project. Photo – Siddharth Mhatre
smooth ramps for wheelchairs
Footpaths after prompt action. Photo – Siddharth Mhatre

The proactive nature of the operation came as a surprise. Without any prior appointments, we were heard, and promises were fulfilled. Recently, I got a call from a BJP corporator of Matunga, Hindu Colony, saying they wanted to take up an accessibility project in their area.

Problems still arise. Somebody will park their bike on the footpath or slope, a trashcan will be kept on a narrow footpath, blocking the whole road. While we managed to address the problem in infrastructure, we still have a long way to go with citizens. For now, we have decided to put handicapped logos on all the accessibility ramps. We’re hoping this will make a difference.

 

How citizens helped make Dadar Parsi Colony streets disabled friendly

Yazdi Desai passes away

Ex-Chairman of BPP Mr. Yazdi Desai has passed away.
We pray that at this difficult time may Ahura Mazda give his wife Anahita Desai the strength and courage to bear this irreversible loss .
Garothman behest hojo ji.

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Former Chairman of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet (BPP) Yazdi Desai was ailing since quite sometime.
In a way his passing away today on 2nd November 2021 has put an end to his physical suffering.
He loved the community dearly and gave of his time, talent and money most generously.
He served the BPP first as trustee from 2008 to 2015 and from October 2015 onward as chairman.
He discharged his fiduciary duties with passion and diligence.
As trustee, I often differed with him on ideological issues but never doubted his genuine zeal to do good for the community.
He worked tirelessly and selflessly balancing his professional life with the onerous responsibility he carried as Chairman of BPP.
He worked till late in the night, burning the candle of his life at both ends.
Always well dressed with a tie and well groomed hair, he was courteous and helpful to all those who sought his help.
May his devoted and loving wife Anahita find the strength and courage to bear his loss.
Farewell Yazdi. You will be missed by many but Anahita will continue to carry your legacy of service to the community forward.
Noshir H Dadrawala

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When we heard the news about the passing away of Yazdi Hosi Desai, the words of the American singer, songwriter, novelist, humorist, politician and former columnist for Texas Monthly – Kinky Friedman, came to mind. Friedman famously said, “Find what you love and let it kill you. Let it drain you of your all. Let it cling onto your back and weigh you down into eventual nothingness. Let it kill you and let it devour your remains. For all things will kill you, both slowly and quickly, but it’s much better to be killed by what you love“.

One could say Yazdi died for what he loved so dearly – the community, the religion and the BPP. His passion to do good burned the candle of his life at both ends!

He had dedicated the last two decades of his life to the community and his passion made him obsessive enough to consume him mentally, emotionally and physically. As Trustee and later as Chairman of the Bombay Parsi Punchayet, he took proactive steps to root out inefficiency and corruption from this August institution.

As Chairman of the Federation of Parsi Zoroastrian Anjumans of India (FPZAI), he was much respected and loved by various Anjumans, especially in Gujarat.

When Yazdi contested the BPP elections for the first time, he lost. But there is no dishonor in losing any race or contest. There is only dishonor in not racing or contesting out of fear of losing. Yazdi was persistent and in 2008 he was elected as trustee and in October 2015 he won for the second time and was appointed Chairman of BPP.

It’s true that Yazdi genuinely loved the Parsi Zoroastrian community. He believed in the religion of Zarathushtra even more deeply. He regarded our High Priests with reverence and often used to say that since our scholar High Priests have dedicated their lives to the study of the religion, we, as a community should follow whatever they say without questioning their religious knowledge or wisdom. He cared deeply for all mobed sahebs, especially those serving in mofussil areas.

In May 2005, along with Industrialist – Areez P. Khambatta, Renowned Scholar – Khojeste P. Mistree, Tax Expert – Homi P. Ranina, Former Vice Chancellor of Bombay University – Dr. Mehroo D. Bengalee, Chartered Accountant – Hoshang N. Wania and Social Worker – Jamshed J. Mohta, Yazdi Desai formed the ‘World Alliance of Parsi Irani Zarthoshtis’ (WAPIZ), with the aim to strengthen the voice of Parsi Zoroastrian tradition and to protect and preserve the unique Parsi Irani Zarthoshti identity.

Today WAPIZ is a household name, thanks to the effort put in by Yazdi and his beloved and devoted wife – Anahita, working with him shoulder-to-shoulder. When WAPIZ celebrated its second anniversary at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse, over 2,500 Parsis, including High Priests and priests turned up to express unity and solidarity. WAPIZ encourages home industry by organizing sale of Parsi house-hold items twice a year at Cama Baug. This event is much sought after by both Parsi consumers and entrepreneurs.

While Yazdi is known more for his involvement with the Parsis, professionally he joined Writer Corporation as an Accounts Assistant in the year 1984. His previous experience included working with AF Ferguson & Co, Chartered Accountants. At Writer Corporation, Legal, Taxation and Corporate Governance were Yazdi’s prime responsibilities though he was actively involved in virtually every area of Writer Group’s finance and administration. He was also a Trustee of Kripa Foundation devoted to the prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts.

In April 2020, he suffered from a massive stroke and while he initially recovered well, his general health continued to deteriorate, culminating in his passing away on 2nd November, 2021, which happened to be Fravardin Roj of Mah Khordad, as per the Shehenshahi Zoroastrian calendar. Fravardin is dedicated to the Guardian Holy Spirit (Fravahar) and Khordad embodies the essence of Ahura Mazda’s perfection.

Yazdi was always neat and clean in his personal habits. He was impeccably well-groomed and dressed immaculately. He was a patient listener and he would spend several hours every week either at the BPP or at WAPIZ, listening to grievances of community members and offering solutions, wherever and whenever possible. He was generous to a fault and gave freely of his time, talent and wealth.

Like all Parsis, he was fond of good food and had a sweet tooth. While he was gentle and courteous to all, he would often get impatient with those trying to take advantage of his goodness. He had a short-temper but at the same time, he was also forgiving and had the courage to own up whenever wrong or misled.

The huge turnout at his funeral on 3rd November, 2021, at Doongerwadi bore testimony to his huge popularity. The staff of BPP and Writer Corporation, as also several well-wishers paid a tearful farewell to their friend and leader.

They say, the things we do outlast our mortality. The things we do are like monuments that people build to honor leaders after they are no more. They’re like the pyramids that the Egyptians built to honor the Pharaohs. Only instead of being made of stone, they’re made of the memories people have of the leader. Yazdi and his good deeds will remain alive in the individual and collective memory of lives that he touched for a long time to come.

Our heart goes out to Yazdi’s wife – Anahita. To say she was his ‘better-half’ would be an understatement. Whatever Yazdi was and became, was thanks largely to Anahita, who was his true friend and ‘soulmate’ – always doting on him, supportive and encouraging in good times or difficult times! She is a strong woman with a soft heart.

Anahita loved Yazdi dearly. One could say, among Yazdi’s blessings in life was having a spouse as loyal and loving as Anahita. We know she is heart-broken and therefore it may be apt for us to conclude with a verse by Mary Hall:

If I should die, and leave you here a while,

Be not like others sore undone,

Who keep long vigils by the silent dust and weep.

For my sake, turn again to life, and smile,

Nerving thy heart, and trembling hand to do

Something to comfort weaker hearts than thine,

Complete these dear unfinished tasks of mine,

And I, perchance, may therein comfort you!

Noshir H Dadrawala

Yazdi H. Desai: A Tribute

$4.7 million allocated to UNESCO-designated Pasargadae

A budget of 200 billion rials has been allocated to Pasargadae after President Ebrahim Raisi visited the Achaemenid site earlier in October, a senior tourism official, Javad Vahedi, said on Friday.

“The Pasargadae complex, as a magnificent World Heritage site, has a high tourism potential in the field of cultural and historical tourism, and we must plan to attract more tourists,” the official explained.

Situated about 50 km north of Persepolis, Pasargadae was the first dynastic capital of the Achaemenid Empire, founded by Cyrus II the Great, in Pars, the homeland of the Persians, in the 6th century BC.

Its palaces, gardens, and the mausoleum of Cyrus are outstanding examples of the first phase of royal Achaemenid art and architecture and exceptional testimonies of Persian civilization.

The UNESCO World Heritage site is also home to a complex water supply system for the time that comprises cisterns, tunnels, underground canals, and ducts, which are locally known as qanats.

It is believed that the development of qanats began about 2,500 or 3,000 years ago in Persia (Iran), and the technology spread eastward to Afghanistan and westward to Egypt. Although new qanats are seldom built today, many old qanats are still used in Iran and Afghanistan, chiefly for irrigation.

The 160-ha archaeological site of Pasargadae presents some of the earliest manifestations of Persian art and architecture. It includes, among other monuments, the compact limestone tomb on the Morgab plain that once held Cyrus the Great’s gilded sarcophagus; Tall-e Takht (“Solomon’s Throne”), a great fortified platform built on a hill and later incorporated into a sprawling citadel with substantial mud-brick defenses; and the royal ensemble, which consists of several palaces originally located within a garden layout (the so-called “Four Gardens”). Pasargadae became a prototype for the Persian Garden concept of four quadrants formally divided by waterways or pathways, its architecture characterized by refined details and slender verticality.

Pasargadae stands as an exceptional witness to the Achaemenid civilization. The vast Achaemenid Empire, which extended from the eastern Mediterranean and Egypt to the Hindus River in India, is considered the first empire to be characterized by a respect for the cultural diversity of its peoples. This respect was reflected in the royal Achaemenid architecture, which became a synthesized representation of the empire’s different cultures. Pasargadae represents the first phase of this development into a specifically Persian architecture which later found its full expression in the city of Persepolis.

https://www.tehrantimes.com/news/466456/4-7-million-allocated-to-UNESCO-designated-Pasargadae

Our Very Own Episode 5 – Wings

Mazda Multimedia is pleased to present for your viewing pleasure the Fifth Episode of “Our Very Own” Series.
This episode tells us about how 3 teenagers along with their organising committee came together to host events which took the community by surprise and today its one of the biggest and most elaborate sporting and cultural event in the community.

Parsi community calls on govt to preserve cemetery in Rawalpindi

Illegal sale of land and encroachers have reduced centuries old #ParsiCemetery in Rawalpindi to half its area, says former lawmaker Isphanyar Bhandara, calling on the Punjab government to declare it a heritage site.

 

By Rehan Piracha – https://voicepk.net/2021/09/parsi-community-calls-on-govt-to-preserve-cemetery-in-rawalpindi/


LAHORE

A former lawmaker from the Parsi minority community has called on the Punjab government to protect the community’s 150-year old cemetery in Rawalpindi from land grab and declare it a national heritage site.

The Parsi cemetery on the Murree Road in Rawalpindi has been eclipsed by the New Jewellery Market, Isphanyar Bhandara, president of Parsi Union of Rawalpindi, tells Voicepk.net in an exclusive interview.

“The cemetery is built on a scenic and beautiful place but unfortunately it has been reduced to less than half its area in the last two decades,” Bhandara says. The Parsi cemetery had an area of 25 Kanals but illegal sale of land and encroachment has reduced the graveyard’s total area to 7 to 8 Kanals now, he adds. A grave of Behram Jee Hormas Jee Boca, who died in 1860, is also part of the cemetery. Bhandara’s late father MP Bhandara, also a former lawmaker, is buried here.

The former lawmaker laments that a former office-bearer of the Parsi Union illegally had illegally sold off half of the cemetery’s land in 2005. According to him, land earmarked for a graveyard cannot be sold or utilized for another purpose without the permission of the Auqaf Department.

In addition, the cemetery is facing threats of further encroachment of land from residents of neighbouring buildings. “Our neighbours who should respect sanctity of the Parsi graveyard are instead trying to encroach upon one-and-half Kanals of open land earmarked for future graves of the Parsi community members,” he says. These residents have built windows on the side of the cemetery and trying to turn the open space into a passage way, he explains.

Bhandara says the Parsi union has gone to court to prevent further encroachment on the land belonging to the cemetery. “It’s unfortunate that the Parsi community is forced to approach courts to protect their property from neighbours who should have helped preserve the legacy of their minority brethren,” he adds.

Asked whether he had approached concerned government officials and ministers for the preservation of the cemetery, Bhandara says the union had expressed their concerns to all the quarters in the country but no response or action has been taken yet. Responding to a question about lodging a complaint to the National Commission for Minorities, Bhandara calls the commission a toothless and cosmetic body, adding that he was a member on the previous commission.

“The National Commission for Minorities can do nothing to protect rights of the minorities and even the rulings from the Supreme Court are of no effect in this regard,” he adds. Unless, the station house officer of a police station regards that it is his duty to protect and safeguard lives and properties of the minority communities, no directives will have an effect, he points out.

According to the marble plaque at the gate of the cemetery, the Parsi graveyard was built in the 1890s. “This cemetery, together with the buildings and compound wall, was erected to perpetuate the memory of the late Seth Jahangiriji Framji Jussawala and Seth Jamasji Hormasji Bogha – both Rawalpindi Parsi merchants – by their respective grandsons, Seth Dorabji Cowasji Jussawala and Seth Nasarwanji Jehangiriji Bogha Shahshai in the month of Tir 1367, January 1898, ” reads the inscription on the plaque.

Talking about the colonial-style red mortar building in the cemetery, Bhandara says, the beautiful single-storey structure is designated for the last rites of community members. “Prayers for the deceased as well as their last rites are performed in the building,” he adds.

Bhandara called on the Punjab government to declare the Parsi cemetery in Rawalpindi a site of cultural heritage in order to preserve and protect the landmark from land grabbers and encroachment. “I’m making this demand to the provincial government and the city’s deputy commissioner so that the legacy of the Parsi community is preserved and recognised,” he adds.

The former lawmaker says it is high time that the government ensured the protection of lives, properties and communal worship places of the minority communities. He pointed out that the Parsi population in Pakistan has dwindled to 800 citizens from over 5000 at the time of partition. “Presently, there are a handful of Parsi families in Rawalpindi,” he says.

Bhandara says the brain drain and exodus of minority communities from Pakistan is linked with a lack of economic opportunities and insecurity in the country. “It’s not only the Hindus and Parsis who have emigrated but thousands of engineers, doctors, and IT professionals have gone abroad to seek better opportunities,” he concludes.

 

The oldest aqueduct in Tehran, built by a Zoroastrian lady

Indeed, Iranian civilization could not form and could not last unless the intelligence of the Iranians created the “kariz” or the aqueduct because our land is water-scarce and, in many parts, desert. It was the proper and careful management of the waters of this land that, over millennia and centuries, formed one of the most brilliant civilizations in the world. Part of that water management went back to the construction of the kariz. Kariz was made from Iranian awareness and genius and was our gift to the world. In Tehran, which has been known as the center of the country for two centuries, karizes have played a fundamental role in the lives of the people of the capital. The oldest kariz in the city, which is 700 years old, was built by order of a Zoroastrian lady. That kariz is called Mehrgard and still has signs of its watery past.  

Kariz has been one of the most critical water supply sources in Tehran since it was chosen as the capital of Iran until the last forty or fifty years. Even before Tehran became the capital, the city had a large number of karizes. Based on the research of Javad Safinejad, who is one of the prominent experts in kariz, 572 karizes have been created in the history of Tehran! This number of kariz is genuinely remarkable. Although many of Tehran’s karizes were lost over time, by the 1330s SH, the capital’s karizes were still prominent, reaching 29 disciplines. However, the pipeline system eliminated the need to dig the kariz, reducing the number of kariz in Tehran.

In a simple definition, Kariz means the use of underground water. This is achieved in a way that recognizes Iranian creativity and art more than anything else. As mentioned, the number of karizes in Tehran, like other large and small cities in Iran, was enormous. The kariz or the qanat water of Sanglaj, which could be seen in the city park, and it was so full of water that it was not lost even with the destruction of the Sanglaj neighborhood in the first half of the fourteenth century; Sardar Kariz in einoddoleh Street (the present day Iran Street) that would supply water to the whole neighborhood; Bagh Saba kariz would supply water to the Old Shemiran Ave., Darvaze Dowlat, and the surrounding streets and neighborhoods; the important and very valuable kariz of Haj Alireza, which would pass by the front of the parliament and would supply water to Udlajan and the whole area around chal Meydan;, as well as the karizes of Elahieh, Baha Al-Mulk, Baharestan, Beryanak, Pamanar, Jalalieh, Nezamieh, Jamshidabad, Farmanfara, Yusefabad, Behjatabad, the Russia embassy kariz, the British embassy kariz, Jalalieh, and many other karizes. Among these two kariz’s were more important: first was the Mehrgard Kariz and the second was the Nasserite Kariz. These two are worth giving more details on.

Mehrgerd, the oldest kariz in Tehran

Mehrgard kariz is the oldest kariz in Tehran. It was sometimes called Kariz Mehran because its mother well (main well) was in Mehran Village, a part of Shemiran and Tajrish district, and this kariz spread to the present Zarabkhaneh, seyed Khandan and Majidieh areas. Historical signs and documents show that this kariz was made by order of a Zoroastrian lady. Although her name remains unknown, this benevolent lady is mentioned several times in ancient writings.

Nasserite Kariz would supply quite a significant part of Tehran’s water. During the Qajar period, the Shah and his court maintained and supervised the Mehrgard kariz. After that, it became one of the royal assets of the Pahlavi dynasty.

In the past, the abundance of water in the Mehrgard waterway was such that its surplus reached the areas of Bazaar and Oudlajan. Mazhar. The first opening of Mehrgard Kariz, called mazhar, was located on Nasser Khosrow Street and the gush of water from its canal could be sent in the streams in this building.  Its other branch started from Alborz High School on College Square and, and went along Ferdowsi Street to the lower zones of the city.

With the expansion of Tehran and especially construction of the telecommunication building in Toopkhaneh Square, and later, the construction of one or two metro stations, the first opening (mazhar) to Mehrgard Kariz was destroyed and now it cannot be found. However, there are still signs of water in the Mehrgard waterway when digging underground for underground construction projects.

It should also be noted that the 700-year-old kariz of Mehrgard drained 200 liters of groundwater per second with only the force of gravity and without any maintenance. Such a mechanism has been described as an “engineering masterpiece.” Although the dredging of Mehrgard has been forgotten for decades and constructions all over have blinded its entrance (mazhar or the first opening), yet signs of life of this kariz can be found, and if just an effort is made to revitalize it, one of the important signs of civilization in Tehran will not be lost.

Nasseri is one of the most important karizes in the capital

Most of the karizes in Tehran belonged to those with wealth and power, and they were built to irrigate their gardens and lands, and if there was a surplus of water, it would be directed to lower lands, which belonged to the people. There was a unique example. That example goes back to Kariz Shah (Nasiri). This kariz was built by order of Nasser al-Din Shah Qajar, and he had ordered it to be dedicated to the people.

After providing the water need for Golestan Palace complex, the Nasseri Kariz would flow to the southeast of the city, forming a settling called Qanatabad.  This kariz was in use until the early 1330’s, but then it was abandoned when water pipelines began to be drawn in Tehran, in those years.  Another use of this Kariz was to provide water for the 10 indoor baths of Golestan Palace during the reign of Nasser Eddin Shah.

Current karizes of Tehran

Now, in these recent years, the number of Kariz’s in Tehran has decreased a lot. Failure to dredge and fill the wells of the karizes is one of the reasons for the loss of these valuable water resources. Digging deep wells, which began in 1342, and increasing their number day by day, reduced the use and maintenance of Tehran’s kariz’s.  Digging subway tunnels was another reason for the drying up of running springs and as a result the blocking of water flowing into the canals.  At a time, the flow of water in the city was such that the humidity of the running water would affect surrounding houses and would make the walls damp, sometimes right upto the roof, forcing the inhabitants to move to other neighborhoods.  It did not take long before there was construction on top of the Kariz.  Now, the problem of these areas is subsidence of land. The karizes were a sign of Tehran’s prosperity and greenery; They were also considered a sign of wealth in other towns and settlements of our land. But urban renewal and modernism destroyed those ancient signs of civilization. Was what we gained enough to lose our karizes and water resources?

* Using: The article “Mehrgard is the oldest living aqueduct in Tehran” written by Narjes Zivodar in Iranshahr Intellection Magazine (Winter 2017); Nasrollah Haddadi’s note on “Iran Newspaper Website”; As well as “City Headline” websites; “Tehran Nameh.”

Negar Jamshidian

The oldest aqueduct in Tehran, built by a Zoroastrian lady

A Parsee Anecdote

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.

Gholvad is the Chikoo Bowl of Maharashtra

This is a story about a place made interesting by a fruit

 03 Min Read   

It is the ultimate laid-back experience, but for me it started as a power trip. Literally, I discovered this unbelievable idyll just a 3-hr train ride away from Mumbai, when the equally incredible Nergis Irani launched a one-woman crusade against the thermal power plant being set up by the Bombay Suburban Electric Supply in Dahanu, the chikoo bowl of Maharashtra. I had passed Gholvad several times on train journeys to Ahmedabad—quaint, sleepy stations characterised by locals selling small baskets of just-picked fruit and bundles of lemongrass and peppermint leaves with which Parsis flavour their tea. I had no idea of the deep, dark groves that lay beyond the pedestrian platform.

Then Nargis Irani descended on my office like a Persian army. Her feisty Irani genes made up for whatever she lacked in the ‘warrior-queen’ department. As an environmentalist, she would have fought such desecration anywhere, but in the Gholvad she had an emotional stake, as these chikoo orchards had been planted by the Iranis, many of whom had cleared the grass-covered tracts with their bare hands when they had arrived here a hundred or so years ago. This tough, if rustic, race had been impoverished by discrimination in their native Iran and they too made the journey that their fellow Zoroastrians, the Parsis, had made nearly a millennium earlier. Some set up tea shops in Mumbai, but the more intrepid fanned into the interior, confident that land was land, even if in an alien country.  With their own input of hard work, they were certain that it would sustain them, as it had their fore-fathers back home.

Chikoo fruit

The house of the man who first brought chikoos to this area still stands near Dahanu Railway Station, the lush acres flourishing in the care of his grandsons. Those who followed old Mr Irani acquired and tamed their own sprawling acres. Grandchildren went away, lured by city jobs and the promise of golden opportunity abroad. Many returned. The land was as forgiving as it was yielding.

Things to see and do? The answer to this is ‘nothing’. The idea here is to chill. Wake up to the cock’s crow and open your eyes to a canopy of dark chikoo leaves. These orchards smell of the resins of the trees. Walk down the winding country road and smile at the curious women—rural cliches in their short ‘towel’ wraps above which rise their bare midriffs and bosoms. They sashay past with a self-assured swing, a chatter of berribboned sparrows as they go to water and weed, pluck and pack in the orchards.

Mud pots ‘grow’ out of every stunted toddy palm; they say slake the thirst of a day’s labour and fill the night with the drumbeat of abandon. Hens fret and strut about the reed and mud huts before meeting their fate in a festive cauldron.

Gholvad—rising above Bordi and merging unmarked into Dahanu and the surrounding villages—has no pin-downable focal point. It’s only orchards, and the homesteads of the people who cultivated them.

 

Location: Gholvad is on the road to Bordi, on the coastal highway after you turn left from Kasa Khurd towards Dahanu.

https://www.outlookindia.com/outlooktraveller/explore/amp/69779/did-you-know-series-why-visit-gholvad-the-chikoo-bowl-of-maharashtra

Parsee General Hospital – A Short Story

“Chaal ni, chaal ni”, (c’mon, c’mon) urged Freny, in her usual boisterous manner, waving at her sister Dhun, who responded as fast as her stumpy legs permitted, the added weight of the tiffin carrier she bore making her pant.   The plastic slippers she had recently purchased from Grant Road market weren’t a help in any way, slowing down her pace even more, but the Bombay monsoon wasn’t worth wasting a decent pair of slippers on.  Besides, her feet were hardly the kind that would grace a delicate pair of sandals!  Freny was clearly visible in her bright floral dress, despite the crowd of family surrounding her.  She always had to be the centre of every conversation, regardless of its subject matter and was therefore difficult to ignore.  On her right, standing tall and slim, was their third and youngest sister, Gool, who few would have believed to have been born of the same parents.  Dignified, attractive, and soft spoken, she would often be embarrassed by her sisters’ loud voices and laughter.  Seated on the bench were two cousins and an ageing uncle accompanied by his deaf wife, which made Freny’s volume go up two notches.

 

Jehangirji Saklatwala rolled his eyes and shook his head at the bantering of his family, and, despite the catheter and IV drip connected to his frail arm, smiled wryly under his oxygen mask. Gool was definitely his favourite daughter, but even his failing memory could not dissipate the fun times with Freny and Dhun during their childhood years.  

 

He was grateful for the wide corridors of the Parsi General Hospital that allowed for large gatherings of family and friends to keep his spirits buoyant. The aches and pains of old age were slowly overriding all else in his life.  After the sudden passing away of his beloved wife, life seemed to drag on listlessly. When he fainted one morning on his way to the washroom, Dhun, with whom he had been staying after his wife’s death, arranged for a complete health check up at the Parsi General Hospital.  This unearthed a gamut of ailments, and he often felt that his last days were not so distant anymore.

 

Most nights, as he lay in bed , sleep eluding him for most of the darkened hours, he would marvel at the magnificent building that had housed the ill, the frail and the dying since 1912, thanks to the generosity of Seth Bomanji Dinshaw Petit after whom the hospital was named.  A devout Parsi would not hear of being admitted to any hospital other than this one, because where else could family and friends  saunter in at any time of the day or night to visit the patients, or be permitted to bring in cutlets, patties and rotlis fresh off the tava for their loved ones as well as their bed neighbours.  Where else would you find Mumbai’s finest Parsi doctors generously giving of their time and medical expertise to the poor and moneyed in equal measure.  The well-manicured and lovingly tended garden, where his sons-in-law, Rumi, Soli and Fram, bonded over their walk, was a sight for sore eyes.  Jehangirji was glad that his ward was located on the first floor, because it allowed him an unrestricted view of the pretty landscape below, when the nurses wheeled him out every morning while they did up his bed.

 

Jehangirji found the hours between 3 am and 5 am the most difficult to pass.  Apart from the monotonous hum of the various machines hooked onto some of his ward mates, there was little activity, if any.  In the week that bed number 4 in the men’s ward of the Nursing Home section had been his, only one night had had any form of excitement, if a cardiac arrest could be considered as such.  The early hours of the morning were lost in rituals of ablutions and bed pans and nursing shift changes; but come 10 am, the corridors and hallways hummed with activity. The ward would be filled with visitors and time would fly by in a whirlwind of gossip and chit chat.

 

Jehangirji knew that Behram in bed number 3 had a “saala dikro” (useless son) who lived in the US of A and never had time to visit; but Dolly, the daughter, spent most of her day by her father’s bedside, admonishing and cajoling all in one breath; that Kekobad, who lay sprawled on bed no 2 because he was just too large to move, was married to Aloo who, he claimed, made the best malido (semolina sweet).  Judging by his size, Jehangirji, believed him!  Fardoon Fatakia in bed no 7, across from Jehangirji, snored so loud, the others would curse him in the choicest Parsi phrases all through the night, not that it made any difference to Fardoon, who prided himself on his ability to sleep through an earthquake.  Jehangirji’s own bedside would be crowded with some cousin, friend or daughter all through the day.  Discussions were often held on who would relieve whom for duty during the day.  Jehangirji himself had forbidden any one to stay during the night, otherwise Freny would definitely have organised for some relative to do that in her usual bossy manner.

 

Evening hours were definitely the most entertaining.  All the corridors of the hospital would be overflowing with visitors, many of whom knew the layout of the hospital like the back of their hand, considering they were always visiting some relative or friend there.  It was socialising at its best.  Recipes of yesterday’s delicious snacks were exchanged along with discussions on who wore which “gara” at last evening’s Navjote.  Even in the more somber waiting room outside the ICU, the Parsis bonded over cups of “phudna ni chai” (mint tea) while debating which sofa afforded the most comfort during the nights.

 

On his earlier trips to the hospital to visit relatives and friends, Jehangirji had marvelled at the expanse of land on which the hospital stood.  Being conveniently located in the heart of the city of Bombay, it still had vacant areas for future development, despite the already existing large stone L-shaped building and the additional structures housing the residential quarters for doctors and nurses.  His heart would swell with pride at being a member of this illustrious community that held philanthropy high in its religious tenets.

 

Gool’s gentle voice saying “pappa” brought him back to the realisation that dusk had already lit the sky a pretty orange, signaling that most of the crowd outside would be organising themselves to get home.  He could already hear Dhun arranging lifts for her aunt and uncle with Dolly, the bed neighbour’s daughter.  Now there would be a long session of goodbyes and “kaale malsu” (we’ll meet tomorrow) all over the ward.

 

As the chitter chatter died down and the echo of the last visitor’s footsteps faded away in the corridors, Jehangirji closed his eyes and his thoughts drifted as always to this institution that had become his home in the last few days.  He had heard that several new state-of-the-art hospitals had opened across Bombay.  The Parsi community seemed to be dwindling.  Would the Parsi General Hospital be able to survive these changes, or would the wheels of a rapidly advancing technology crush the older, less sophisticated system?  With snarling traffic on every road in his beloved Bombay, how many would brave the honking and the chaos to come  visit friends and family admitted here ?  Would the hallways fall silent, rooms darken, and lifts creak to a halt some day?  As he welcomed the drowsiness that overtook his thoughts, he murmured, “Jeevto rehje” (stay alive) before drifting into peaceful slumber.

Zarine Kharas

zarine.kharas@gmail.com

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