Category Archives: News

67-year-old Mumbai resident makes water from thin air

Dhobi Talao resident Meher Bhandara on launching a pioneering technology that makes water out of air

Meher Bhandara with the home unit. Pics/Sayyed Sameer Abedi

Twenty-five years ago, when Meher Bhandara was told by an astrologer that she’s likely to enter a profession that would involve water, she didn’t think much of it. “Since I was part of the travel and tourism industry, I assumed it might be about beach resorts or cruises,” says Bhandara, whose grandfather founded Jeena Tours and Travels, the country’s first Indian-owned travel agency. Little did the 67-year-old know, that she would eventually helm a pioneering project that involves making water from thin air.

Why Humidity Matters

Bhandara is one of the founders of WaterMaker (India) Pvt Ltd, a company that manufactures atmospheric water generators (AWG). The technology uses optimised dehumidification techniques to extract and condense moisture in the air to produce purified drinking water. While the concept may sound esoteric, the usage is fairly simple. They essentially plug and play machines that provide safe drinking water. “All it requires is electricity to condense, collect, filter and dispense water,” she explains. Given its reliance on moisture, the machine functions best in coastal areas that are hot and humid. The greater the humidity, the better the output. “When we first participated at the Water Asia Expo in 2005 with a 500 litre AWG, visitors were amazed to see water being created out of air. They checked all nooks to find hidden pipe connections,” she laughs.

WaterMaker machine installed at a public study at Cooperage

WaterMaker machine installed at a public study at Cooperage

In 2009, Bhandara set up a 1,000-litre machine in Jalimudi village in Andhra Pradesh for its 500 inhabitants. It became the world’s first rural atmospheric water installation. In Mumbai, it has been installed as a CSR project for an insurance company at a public study centre at Cooperage. “A lot of students throng the space because it’s quiet corner to study and they felt it would help to have free, drinking water handy,” she says. Considering students can be a tad too curious and tinker with buttons, the machine remains locked with only the tap accessible. Over the years, many companies have used the machines for their CSR projects in urban and rural India.

Inventor Who Made It Possible

It was in 2004 that Bhandara and her family first came across the technology. “My brother got talking to Dan Zimmerman, a co-passenger at JFK airport in New York, who mentioned that he was an inventor and had developed these machines that could make water from air, but didn’t know what to do next. Naturally, he was intrigued and felt India could truly do with machines such as these,” she says. The family then decided to collaborate with him and manufacture and sell AWGs in India. For a person who gawked at geeks, Bhandara had to learnt the technology from scratch. “I’m an arts and humanities person. So it was a challenge to acquaint myself with how this works,” she says.

Today, she is so well versed with the technology, that she has helped create smaller, soon-to-be launched home models. These can produce 25 litres in 24 hours. While all water filters need to be replaced every six months, the UV lamps can be replaced once a year. “Cleaning the air filter depends on the ambient air quality. You should check it twice a month.” The home units currently cost R45,000. “It is steep. Once we increase volumes, prices will decrease.” Funding for the
projects come from companies, NGOs, and philanthropists. “We take water for granted. But there are so many who are deprived of it. The initiative is our way of contributing to society.”

To contact, write to

Anju Maskeri

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.

The Parsi burial ground is a sign of Pindi’s rich heritage

* On Murree Road, in the heart of the city, a lane leads towards a heavy iron gate that opens out on an era of Parsi history

Resting place of a WWII soldier of Royal Indian Air Force at Parsi Cemetery Rawalpindi

It is a sweltering morning of June 1947. Weeks after vicious communal riots in Rawalpindi, Parsis are proffering teary-eyed goodbye to their home, Rawalpindi – standing amid Parsi cemetery on the narrow patches that part each grave, by laying out rose petals with tears rolling down from their faces and saying holy prayers to those who became eternal residents of the city expecting they would never see them again.

Much broken but still strengthened, many left and a few plumped for to stay in the city where they lived and expanded their businesses – Rawalpindi – a city of their dreams.

Today, that place of Parsi heritage is not easily visible in commercial congested areas.

A marble plaque with Gujarati and English writing at the entrance of Parsi burial ground

Right in the heart of Rawalpindi, on Murree Road, a hubbub of the city life and noise of traffic, a lane leads to somewhat different place to its surroundings, where a heavy iron gate opens up to an era of Parsi arrival in Rawalpindi – the Parsi burial ground or Parsi cemetery.

Gujarati inscription

Here, some neighbourhood children play cricket inside the premises and adjoining houses let drainage water on concrete floor of the cemetery making a burbling sound that disturbs tranquility. For new visitors to the cemetery, a marble plaque with bilingual, English and Gujarati inscription, welcomes new visitors, giving answers of basics and sometimes mysteries when people say, “Oh really? We don’t know Parsis bury their dead.”

Isphanyar Minocher Bhandara is President of Rawalpindi Parsi Anjuman and former member of parliament.

Apart from random travel photographers and some local cricket players, Rawalpindi Parsi Anjuman President and former Member of National Assembly Isphanyar Minocher Bhandara is a regular visitor.

He comes to the cemetery weekly and sometimes twice a week, bringing rose petals, offering prayers on the graves of his beloveds, taking care and fighting illegal encroachments of this religious heritage site.

Here, some neighbourhood children play cricket inside the premises and drainage water spills out on the concrete floor of the cemetery, disturbing the tranquility. For new visitors to the cemetery, a marble plaque with a bilingual inscription welcomes new visitors, giving answers to basic questions and surprising visitors: ‘Oh really? We don’t know Parsis bury their dead’

He’s not only concerned about this site because it’s associated to his own religion but equally concerned about shrinking spaces for Hindus, Kailash, Christians and Buddhists in Pakistan.

He’s a vocal Parsi who stands up for the rights of religious minorities. He goes to Hindu temples, gurdwaras and churches as well. No matter what festival it is, he celebrates Holi, Christmas and Gurpurab with the same enthusiasm.

Last resting of Minocher Peshotan Bhandara , a famous Rawalpindittie parsi

The Parsi heritage of the city was burgeoned soon after they made Rawalpindi their home that could have been alive however today fuzzy in the mists of time. Talking about the Parsis of Rawalpindi, the most renowned name of them all is that of MP Bhandara, a prolific writer, a columnist and art lover. His real name is Minocher Peshotan Bhandara also known as Minoo.

Minocher Peshotan Bhandara

After a decade past his death, he’s alive in his writings. In the words of Khushwant Singh on the sudden death of Minoo Bhandara, “he was a grievous blow to those who strove to build bridges between Pakistan and India”.

A view of the cemetery there are around 130 garves inside.

Today, there are around 130 graves in the cemetery, the oldest one dates back to 1860.

The first wave of Parsis came from Gujarat. The inscriptions on tombstones is filled with surnames like Jussawalla and Minwalla. The Walla surname is quite common among Parsis.

Cyrus Broacha, whose family moved from Rawalpindi after Partition, is a well-known anchor and theatre personality based in Mumbai.

Most surnames in the subcontinent reflect caste, lineage and religious beliefs. The Parsis had a delightfully modern streak – having landed without caste, history and context. They created identities through professions and urban streets.

“Our family moved to Bombay from Rawalpindi in 1947. We came as refugees but the family soon settled and by 1953, my father had re-started playing golf at the Willingdon Club. I was eight years old and would walk 18 holes with him every Saturday and Sunday. The three Parsi gentlemen who made up his regular four-ball were uncles Poonawala, Coorlawala and Colabawala. Very soon they had re-christened my father Pindiwala. I used to spend hours searching the telephone directory to find Parsi surnames and stories around their families. There was prohibition in Bombay in those days. So to get liquor, you had to find Dalal, who would introduce you to Daruwala, who in turn would get bottles delivered to your home by Batliwala who would be accompanied by Soda-Water-Bottle-Opener-walla. Other surnames whose ancestors were in the beverages trade were Fountainwala, Ginwala, Rumwala, Sodawala and Jaamwala. Our neighbour and family physician was Dr Adi Doctor – he was only half a doctor. I remember going to Dr Doctor’s sister’s wedding. She married one Mr Screwala. What he did for a living, I don’t know to this day,” Cyrus Broacha says.

A marble obelisk with inscribed Gujarati text at Parsi Cemetery Rawalpindi

In 1898, the grandsons of Jehangirji Framji Jussawalla and Jamasji Hormasji Bogha named Dorabji Cowasji Jussawalla and Nasarwanji Jehangirji Bogha respectively, erected a wall around the burial ground. Jamasji Hormusji Boga aged 72, died on March 21, 1884.

He was at first a priest in Surat and used to convey invitations. Thereafter in 1843, he went to Karachi and spread his business at many places in the name of Jamasji & Sons and settled in Rawalpindi. He left behind a good estate at the time of his death. Dorabji Cowasji Jussawalla donated Rs 500 in 1881 to Bazam for Jashans in memory of his grandfather, late Seth Jehangirji Faramji Jussawalla. Cowasji Jehangirji Jussawalla aged 82 died on December 5, 1900. He joined his family’s well known firm M/s Jehangir Nusserwanji Jussawalla. The branches of this firm were opened in various parts of India. He moved to various branches of the family firm’s shops at Nilgiris, Karachi, Peshawar, Firozpur, and Hyderabad. In 1839, when the British army went to Kabul, at the recommendation of Sir Alexander Burns, his firm opened a shop in Kabul. As the British rule extended in Afghanistan and Peshawar, he took the risk and opened his firm’s shops in Sukkur, Jacobabad, Jalalabad and Kabul. Later, he separated from his family firm and joined as a guarantee broker of Volkart Brothers and Nupni Co. He spent a long time in quietude. He was the father of Seth Cooverji, Nusserwanji, Hormusji, Dorabji, Dadabhai and Jamshedji Cawasji Jussawalla.

Roman Arches of Parsi Prayer Hall next to Parsi cemetery Rawalpindi

There’s a large hall with Roman arched veranda outside the cemetery which accommodates around 200 people, that was built to offer prayers for the deceased.

The hall was built by Commodore Fakirji Dhanji Bhouy in the memory of his mother.

This cemetery also serves as a philanthropic work as the well of cemetery is source of drinking water when it becomes scarce in summer, locals throng to get water.

The writer is a freelance journalist, writer and an independent researcher. He is currently documenting Parsi Zoroastrian heritage of Pakistan. He can be reached at and Tweets at @OldRwp

Ammad Ali

64-year-old dentist, Arnavaz Havewala, injured in Mumbai’s lift crash, dies

Two decades from now, Pakistan will have no Parsis

Just before sunset, five elderly men leave their homes in the Cyrus Minwalla Colony, the oldest settlement of Karachi’s Parsis, and sit themselves down on cement benches placed alongside a pavement.

None of them get into a conversation: two of them read the day’s newspapers, two others seem lost in thought, and the fifth stares at the structure on the opposite side of the boulevard, at the Tower of Silence, where Zoroastrians keep their dead for decomposition.

The group’s silence reflects the state of their colony, located in the East, between the Defence Housing Authority Phase 1 and Mehmoodabad. Built by Cyrus F Minwalla, then vice-president of the Karachi Cantonment Board, the colony used to be a bustling neighbourhood, but now it resembles an abandoned town.

It doesn’t look or sound like other localities of multi-generational communities where everyone knows everyone, and where they all share their joys, sorrows and burdens with one another.

The pervasive silence in the Cyrus Minwalla Colony is due to a majority of its residents migrating abroad. Those who have chosen to stay behind are mostly in their 60’s or 70’s.

A steady decline

In his 2005 book, titled ‘The Zoroastrian Diaspora: Religion and Migration’, John R Hinnells notes that in the decades leading up to Partition, there had been a steady increase in Sindh’s Parsi population, giving Karachi the fourth largest Parsi population in western India after Bombay, Surat and Navsari.

“After Partition the numbers initially increased further — in 1951 there were 5,018; but they began to decline in 1961 (4,685) until 1995, when there were 2,824 Parsis in Pakistan, 2,647 in Karachi.”

The Karachi Zarthosti Banu Mandal (KZBM), a community welfare organisation, states in its 2015 report that they had conducted the first complete survey of Pakistan’s Zoroastrians in 1995.

Supervised by Toxy Cowasjee, sister-in-law of columnist Ardeshir Cowasjee, they found that 2,831 Parsis lived across the country: 2,647 in Karachi, 94 in Lahore, 45 in Quetta, 30 in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, eight in Multan, and seven in Peshawar and other cities.

In its 2012 paper titled ‘The Zarathushti World — a Demographic Picture’, the Federation of Zoroastrian Associations of North America (Fezana) notes that Pakistan’s Zoroastrian population was 2,121 in 2004 and it declined by 21 per cent to 1,675 in 2012. Fezana also states that the percentage of non-Zoroastrian spouses increased from 2.4 per cent in 2004 to 2.6 per cent in 2012.

The 2015 edition of the A & T Directory, which carries details of all Pakistani Parsis, notes that the community’s population had reduced to 1,416 in the country: 1,359 in Karachi, 32 in Lahore, 16 in Rawalpindi, seven in Quetta and two in Multan.

Regarding the latest count of Pakistan’s Parsis, academic Dr Framji Minwalla told The News that the community has been reduced to 1,092, living in only Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi.

Mama Parsi Girls High School Located on MA Jinnah Road.

The reasons

“Just like the youth in every other community, people have left for higher education and better job opportunities and an overall higher standard of living,” Dilaira Dubash, a Parsi community member and former journalist who has also settled abroad, wrote in an email exchange with The News.

“Most progressive communities reach a stage when population control becomes their worst enemy. For Zoroastrians, it may ultimately lead to extinction. India launched the Jiyo Parsi campaign to curb the population decline and whether that’s a good move or a bad one, the point is they have taken note and they are doing something about it. In Pakistan, we wake up once a year to highlight the issue and then sleep over it.”

She said Zoroastrians can’t be confined to any state. “We have been wandering ever since we were forced to flee Persia. For Pakistan, saving its Zoroastrian population is a lost cause now. If an awareness program would have been initiated two decades ago, maybe there would have been some hope.”

Dr Minwalla said that in the next two decades there will be no Parsi anywhere in Pakistan, as almost the entire younger generation of the community has gone abroad with no plans to return.

“One can hardly find a young Parsi, particularly between the ages of 18 and 27, in Karachi. Moreover, the Karachi Parsi Anjuman Trust Fund helps couples under the age of 40 to emigrate from the country.”

He pointed out that the purist marriage law of Parsis is also one of the reasons behind the community’s declining population. He said that if a Parsi woman marries a non-Zoroastrian, she’ll be forced to leave the community and face other restrictions.

“For example, she won’t be permitted to participate in worship or social ceremonies. But if a Parsi man marries out of the community, his children will be accepted as Parsis but his wife won’t be allowed to participate in any religious or social activity.”

Writer Akhtar Balouch said that no one can become a Parsi, because it’s an ethnic identity. “A person can accept Zoroastrianism, but they will never be a bona fide Parsi.”

In the media

Despite being one of the smallest ethnic and religious communities in the country, Parsis organise many social gatherings and religious festivals, of which the most significant is Nowruz, the start of the Persian New Year.

Most of these events don’t get covered by the mainstream media. But for the past many years the KZBM has been publishing a monthly newsletter, titled ‘What’s On’, which covers these occasions as well as publishes profiles of notable Parsis from across the globe to highlight their achievements.

“Most of our events are community focused and small-scale and slip under the media radar which is running after bigger stories to cover,” said Dilaira. “Apart from that, the only time the media thinks about Zoroastrians is when it’s Navroze and you have to do a mandatory story to fill the pages.”

The H.J Parsi Dar-e-Meher is the largest Fire Temple located in Saddar Karachi.


Balouch said that the first elected mayor of Karachi, namely Jamshed Nusserwanjee Mehta, was a Parsi and is known as the founder of modern Karachi. “The community has established a number of hospitals, educational institutes, hotels and architectural relics that still add exclusiveness to Karachi’s historical landscape.”

They include the Mama Parsi schools, the NED (Nadirshaw Edulji Dinshaw) Engineering College, the DJ (Dayaram Jethmal) Science College, the BVS (Bai Virbaiji Soparivala) Parsi High School, the Dow Medical College, the Karachi Parsi Institute, the Goolbanoo & Dr Burjor Anklesaria Nursing Home, and the Metropole, Beach Luxury and Avari hotels.

Had the members of Pakistan’s Parsi community started leaving the country earlier, Karachi would have been deprived of its premier medical college, its most important engineering university, some of its remarkable schools and many of its major hotels and other landmarks.

One can’t help but wonder if we as a nation have failed our fellow Pakistanis, if we have played a role in their gradual departure, if we have been ungrateful for their myriad contributions to this country. Whatever the case may be, the Parsi community’s continued exit is a great loss for all of us.

Soonie Aunty celebrates 100th birthday!

Dear Friends & Well-wishers

We are delighted to share the good news, that one of very our own became a centenarian today – Saturday 13thApril 2019 and received a congratulatory message from Her Majesty The Queen.

Soonie Godrej Talati

Soonnie Godrej Talati was born in Mumbai on the 13th April 1919, Shahenshai Mah Ava Roj Aspandarmad 1288YZ, to Dadiba and Bacha Mehta.  Like many of us Soonnie aunty also follows the Shahenshai Zoroastrian calendar, hence Soonnie aunty already became a centenarian on Tuesday 19th March 2019!

Soonnie aunty went to Parsee Tutorial High School and later completed Pitman’s secretarial course.  Her mum’s family (Gorwalla) lived in Karachi which was then part of India.  She has happy memories of her childhood holidays there with her Karachi cousins.

After her marriage in1947 to Godrej Talati, Soonnie aunty moved to Nairobi in Kenya to begin a new life in a foreign country where she brought up her 4 children; Pheroze, Sarosh / Shahrukh (twins) & daughter Meher.  From Nairobi the family moved to Kisumu on Lake Victoria and then to the coast of Mombasa.

In 1968 Soonnie aunty moved to England and settled in Perivale, Middlesex, and as with the move from India to Kenya she took to her new life in the UK in her stride.  She enjoyed activities in the local community participating in swimming, sewing, knitting, keep fit, French & music classes and late in life even started a computer course in the local library which she visited frequently.  Due to failing eyesight and mobility she reluctantly had to get used to a more relaxed life in her mid nineties!

Soonnie aunty is happiest when all her family get together in Perivale.  She enjoys the company of her 5 grandchildren Rashna, Zenobia, Cyrus, Farokh & Yazdi and is very proud of her 4 great grandchildren Ria, Roxana, Shaya & Darius.

Darius was born in February 2019 – almost 100 Years after his great grandmother Soonnie.

ZTFE congratulates Soonnie aunty on this amazing milestone.  We wish you a very Happy 100th Birthday. May every minute of your 100th Birthday be filled with everlasting joy and pleasure, surrounded by your loving family together with your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

We in the ZTFE will be celebrating Soonnie aunty’s 100th birthday at the Zoroastrian Centre, during the Z Club on Thursday 18th April 2019. 

Yours sincerely

Malcolm M Deboo

President, ZTFE

Z-Camp 2019 – San Jose

Dear Zoroastrian Community,

We are happy to announce that Z-Camp 2019 will be held at San Jose Dar-e-Mehr from July 25th to July 28th.
We accept campers between the ages 13 thru 17 years old. They will need to apply on the website to be considered as campers.
All information and forms are on www.
Individuals 18 years or older who have been a Z-Camp camper previously can apply on the web site by June 1, 2019 to be considered as a camp counselor for this year.
We also have a limited number of scholarships available for campers. If interested send us a brief email to explaining why you should be considered. This information will be kept confidential.
Once again we would like to thank our community members for supporting Z-Camp.
Looking forward to a great Z-Camp!

Indian-American Neomi Rao Sworn In As Judge Of DC Court Considered Second Most Powerful After US Supreme Court

Indian-American Neomi Rao  Sworn In As Judge Of DC Court Considered Second Most Powerful After US Supreme Court

Neomi Jehangir Rao. (Wikimedia Commons)

Indian-American Neomi Jehangir Rao has been sworn in as US Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, widely considered to be the second most powerful court in the US, next only to the US Supreme Court, reports Press Trust of India (PTI).

With this swearing in, she became the second Indian-American after Sri Srinivasan to be part of the DC Court. Nominated by the Republican President Donald Trump, she will now replace Justice Brett Kavanaugh who was recently elevated to the Supreme Court.

Rao was confirmed by the US Senate last week by 53-46 votes. Joined by her husband Alan Lefkowitz, Rao was sworn in by the US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on Tuesday (19 March). “She is going to be fantastic. Great person,” Trump had said about her.

Accomplished Individual

Born in Detroit to Parsi physicians from India – Zerin Rao and Jehangir Narioshang – Neomi Rao received her B.A. from Yale University and her J.D. from the University of Chicago.

Before her elevation to the Court, Rao had served as the Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) of the Office of Management and Budget.

In a previous stint, she was also a professor of structural constitutional law, administrative law, and legislation and statutory interpretation at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University.

Once Upon a Try – Epic journeys of invention and discovery

Explore humanity’s greatest inventions and discoveries in a new interactive online project by Google Arts & Culture, in collaboration with Parzor Foundation.

Wednesday, March 6th – Today, Google Arts & Culture launched Once Upon a Try – the largest online exhibition about inventions and discoveries ever curated. Collections, stories and knowledge from over 110 renowned institutions across 23 countries, including from Parzor Foundation, are brought together, highlighting millennia of major breakthroughs and the great minds behind them.

Everybody can now explore more than 400 interactive exhibitions that pay tribute to humanity’s greatest leaps in science and technology progress, and the visionaries that shaped our world, as well as tales of epic fails and happy accidents. Once Upon A Try also lets you dive into Street View to tour the sites of great discoveries, from deep underground inside CERN’s Large Hadron Collider to high in the sky onboard the International Space Station. Zoom into more than 200,000 artifacts in high definition, including the first recorded map of the Americas from 1508, and Albert Einstein’s letters, never before published online.

Parzor Foundation contributes the exhibition Breaking New Ground: Darashaw Nosherwan. The Story of Geologist Extraordinaire D.N. Wadia. The exhibition allows users a glimpse into the Indian Geologist’s life and his pioneering contribution to Indian and world geology. The exhibit includes images from the diaries he maintained on his field trips, his geological drawings and even a peek into his bookkeeping habits. Google Arts & Culture Technology will now allow this material including images from Professor Wadia’s personal rock collection, to be preserved for posterity.

Online visitors can discover

·      A special interactive story about the geologist pioneer Prof. DN Wadia with rare material to interest scientists, artists and just about anyone looking to study a fascinating life.

·      60+ new archives and objects related to Prof. DN Wadia (courtesy Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology, Dehradun, photography by Krish Bhalla.)

Dr Shernaz Cama, Director of Parzor Foundation said “our collaboration with the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology and the innovative technology provided by this Google platform has allowed the work of Prof. D. N. Wadia to be made available for the benefit of the global geological and scientific community the world over. We are thrilled to be able to contribute to this global project with our exhibition on India’s forgotten Father of Geology.”

Ms Kritika Mudgal, Curator of Parzor Foundation’s exhibition Breaking New Ground: Darashaw Nosherwan, expressed gratitude to the Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology for sharing their resources. “ Access to Prof. Wadia’s meticulous notes, his rather artistic geological sketches and his awe-inspiring rock collection was a wonderful opportunity. I am glad that the Google Arts & Culture Platform will now allow more of us to know about institutions such as the Wadia Institute in Dehradun, their remarkable collections and the significance of the pioneering work of those like Prof. Wadia to various fields of human endeavours across ages. ”

Mr Krish Bhalla, photographer for the exhibit, iterated the significance of digitizing artefacts through photography in an effort to preserve our heritage, as also of the contribution of the Google Arts & Culture Platform to the end of safeguarding artistic, cultural and scientific heritage in the modern world.

We invite everyone to participate in the first phase of an online collection that celebrates innovation and science. Through inspiring, and at times surprising, stories from over 100 partners, you can explore the inventions and discoveries that have shaped our world. Once Upon a Try is all about that first attempt, the idea, the journey of fulfilling a dream, and we hope it’ll give people that extra boost to find their very own eureka moment,” said Amit Sood, director of Google Arts & Culture.

The Parzor Exhibition may be accessed through:

Explore Once Upon a Try on Google Arts & Culture ( or using our app on iOS or Android, and join the conversation with #onceuponatry.

About Google Arts & Culture

Google Arts & Culture puts the collections of more than 1,800 museums at your fingertips. It’s an immersive way to explore art, history and the wonders of the world, from Van Gogh’s bedroom paintings to the women’s rights movement and the Taj Mahal. The Google Arts & Culture app is free and available online for iOS and Android. Our team has been an innovation partner for cultural institutions since 2011. We develop technologies that help preserve and share culture and allow curators to create engaging exhibitions online and offline, inside museums. Read about our latest projects on the Google Keyword blog.

Dr Rupa Bai Furdoonji – The World’s First Female Anaesthesiologist!

Furdoonji’s tryst with the medical field began in her hometown at the Hyderabad Medical School (HMS), in the erstwhile capital city of the Nizam’s dominion in the South.

Hyderabad’s Furdoonji has the distinction of being the first lady anaesthetist of the world!

Rupa Bai Furdoonji. Source: Facebook/Parsee Paanu

Furdoonji’s tryst with the medical field began in her hometown at the Hyderabad Medical School (HMS), in the erstwhile capital city of the Nizam’s dominion in the South. The medical school or Osmania Medical College as it is known now was set up by the fourth Nizam, Nasir-ud-Daulah in 1846. During his reign, the Nizam focused on getting men, as well as women, enrolled in the medical field.

A vision that Nawab Mir Mehboob Ali Khan, who ruled during Rupa’s time, shared along with Surgeon Major (IMS) Edward Lawrie, the Chief Surgeon of British residency, and also the Principal of Hyderabad Medical School.

It was on Lawrie’s motivation that five lady scholars of Hyderabad joined the medical course. Rupa Bai was one of these five women.

Rupa, who joined HMS in 1885, graduated in 1889 with the degree of Hakeem—a western medical qualification—so named because the medium of instruction at the time in HMS was Urdu—the state language. The English lecturers had Urdu translators during the classes.

Thanks to Lawrie, the medium of instruction changed to English in 1885 which opened up avenues for women scholars to study abroad later.

During the four-year course, she studied subjects like anatomy, physiology, materia medica, medicine, surgery, and midwifery. During the years 1889-1917, Rupa worked as an anaesthetic at the British Residency Hospital (BRH) (now known as Sultan Bazaar hospital), Afzalgunz Hospital and Zenana Hospital, Hyderabad.

Rupa’s academic as well as professional work, so impressed Lawrie that he encouraged her to travel to the UK for further studies. And so in 1909, Rupa took a break from her work and enrolled in Edinburgh University from where she earned a diploma in Physics and Chemistry. These subjects were useful for doctors handling anaesthetics as there was no separate course for anaesthesiology.

Later, Rupa also pursued a degree in medicine at the John’s Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, USA. This was when many medical schools in England and America refused admission to women candidates. Even the renowned paediatric cardiologist Dr. Taussig who founded the ‘Blalock-Taussig’ surgical technique for ‘Fallot’s tetralogy’ was refused admission in Harvard Medical School of Boston.

One of these historical letters is Dr. Annie Besant’s handwritten recommendation addressed to Mrs. Drummond dated 27th April 1909.

The Letter of recommendation that Dr Besant wrote. Source: Facebook/Parsee Paanu

The founder president of the Theosophical Society of India and Rupa Bai set sail from Bombay to Edinburgh in the same ship. It was at this time that Dr. Besant wrote a letter recommending Rupa for a course at the University of Edinburgh.

Such was the impact of Rupa’s work in Edinburgh that when the time came for her to return to India, Mrs. Drummond wrote to Rupa’s associates in Hyderabad. She persuaded them to relieve Rupa of her duties as her expertise was required in Edinburgh. Upon returning to India, after two years in the UK, she served as a full-time anaesthetist at the BRH.

While not much is written about her career post-1920, she is said to have retired from Nizam’s Medical Service as superintendent of the BRH.

When the Hyderabad Chloroform Commissions, under the supervision of Lawrie, conducted anaesthesia experiments on animals, many students from HMS participated in it including Rupa. Thus she finds mention in Lawrie’s book, A report on Hyderabad Chloroform Commissions (1891).

Dr. Rupa became an anaesthetic during a time when only surgeons were considered capable enough to administer anaesthesia. In a majorly male-oriented field, Rupa made her mark with her determination to excel in her field of study.

(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)

by Jovita Aranha

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