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.
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.
No hotels, no cars, no plans—how this Mumbai lawyer has covered 4,600km across India
Phiroze Palkhivala is cycling around the country, sleeping under the stars, bathing in rivers and savouring food at local’s homes
“I just love cycling. Second, I love travelling. And when you put the two together, it’s magic,” says Phiroze Palkhivala, the Mumbai-based lawyer who has been travelling solo across India on a bicycle since the beginning of this year. The 55-year-old’s main aim was to explore Indian culture in a sustainable way. His only rules are—no hotels, no vehicles and no itineraries.
Phiroze in Kutch, Gujarat
How he does it
Palkhivala tries to keep a general plan in mind after doing some basic research online. Then, he invariably meets a local who recommends another site, and the plan changes. So, he usually goes with the flow.
The distance he covers per day depends largely on his sleep and on the weather. “The maximum I’ve covered in a day is around 116km on this trip..”.
The sky morphs into his ceiling at night, as he sleeps out under the stars, since he is not big on hotels. “Everything becomes very expensive,” he explains. “Besides that, I just naturally love to be outside. I love to camp. Even if I am in an ashram, I request them to let me sleep outside. I don’t even use the tent now. I’m lugging it around just in case I’m in a place where it’s raining. Ultimately, the simpler you make everything, the more beautiful everything becomes.”
Collecting experiences across incredible India
Since the start of his trip in January 2021, Palkhivala has bicycled extensively across Maharashtra and Gujarat. From visiting Asia’s largest ship-breaking yard in Alang, Gujarat, to praying at the Nishkalank Mahadev Temple in Bhavnagar (which remains submerged during high tides and emerges during low tides), Palkhivala’s atypical experiences refuse to remain confined to the pages of an itinerary.
Whilst on the road, no two days are alike for him. From cycling through a casuarina forest in Nargol to wheeling past coconut palms down the streets of Chorwad in Gujarat, Palkhivala was often caught off-guard. His experiences excelled beyond just sight-seeing.
A steep trek to the Bahrot Caves in Dahanu, Maharashtra, made by the Parsis of yore took Palkhivala back to his cultural roots. Visiting the Sri Ram Temple in Bagdana, Gujarat (which, according to the locals, can withstand an earthquake of up to 10 on the Richter Scale), and watching a man spin cotton into rope within minutes using a charkha, left him marvelling at Indian skill and craftsmanship.
A ‘Mini Kumbh Mela’ in Junagadh gave him a chance to interact with sadhus. A month later, he found himself cutting vegetables with strangers to prepare for a feast at Navnath Dhuno in Girnar. Unfortunately, a few of his valuable items were stolen here.
So, what’s in his bag?
Palkhivala’s baggage looks slightly different from your usual suitcase or haversack. His essentials include a few clothes, a stove, daily provisions to cook, a GoPro camera, an emergency kit and a water bottle. “I carry them in panniers, which are specially made to attach to a bicycle. I have a rack behind the seat and one in the front which fits on the front fork. So, there are three bags on the rear rack, and two bags which are attached to the sides of the front rack. There’s also one small bag which attaches to the handlebar. Here, I keep things that I may suddenly need on the road. I just have to open it and it’s right there.”
His main bags are also sealed and waterproof, in case of an occasional downpour. “Each time I have to open the bag, I need to release three clips and then the bags have to be rolled open, which takes a little time,” he explains.
Where does he bathe?
From bathing in a 100-year old hot spring in Bhavnagar to a cold dip in the Narmada River en route to Vadodara, Palkhivala’s anecdotes on bathing are equally interesting. However, the general lack of hygiene on the road rankles. “I learned to bathe out of buckets that aren’t clean by cleaning them. Sometimes even water from a tank wasn’t hygienic. Buffaloes would drink water from the same tanks. But you just learn to adjust; there’s no other alternative.”
Palkhivala strongly advocates responsible and sustainable travel, which is one of the main reasons he opts to pedal his way through countries. For him, the humble two-wheeler not only fulfils the job, but excels in doing so. “I would never have experienced the things I have if I travelled conventionally.” Palkhivala, who has previously pedalled through Taiwan, Iran, Turkey and Georgia, strongly believes that the bicycle is a vantage point from which any place can be discovered. The views remain unfiltered and the traveller’s pace subjective. “When you are on a bicycle, you get to experience every bit of the road, the people, the culture and the environment. You’re travelling slowly and noiselessly. You’re not polluting the planet and you become much more observant of your surroundings. In fact, people also become much more observant of you.”
Read more of this exciting story and pictures at –
We are pleased to inform Patrons that the Sanatorium will become operational from October 01, 2020 onwards.
The facility will be completely sanitized before it makes Guests welcome.
Keeping in mind the good health of Guests and Sanatorium Staff, use of our facilities will be made available on the following conditions to be adhered to by all Guests:
1. In view of the current global pandemic, Guests wishing to use the Sanatorium should visit only if they are not suffering from symptoms associated with the Novel Corona Virus – Covid – 19.
2. Guests confirm they have visited the Sanatorium of their own volition and absolve Trustees and Staff of The WZO Trust Funds from any financial or medical responsibility or liability.
3. Guests will have to wear protective masks and maintain social distancing in all the common areas of the Sanatorium.
4. Guests will subject themselves to oximeter and infra red thermometer temperature reading every morning that will be taken by the Manager. In the event that the oxygen reading of any guest is found to be below 90 and temperature above 100.4 F, they will be asked to immediately leave the Sanatorium. A record of the oximeter and temperature readings of Guests will be maintained during their stay at the Sanatorium.
5. Till further notice, the maximum number of Guests permitted in each room will be not more than 3 (three), and maximum number of total Guests in the sanatorium will not be more than 15 (fifteen).
These Conditions and Rules have been framed keeping in mind, maintaining the good health of Guests as well as our Staff and all are advised to diligently comply with the same.
Guests wishing to use the facility from October 01, 2020 onwards may contact the Manager of the Sanatorium on either of the telephone numbers mentioned above.
Having lived in India and UK I find both places have their pros and cons. I lived in India all my life and spent my childhood to adulthood in Pune. When the opportunity presented itself, 15 years ago to tour UK (London), I did not know what to expect, except took it as a new experience. As I’ve lived in London and Pune, I cannot comment for the rest of the UK or India but from the little I know Pune and London have their own interesting quirks. To clarify, there is no bias for either place, this is purely based on my experience and time spent there.
If it’s the Work setting -obviously the first thing to sustain one self is to work, and moving abroad makes it no different. At the time, for a girl (who had barely travelled from Pune to mumbai alone) to explore the job market in London, it was not only daunting for me but simply put terrifying. Upon landing up a good job, the first thing that dawned on me was the work culture. Yes a lot of work places in London are micromanaged, bureaucratic and politically driven but a majority are pretty relaxed, employee motivated and interesting to work at. The good thing is work done well here is appreciated, applauded and rewarded, something which is important for the employee morale. Have you heard of Thank God It’s Friday (TGIF)? Working in London, I realised companies mostly follow the TGIT – Thank God It’s Thursday rule! Well in London the weekend well begins from Thursday afternoon, with jolly good humoured colleagues (well mostly) all through Friday – all in anticipation of the “much needed” DRINKS.. heading to the pub! People work hard (or hardly) all week and spend their weekend enjoying it off, thereafter once Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday come, they are weaning off hangovers and the cycle happily continues! Not to say a similar culture doesn’t exist in India – a place where the older generation believed in saving their earned money, their kids and grand kids would want to spend and enjoy life. Kal kisne dekha or kal ho na ho (thanks shahrukh khan eh!)
A lot of corporates in India work with international companies and follow their working hours- with employees doing their bit. It’s important if it’s a “work horse” environment they should be rewarded or atleast appreciated.. Companies are playing catchup to this, as for the employees- the ones that deal with situations proactively and tactfully survive. The rest? well might just change to another job and another until they get what they want!
Moving on to children’s education; London boasts universities colleges attracting millions of students every year, however their basic primary education was questionable until schools tweaked syllabus and now are decent to say the least. Yes their high schools and universities are still worthy of the attention they receive. An interesting aspect is their methods – these are very different with focus on practical learning, logical thinking and understanding what is being taught. It’s not a run of the mill “mugging up” like few Indian schools. Again I’m not berating. It is this very education in India that has made me what I am today.. the kids in India are brilliant so if the Indian education boards incorporate more practical, logical aspects in their curriculum, I imagine the kids will find learning more fun than a chore. When I speak of the competitive nature in Indian schools it’s unbelievable. It’s a rat race where everyone wants to be the best. In this queens land, it’s more easy going, a focus on children’s ability and enhancing of their strengths while working on their weaknesses. One way this is possible is their classes have around 18-20children max which means the teachers can concentrate better. Think of that as opposed to 50-55 kids? A Taare Zameen par moment!
I’m no one to Judge but the strange thing is some of these clever kids in India study their hardest, give high level exams and few of these end up working abroad, possibly as they understand the prospects or know the life-work balance that exists or simply see the £ or $ clinking. Well it is what it is and may not require delving deeper.
Coming to regular life; beautiful Pune, once flourishing with trees and bungalows is slowly converting to high rises, has crazy traffic and becoming commercialised. What’s not changed is the afternoon siesta times for some shops to remain closed and once reopened staying open till 9pm or so. Most people own a 2 wheeler in Pune and that makes commute so much easier, though crowded and busy. So life here is pretty much relaxed and hectic and interesting.
In London some shops start by 9amand close by 6pm. Again timings in summer for few differ with them remaining open for longer. What’s interesting is the accessibility and infrastructure in London which is pretty impressive and with a decent income one can live well here. On the flip side though, most of the items are imported from various countries so the post brexit transition will be an interesting one! Also demand for our “Indian” products is high and many of the things we take for granted in India be it spices, masalas, Ayurveda to simple mangoes is restricted to “Indian recognised Wembley or southhall stores.” I have seen gunny sacks with vegetables like muddy potatoes are considered to be “ordinary” in our Pune markets, while in London such sights are rare. If potatoes of this status are found, they are respected, elite, organic and highly priced. keeping different customers financial considerations in mind, supermarkets in London have the “basic” title to many of their products. Here quality is not compromised and remains affordable. Always a plus I think.
In many places, it’s all about the presentation. As they say you are paying for the idea and clever marketing. However ordinary a product is if it gets spruced up and presented well, you have a win win!
In every place, different people are different. A bit variations in thinking, mentality but overall most demand respect and give respect where it’s due. Again as in other countries, London sees the favourite cultural divide where however secular a country tries to prove itself to be, the small niggle will always remain. Understandably so, as how would we personally like if “outsiders” came in and took our jobs! Well if some of the immigrants are more qualified than local applicants for a position.. Who do u think will get hired to do the job well? That seen in occasional scribes non British residents face.
In London, there are people in the Indian communities that stick together and encourage their own community/people to progress professionally. Simultaneously, in British culture there is no favouritism (or so we believe) it’s black or white and by the book, leaving little or no room for exceptions.
Concluding, I can’t stress the importance of grandparents. Many families abroad, also in India feel that void. That’s Something that can be logistically overcome by either of them travelling to the other. It’s a matter of choices one makes and ultimately how it’s managed or balanced.
I do believe, wherever in the world we remain, the Basic values of honesty, integrity, good manners and respect to name a few are important to instil, both within ourselves and our young ones.
The Dr.K.N. Bahadurji Memorial Sanatorium For Parsis at Deolali was inaugurated, and dedicated for service to the community on 15th August, 1902. It is spread over 12.5 acres of land, centrally situated on Lam Road just opposite the Agiary. The lush green compound celebrates nature at its best with a large variety of trees and plants.
There is a centrally situated Library building which consists of old heritage Parsi epics such as the Shah-Nameh, Jamaspi etc. A table tennis table and carom board is provided for those who would like to hone their skills. There is a pleasant sit-out designed on the terrace of the library building, where visitors can spend their evening in a manner most enjoyed by Parsis! The library also has an old Tower Clock which is still ticking and a Brass Bell which is rung every hour to signify the time.
On 28th Sept, 2014, as a tribute to Late Dr. K.N. Bahadurji on his 155th Birth Anniversary, the Trustees furthered the cause of dedicated service to the Senior Citizens by opening a “Doctor’s Clinic”. A Doctor visits the Clinic twice a week, examines all the Senior Citizens and is also available to the occupants residing in the Sanatorium premises.
The Clinic is equipped with the latest technology consisting of Fouler Bed, Oxy Generator, Nebulizer & Bi-pep Machine etc. kindly donated by the present Managing Trustee – Mr. Feroze D. Neterwala, in loving memory of his Late Father Mr. Dhanjishaw M. Neterwala.
The 5th edition of the Zoroastrian Return To Roots Program began in Mumbai, India today on December 19, 2018.
22 Zarathushti youth from USA, Canada, Pakistan, New Zealand and India gathered in Mumbai at the Cusrow Baug Pavilion to kick off the program.
Aban Marker-Kabraji, Co-Chair of RTR Program welcomed the RTR Fellows and briefed them about the history of the program and the ethos and principles on which the program is based. She emphasized the diversity of the program and thanked the institutional and individual donors who have put their faith in this program. Arzan Sam Wadia, Program Director of RTR briefed everyone about the upcoming daily program details over the next 15 days.
The group were given a brief history of the Cusrow Baug, Mumbai’s premier Zoroastrian housing colony by Hoshang Jal, the Secretary of Cusrow Baug Pavilion.
Homi Gandhi, President of FEZANA spoke of FEZANA’s commitment as a MoU partner in supporting RTR as an institutional partner.
The participants then made their way to the legendary Britannia for a scrumptious Parsi meal and a personal meeting with its equally legendary owner Boman Kohinoor.
Later in the afternoon, RTR Fellows were welcomed at Madison World, India’s premier advertising and marketing agency headed by the dynamic father-daughter duo of Sam Balsara and Lara Balsara. Here the Fellows got a masterclass in entrepreneurship, media, advertising and a detailed deep-dive in the story behind the hugely successful ad campaign for Jiyo Parsi.
Over the next two weeks Fellows will travel to Pune, Nargol, Sanjan, Udvada, Navsari and Surat before returning to Mumbai for the return leg.
As is customary, all the pre-planning leading up to this day and the daily logistics of the trip is run by RTR Alumni who come back year on year, to continue the program. Zubin Gheesta and Sheherazad Pavri from Mumbai, Kayras Irani from Auckland, Tanya Hoshi from Toronto and Cyrus Karanjia from Karachi are the alumni who will be assisting with the running of the program
Trail Blazers India, as RTR’s logistics partners since inception were represented by Hutokshi Marker, CEO and Kurush Charna, CTO who will travel with the group for the entire duration.
The Bhuj House is a refurbished homestay that dates back to the 1890s
The daybed in the verandah room at The Bhuj House
A quaint heritage home in faraway Kutch, The Bhuj House is love at first sight. Nestled between the Bhujia Hill and the walled city of Bhuj, the homestay run by Jehan and Katie Bhujwala, dates back to the 1890s and maintains the old world charm of its heydays.
About the homestay
Built in 1890 by Pestonji Sorabji Bhujwala, a prominent businessman of the princely state of Kutch, The Bhuj House is the only surviving Parsi house in a neighbourhood that entirely belonged to the community at one time. While the house had always been with the family, it fell into disuse and was also badly damaged in the 2001 earthquake. This was before Jehan, the great, great grandson of Pestonji Sorabji Bhujwala, and his wife Katie decided to restore it as a homestay. “We wanted to ensure everything in the house was just like it had been at my great, great grandfather’s time, so we had to bring down the modern parts and restore the older sections,” says Jehan while telling us about the long restoration process.
The Verandah at The Bhuj HouseWhat came out of the restoration was a magnificent 19th century home with tiled roof, large courtyard, an open pantry, multiple terraces, and a large kitchen. To ensure that the place had all modern-day comforts, ensuite bathrooms, Wi-Fi, and air conditioning were added, but without compromising on the vintage feel. Spread over two floors, the homestay now has five rooms kitted out with antique furniture, crafts and textiles from local crafts persons, and the family’s personal belongings. An old gramophone complete with vinyl records, welcomes you in the front room. A vintage typewriter occupies the study table. The grandfather clock sits next to the grandfather’s picture on the wall, and the Hichka—a traditional Gujrati swing—adorns the Hichka Room.
Every room has a name in The Bhuj House; and with that name comes a story. The Nano Room, which gets its moniker from the Gujarati word for little, was carved out of a storeroom; the Jafri Room used to be an outdoor block of loos, and Rohee’s, a suite, is dedicated to Jehan’s cousin Rohee, the last Parsi to have lived in Bhuj. The soul of the house however, is in the courtyard. A large pantry, an old swing, shady trees, and lots of chatter make it the favourite of the Bhujwala family and their guests too.
Inside Rohee’s studyAbout the hosts
Jehan and Katie Bhujwala lovingly run The Bhuj House. The couple splits their time between Kanha and Bhuj—when they are in town, they personally attend to every guest and ensure all their needs are taken care of. Else, the property’s caretaker looks after the guests. Jehan grew up in Mumbai but was always attached to the house and wanted to do something with it. After studying geology—a route he identified to escape city life—Jehan moved to the Kanha forest to open a camp resort and finally returned to the family property in 2012 to begin renovation.
“After the Jungle Retreat: Shergarh at Kanha, we were more confident about being able to work with the house,” Jehan remembers. “Katie and I moved to Bhuj for some years to oversee the restoration work,” he adds while telling us how keeping the original structure intact and yet creating a modern space was daunting and rewarding in equal measure. The challenge, however, is far from over. Even though the homestay is doing very well, keeping such an old home running is a task in itself.
The courtyard of The Bhuj HouseFood
Being a Parsi household in the middle of Kutch means the kitchen here is always working. The 24-hour pantry in the center of the courtyard is where you make your own tea or coffee, or help yourself to fruit and lemonade. All meals are prepared in-house by the cook with spices from the manager, Khursheed’s home. Special Parsi tea made with mint and lemongrass is a highlight, as is the Dhansak, Akuri, and Chicken Farcha. The breakfast is a part of the stay; the meals are prepared on request.
How to spend 48 Hours in Bhuj
Bhuj is in the heart of the Kutch district and offers much to do. The Great Rann of Kutch is about 90-minute drive from the homestay and makes for a great day trip. The ship building unit at Mandavi, a coastal town that was once the epicentre of trade in west India, is another interesting place located at an hour’s drive.
Bhujodi village, 30 minutes from the homestay, is a treasure trove of Kutchi handicrafts and textiles. Ajrakhpur, also 30 minutes from The Bhuj House, is home to the world-famous Ajrakh print and houses workshops that excel at the craft.
The walled city of Bhuj itself is a treasure trove of arts, culture and heritage. Bhujia Hill, Hamisar Lake, Bhujia Fort and the meandering lanes hide many a treasure for those who seek. Shroff Bazaar, Ramkund Stepwell, Old Court, Royal Cenotaphs meanwhile are some other places of historic importance that ought not to be missed.
Getting There: Bhuj is accessible by flight from Mumbai. Trains connect Bhuj to Mumbai, Pune, and rest of Gujarat. The roads to Bhuj are excellent and driving to the town is a great idea too. The Bhuj house is located 10-15 minutes from the Bhuj airport and five minutes from the railway and bus stations.
Doubles from Rs5,100 per night. Extra bed costs Rs1,500per person, per night. Tariff includes breakfast and all taxes; lunch and dinner is prepared on request at Rs400 for a vegetarian meal and Rs500 for a non-vegetarian meal. Website
Navsari is a name that is firmly entrenched in the minds of Parsi – Irani Zoroastrians residing in any corner of the world. Navsari has established that it has been the fulcrum around which the community has evolved in India.
The stately Atashbehram at Navsari, is undoubtedly a must on the ‘to visit’ list of Parsi – Irani Zoroastrians from all corners of India as well as those who visit from overseas. However, what many in the community are not aware of is that Navsari has been the epicentre not only of many Parsi immortals but has as many as 54 active Parsi institutions, an unparalleled feat for a city of its size.
Parsi historian Mr. Marzban J. Giara has created a list of the 54 Parsi institutions at Navsari and perceived it would be useful to publish the same as a guide for Parsi Irani Zoroastrians visiting Navsari. WZO Trust Funds have had a map prepared that provides a glimpse of all the 54 Parsi institutions at different locations.
For the convenience of visitors to Navsari these maps will be displayed at various institutions and places of worship at Navsari, Mumbai and other centres.
The Udvada Atash Behram, also known as the Iran Shah, “King of Iran”, is a temple in Udvada, Gujarat on the west coast of India. It is one of the eight fire temples of the Zoroastrian religion in the country.