Monday, February 11, 2013
The Indian Parsi Community maybe the most dimunitive one but it surely has made it's presence felt in the progress of India's Industries by contributing such names as the Tatas,the Godrej family and the Wadias. There have been many legal Luminaries among them--and many of our Freedom Fighters too have belonged to it--in a nutshell it is an illustrious Community indeed!!Sherry Aunty who was the Principal of the Chandigarh College of Home Science was someone I knew from a very young age.Her infectious laugh and Joie de Vivre made her very popular---for me however it was her shoes and perfumes that really made an impression!!The former were custom made by hand from Chinese shoemakers in Simla and the latter sourced in the Bazaars of Bombay!!Of course contact with her niece Meher brought her even closer as Meher and I were roughly the same age.
My real contact with this Community came after my marriage to Sudhir.Not only were our GPs Parsi--but the Legal Community had many Luminaries from this Community--and there would be loads of Invitations to attend Weddings and Thread Ceremonies of young children known as "Navjyots" that were numerous.The Parsi appetite is known to be extremely large--and the huge portions served at each event are a testimony to that.The first such Wedding I attended was barely a month after my own.Sudhir and I along with Milind and Nina went to this beautiful Wedding at the "Agiary" or Fire Temple near Afghan Church in South Bombay.It was a truly overwhelming and enjoyable experience for me.The entire Agiary Courtyard was lit up with Fairy Lights--these were strung over every Coconut Palm Tree around--and trailed over Shrubs and Vines in the Courtyard.The Dining Tables were laid out in straight lines--covered with crisp White Damask Tablecloths and had colourful Fairy Lanterns strategically placed over them.There was a Live Band performing and the kids were having a gala time dancing to the latest English Pop songs.The turn out was very impressive--the men in formal Suits or in traditional Parsi "Daglas",most of them sporting the traditional,shiny ,squarish conical hats on their heads.The women were like bejewelled Peacocks--flaunting their multi hued beautiful hand embroidered "Garaas" ---in rich Purple,Emerald Green,Shocking Pink and Royal Blue--the rich Silk thread Embroidery being shown off to perfection against the rich,deep Colours.It was however the Jewellery that was spectacular--for such occasions were the time to flaunt it--and antique Pearl and Precious stone studded pieces were twinkling at the throats,ears and arms of the ladies.For my uninitiated eyes it was a glimpse into an exotic Paradise---very dignified yet full of glitter!!The circulation of soft and hard drinks along with various Tit Bits added to the ambience and atmosphere--all very chic and sophisticated!!This Picture was to shatter soon--as soon as the cry "Jamwaa Chaalo Ni" was uttered.Those words are the traditional call to take one's place for Dinner at the long tables laid out in rows under the Stars.
All those haughty,dignified men and women changed in that one instance--the ladies picked up the skirts of their volumnious Saries almost up to their knees and made a dash for the Tables followed by the men--trying to get there before the others!!The lucky ones who got there quickly began knocking over the Chairs against the Tables--reserving place for their friends and family.Sudhir had caught hold of my hand and half pulled and half dragged me to where Milind had reserved 4 places for us---that was when I vowed that I'd never wear high heels again to any Parsi event!!The Food was served on tender Banana Leaves--extremely sumptuous and scrumptious---those who have attended similar "Dos" will know what I'm talking about--but for those who haven't--here it comes!!The Meal begins with a bottle of one's choice of a Soft drink, hot Indian Bread and a tasty Pickle called "Lagan nu Achaar'.This is sweet,sour,spicy and simply yummy---made with a rich mixture of Dates and other Dry Fruits cooked along with certain Spices in Vinegar and Sugar syrup!!This course is followed by an Egg Dish course,followed a Chicken Course,followed by a Fish Course,then a Meat Course which finally brings one to the scrumptious Dal-Palao with Mince Meat (Kheema) Kababs.Luckily those days my stomach was a bottomless pit--and I managed to sail through the entire Menu creditably even with the addition of dollops of Fresh Cream Cheese,Crisp Wafers,a yummy Bread pudding called "Lagan nu Custard" and many other Condiments that accompanied each course.By the time the Sweet Course came around I was satiated and full--but like a glutton ate whatever was offered!!There have been many such Dinners since through the years and I became a veteran at outrunning even the fastest to unashamedly corner our seats at the Table---but the thrill and wonder of that first Dinner was never replicated.The Food is as wonderful as ever---but slowly the capacity to gorge as before lessened and yesterday I finally acknowledged ruefully to myself that my eating days were over!!
One of Ritu's colleagues named Daisy celebrated the Navjyot of her two grandsons yesterday.This was my first real outing after Sudhir passed away---and while I was looking forward to going the spark of anticipation was missing.As expected there was a surfeit of the Starters---both Non vegetarian and Vegetarian---but I was forced to limit myself--or I wouldn't have been able to eat Dinner!!The Meal was as wonderful and mouthwatering as was expected--but Ritu and I left the Eggs,shared part of the huge portion of Chicken,ploughed our way through the large portion of excellent Fish but refused the Meat--because we wanted to eat the Dal Palao!! Finally stuffed to the gills we refused the Sweet--but womanfully ate our way through the Cream Cheese and shared the Custard too!!Now I'm set for a year of not eating Parsi Food--for such Food is available outside Parsi homes very rarely--hence the anticipation and eagerness to have a bite of it!!All I will say now is that God Bless you Mrs.Godiwalla--may you continue cooking your excellent Meals through the future Generations too!!