♡Navroze Mubarak – it’s Parsi New Year!
It’s Parsi New Year today, and Navroze Mubarak to all of them. Our agiaries (the fire temple’s) are shut to maintain social distancing and promote the state’s Covid-19 restrictions, like are the temples, mosques, churches, gurdwaras, derasars and synagogues, I don’t know where people will go to worship. Though everybody’s God is also in their home and hearts. On standby, waiting to be woken up.
♡But I wish all places of worship were open. People would like to take their Coronavirus fears to the house of their God before the hospital. As for Mumbai’s Zoroastrians (Parsis and Iranis), there are just 45,000 of them, and the city has 47 agiaries, social distancing is not a worry here. Somebody once said there were more Parsi statues than people in Mumbai, that’s not true.
Most of the agiaries are in South Mumbai, from the sea-swept Seth Jeejeebhoy Dadabhoy Agiary at Colaba where the community’s biggest weddings and navjotes are held, to the majestic Wadiaji Atash Behram standing placidly among trees at chaotic Princess Street. All within a short prayer of each other, and each one a sanctum of peace with the healing fire burning inside.
♡But today they won’t buzz with the feverish activity of Zoroastrians buying sandalwood at the corner shops outside while joyously greeting one another. Inside, I’m sure the agiaries will be illuminated with diyas and bedecked with flowers. As if a wedding or navjote was being held. The dasturji in residence is tasked with seeing to that.
♡I wonder if in the Parsi Baugs the Goan ‘nankhatai’ bands from Dhobitalao are playing English hits of the 1960s. While in homes, vermicelli or ‘Sev’ (Hathi Chaap brand) is fried in ghee with lots of sugar, with almonds sliced lengthwise, raisins and charoli. Some make ‘Rava’ on this auspicious day, which is like the Udipi ‘Sheera’, but white, with almonds and raisins, and fresh rose petals.
With Parsis (and Iranis), the New Year is about food.
♡ Breakfast kickstarts the festivity. Some things are traditional, The Parsi Poro, an omelette of tomatoes, green chillies, onions, kothmir, slightly burnt on the underside, or the Akuri which is scrambled is a must. There might also be Kheema, with kidney, liver and brain simmering in chopped tomatoes, kothmir, and eggs.
♡Parsis like beer with their lunch. In Udvada it is toddy, lunch is Sali Boti, the boti being tender and boneless meat cooked in tomato gravy, garnished by potato sali. There might be a Dhan Dal Patia, the dal is a saltless tur dal in which crisp fried onions, garlic, potatoes are added, the rice is always Basmati, and the patia – it could be pomfret fillets or prawns, in a red gravy of tomato, kothmir, the green stalks of onions, a tangy sweetness introduced when the fish is simmered in vinegar and sugar or mutton dhansak.
The Parsi rice and masala dal specialty, the rice browned nicely with caramel sugar and fried onions, this dal made of tur and masoor, with methi to give it a bitter bite, red pumpkin to give it body, and to which tomato and kothmir are added. Spicy meat kebabs are served with the Dhansak, kachumber too.
For dessert… the choice would be between Jalebi, Sutarfeni and Kulfi. But with Parsi Dairy shut, I guess that is canceled from the menu.
♡We always have dinner in the restaurant – and it is always something different. Also, shut are NCPA’s Tata Theatre and Sophia Bhabha Hall, the venues of the Parsi Natak, to which the retro generation goes in ‘garas’ and ‘dagli-phetas’, while GenNext seeks contemporary entertainment. But the Zoroastrians are an enterprising people. They find happiness and amusement anywhere.
I wish them all a blessed and peaceful New Year.