In true Karachi Parsi style, new year heralded with charity mela

Teens sporting chain-link bags, fashionable young moms and dapper old men mingled at a mela organised to celebrate Navroz (also spelled Nauroz)  at the Beach Luxury Hotel on Saturday evening, exchanging ‘Navroz Mubaraks’ and loudly ca

lling out to each other.

Published in The Express Tribune Pakistan

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The sea breeze was thick with the sound of Gujarati, as the Zoroastrian community of Karachi celebrated the New Year. For Shireen, her day started with her son’s friends coming over for breakfast, a visit to the agiary or temple, and a lunch featuring a few “traditional and auspicious dishes, such as dhun-dar patia”. At the mela, the food reflected a mix of generations: homemade sandwiches in Tupperware containers, shawarmas and plates of chaat.

The older Parsi women – with their pearl strands, oversized bags and neon lipsticks – had efficiently managed a number of stalls at the event. The proceeds from the stalls – including a selection of clothing, donated knickknacks, food hampers and games – go to charity.
More than Rs35,000 was raised and will be donated to different educational charities along with the main HJ Behrana Parsi Fire Temple in Saddar, and the Parsi General Hospital.

“When I was a child there was no place to stand here!” Shireen said. “We’re dwindling.”

“There are such few of us left,” said Aban Aga. “The senior citizens are the majority.” Many of the attendees noted that because of immigration by Parsis, the crowd at the mela was thinner than it used to be in its heyday. “Each year we cut one dozen, two dozen packs from the ‘fishing pool’,” said Alla Rustomji, as she looked to a stall that was giving away gifts to boys and girls.

At the stall selling donated clothing, Rustomji called out to passers-by. “Mummy told you to buy clothes,” she remarked to a young child.

Children at the event, including eight-year-old Darius Firani who got a gift of stationery from the ‘fishing pool’, tried their luck at games such as balancing a number of Pepsi cans in a trough of water, or bouncing away on a jumping castle. “Just one more and you can win the prize!” encouraged one volunteer to a boy who had made it to four Pepsi cans before the tower collapsed.

But for the younger crowd, the young teenagers in skinny jeans, harem pants and dangly earrings there is little to do in terms of activities. “We come here to hang out with our friends,” one said, standing with three giggly young friends from the ‘Mama school’ – the Mama Parsi Girls Secondary School. “It’s good to come here so we can get out of the house,” another remarked.

When asked if this was a good place to meet boys, the girls looked at each other, laughed and replied, “Yes!” Perhaps the matriarchs of the Parsi community needn’t worry about their future after all.