RTI celebrates 75 years

Going platinum

Frilly frocks and flaky dal poris–RTI celebrates 75 years

Parizaad Khan

Mumbai, November 16: THE Sir Ratan Tata Institute supplied the snacks to my school canteen. On the pizza halves, the layer of cheese was as thick as the base and when you bit into a Nutty Finger, it was a perfect blend of crystallized chocolate, soft sponge cake and crunchy nuts. A few days ago, I tried a Nutty Finger again. It was still the same.

At RTI, it’s not just the pastries that haven’t changed for the past 75 years. The institute was founded in 1929 by Lady Navajbai Tata as a tribute to her philanthropist husband, Sir Ratan Tata. The aim was to give uneducated women a way to earn a living; the mentally and physically handicapped were also given jobs and training. These days, chairperson Simone Tata, who comes in every Saturday to supervise and give new ideas is just as involved. The institute celebrates its platinum jubilee this year, with a special show by dancer Shiamak Davar and his troupe.

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The RTI building on Hughes Road houses the flagship food outlet and kitchen, which distributes their trademark goodies to seven other outlets across Mumbai. Known for their Parsi specialities like dal pori and patrel, they also churn out a killer lemon roll and Dutch truffle, besides daily tiffins and packed meals.

Parvez Wadia, manager of the food division takes us around their two-storey kitchen, where the 80-plus staff are filling tart moulds, rolling out cookie dough and mixing cream with dark chocolate to dress cakes. Wadia says this Diwali was quite productive–3,000 kg of chocolate were sold.

Across the road, in the institute’s annexe, are the institute’s two garment stores for women and children–Hers and Bambino. Year after year, passers-by have gotten glimpses of painstakingly embroidered Parsi garas, and fairy-tale frocks in these show windows.

For Bambino, the hot-seller this season is a layered pink organza dress, 55-year-old Khorshed Panthaky tells us. We’re in an airy workroom above the stores. She’s been here since 2000 and is responsible for all of Bambino’s designs. ”Inspite of competition, party and Navjote dresses are still our niche,” says Shernaz Acharia, who’s involved with administration. A laundry and a training course for Montessori teachers is also a part of the institute’s activities.

In Hers, among embroidered towels and satin nightgowns, committee member Kamal Pandole sits selling tickets for the Shiamak Davar performance. ”We’ve been told that there’s no place for our old ideals, but we keep the institute going. And we’re still holding our own,” she says. The funds from the shows at the NCPA on November 19 and 20 will help upgrade the equipment and employ more people.

Shiamak Davar’s performance will take place at the NCPA, on November 19 and 20. Tickets are available at RTI, Hughes Road. Call 2380 2781