Everyone who has known of the Ferzandi brothers — Darius, 85 and Plumarz, 81 succumbing to the deadly coronavirus within weeks of each other last month, have been aching with memories of the two bespectacled old Parsi men. Darius was a fixture at the glass gallah of his quaint little Byculla Restaurant & Bakery taking the loban around his cafe every evening, and Plumarz who knew almost every patron of his Byculla Pharmacy & Stores by name ever since they took over the reins of their father’s business back in the ’50s.
If the sudden closure of the century-old eatery tucked under the Byculla flyover this January signalled the end of a chapter that defined the city’s cuisine and culture, the passing of the Ferzandi brothers evoked a sense of loss that felt personal for many.
Regulars at the cafe and the pharmacy remember the genial Ferzandis for the stories they often told about their father, Kaikushru Ferzandi who belonged to the long caravan of Parsis who had walked to India from Iran in 1918.
The brothers — lovingly called Plum & Darius — looked identical in their white bush shirt and white bushy moustache with a pale ferning around their eyes everytime they flashed their toothpaste grin. “We are from the same glass factory,” was their favourite phrase, recalls Hormazdiyaar Vakil, a family friend of the Ferzandis for over fifty years. “They weren’t the typical admonishing Parsi Bawa in loose sadra and kasti,” says Vakil. “They were always jovial and impeccably dressed!” he said. “Till the end, they were octogenarians with a teenager’s heart.”
Some recalled generations of Rustom Baug growing up on Darius’s signature bun mask while others bemoaned how he had stood the test of time with “his friendly handwave” and “nostalgic taste of bread pudding” even as sleekly marketed coffeehouse chains continued to erode the clientele of Irani restaurants. The charm that Plumarz wielded was evident from the mundane visits to his pharmacy that many cherish as memory for keeps. Be it “cups of tea at his little den” or lozenges he doled out to kids — people’s memories tumbled out on social media.
For the Ferzandis’ inner circle of bereaved, the sudden loss of two patriarchs has been hard but they chose to dwell on memories that celebrate their life. A social media post said: “We do know that Plum and Darius will continue their morning breakfasts, their stories, their jokes and watch over us all.”