Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Sorabji Byramji Sanatorium residents allege harassment from BPP…

The 46 Parsi families residing there live in deplorable conditions and according to them the BPP Trust does nothing about it. Instead they want them to vacate the premises, they declare

The Parsi community in Mumbai seems to constantly be in the news lately. And it’s for all the wrong reasons! Even as tempers are still simmering over the dreaded Doongerwadi issue, where pictures of corpses made headlines, the serene Sorabji Byramji Bhabha Sanatorium at Bandstand, where 46 Parsi families reside, is now in the eye of the storm. The residents allege that the sanatorium, which is being run by the Bombay Parsi Panchayat (BPP), is not only in a deplorable condition but that they are also being harassed to vacate the premises. This they say is because the trustees want to sell the vast property, which happens to be right next to actor Shahrukh Khan’s bungalow, ‘Mannat.’

According to Sana Irani, resident of A-10, Bhabha Sanatorium since April 2000, “After living abroad for more than two decades and flying for an international airline, I had to return to India to look after my ailing mother and settle some property disputes, after my father passed away. I moved into the sanatorium from April 2000 and till December 2000, I was charged rent to the tune of Rs 2000 every month. After that period, I, along with other tenants was asked to vacate the premises without being given any valid reason. If the BPP claims that we have overstayed, why have they woken up now? What about people who’ve been staying in various sanatorium’s since the past 15 to 20 years?! People who live here are not financially secure; that’s why we have to keep moving from one sanatorium to another. If the BPP wants to allot flats to us, why do they take so many years?” asks an angry Irani, who incidentally was a runner up in the 1982 Miss India pageant.

The Bhabha Sanatorium has three buildings on its sprawling estate. While two of the buildings are more than a hundred years old, the third one, which has three wings (A, B and C), is just over two decades old. A plethora of security personnel are present at the entrance itself, checking each person who enters the small side gate; the main gate has a big lock to it anyway. The flats are in quite a shocking condition, white ants are present everywhere, water, which leaks through during the monsoon, has left dark, ugly patches in several places, the furniture provided by the sanatorium is moth eaten and threatens to tumble down any moment.
The long, high ceiling corridors have a faint, musty odour and the walls have long since seen better days. Water, which was once 24 hours a day, became 15 minutes for some time and has now given out for two hours every morning. Residents are also not allowed to carry out basic, internal repairs to their houses.

“I also realised that rent charged in a sanatorium is supposed to be very minimal because the place is for poor Parsis anyway. So I asked the then manager, Dhanjishah Jessia, as to why I was being charged Rs 2000 per month, in which four months rent is payable in advance! Over the years I have been harassed numerous times. The BPP probably hopes that since I’m a single lady living alone, they can tire me out and hope I relent and leave. But why should I? This place is for people who can’t afford to buy flats worth lakhs. All we want is a decent place to live with basic amenities,” she says.
Surprisingly tenants residing in the sanatorium aren’t allowed to have their own televisions, cupboards, washing machines, table fans or refrigerators. However after a lot of arguments, the sanatorium has now relented and allowed them these basic facilities. “The security that has been put up at the sanatorium comes from the ‘Eagle Security Group’ owned by ex ACP N. Manekshaw, who has instructed his security men to harass us by barging into our houses, abusing us, taking our pictures without our permission and basically just making our lives miserable. There was a time when our door bells had open wires; we’d get a shock if we touched them.

The main tanks on the roof had dead animals in them!” says Irani.

She continues, “The new manager, who came in less than a year ago, Tempton Govadia, talks to us in a very rude manner and once even instructed a security guard to jump into my apartment from the terrace in my absence. False cases are put against me. In fact once I was taken to the police station and ACP Cyrus Davierwala, who doesn’t even belong to the Bandra jurisdiction, came up to me and asked me a rude question as to where I get my funds from and threatened me that he’d launch a probe into my finances. It’s sickening. If the BPP has honorable intentions as to helping poor Parsis, why are they harassing us? Why are different rent amounts charged to different tenants?”

Irani isn’t alone. 75-year-old Homi Mistry who resides in A 2 says that the white ants have given him a bad skin infection on his legs. “I have been staying here since 2000. We get water in only one tap, so we have to carry water from the bathroom to our kitchen sink and the toilet. Everything leaks, we have to clean it up with cloths and that is a little difficult to do at my age. Once the manager entered my flat and threatened my wife, who is a non-Parsi, to vacate the premises,” said Mistry with a tired sigh.

73-year-old Minoo Patel is another resident who resides in the sanatorium with his outcaste wife. A private driver, the sanatorium didn’t allow him to get his own table fan, in his tiny room. “After much arguing I now have my small fan and a table, which are my only belongings here. Even if someone asks me if I want old furniture, I have to say a no because I won’t be allowed to get it here.” A private driver, Patel finds it difficult to make ends meet and is fighting the eviction case in court currently.

Original article here