Parsi Bol 2: Book decoding Parsi-Gujarati lingo gets second edition


March 15, 2016

Post by




Two years and 1,058 crowd funded phrases later, the Parsi Bol team of Sooni Taraporevala, Meher Marfatia, Farzana Cooper and Hemant Morparia are back with the second edition of the book this time with an audio CD. While the first edition of the book has the voices of Dolly and Bomi Dotiwala, veteran singing starts of Parsi theatre, the second edition has the voice of actor Boman Irani.

Pic/Satej Shinde

The intention of the book was to document the unique Gujarati-Persian-Urdu mix of phrases and words used by the Zoroastrian community that settled in India. They expected it to be picked up by the community and minorities who spoke Gujarati, like the Dawoodi Bohras. That a Tamilian Brahmin and Sindhi family stuck in Coonor on New Year’s used it to play Dumb Charades is a happy and unexpected result.

“We were accused of being too sanitised and goody-goody in our first book,” says author and journalist Marfatia, when we meet at Taraporevala’s Gowalia Tank home. “Yes, too sanitised. We were asked to let loose,” she adds. “So, this book is more masti. We included only the fun and imaginative phrases. People said we should do a book about Parsi gaar (abuse and insults)…”

“I’ve left that to my father,” says Taraporevala. “Nobody will go after an 85-year-old man [if offended]…”

The book is supported by the trusts of businessman Cyrus Guzder and Dinshaw Tamboly of The World Zoroastrian Organisation Trust. “We wanted to do an audio book,” says Taraporevala, a scriptwriter, photographer and filmmaker. But for many reasons, that did not work out. We wanted Parsi kids in America to know how to pronounce the words.”

“Parsi-Gujarati pronunciation is very unique,” adds Marfatia, who is also a columnist for this paper. “So instead of printing the old book again, we decided to bring out an expanded book with a CD so that book lovers could have two for the price of one.”

The duo has now stopped taking contributions on their parsibol email ID. “We’re all bol-d out!” says Marfatia, though Taraporevala hints that she could revisit the project after a breather. Their phrase, pronunciation checker and archivist is Taraporevala’s 90-plus aunt Rutty Maneckshaw. “She is the keeper of family histories, has a vast knowledge of the language and an impeccable memory,” says Taraporevala. The phrases are divided into 16 categories and the ones to especially look out for are the picture phrases and twin words. “We found that words with connected meaning were clubbed together with alliteration and rhyming, which is quite clever,” says Marfatia, “They are not nonsense words, like say milk-shilk. It’s more like eski-meski which means someone who is well turned out. It’s opposite would be sapote-dapote; someone who is casually dressed or in house clothes.”

The hard work was in the details, where they had to write the word or phrase in Gujarati, transliterate it in Roman script, give a literal translation in English and then convey what it essentially means. Taraporevala knew she had reached some measure of success when her then 10-year-old nephew treasured his copy and read it in secrecy like some forbidden book.


Boom Burada means yelling, or creating a ruckus. Illustrations courtesy/Farzana Cooper
Boom Burada means yelling, or creating a ruckus. Illustrations courtesy/Farzana Cooper

Some words we could bring back
Boss: Bossie
Loser: MBBS (Member of Baitha-Bekaar Society)
You do you: TTFL (Tameh tumaaroo foree lev)
Bro, what’s wrong with you? Tu manus ke fanus? (Are you a man or a lantern?)
Go get ’em = Futteh kuroh (Be victorious)

The book launches on March 15th at Kitab Khana 5.30-7 pm.