Of Dhansak and Nan Khatai


December 30, 2008

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During the sixties, the city had over 3,000 Parsees. Today, there are just 650, and the community is counting every birth and death.

Thus, when the Parsee Club on the Maidan recently completed its century, it was time for community members to reaffirm their ethnicity.

The centenary was marked with a bang. For one year, there were celebrations galore: tournaments, dance, music, fashion shows, art competitions and, of course, food all in traditional Parsee style. On Sunday evening, when members finally took leave of each other at the end of the club’s centenary celebrations, they agreed it had been a wonderful year of togetherness.

The Parsee Club was established on November 4, 1908, with the idea of promoting sports. Since then, teams from the club have played official league matches be it hockey, football, basketball, cricket or tennis. Every weekend, a majority converges at the club to play, chat, eat and drink. “It has become a way of life with us. When the community is small, it tends to gravitate towards a centre that holds the community together,” said Bahadur Postwalla, one of the most active community members.


Though the community is close-knit, it has lost much of its ethnicity. Hence, it was decided by the most prominent members of the community, such as Noomi Mehta, the chief of Selvel, that the closing days of the centenary celebrations should take the community back to its roots. Jimbo Vatsha, perhaps the only Parsee caterer of the city, was roped in to serve Parsee delicacies like dhansak, chingri no patio, aleti-paleti, akuri, patrani machchi and lagan nu custard. Even the biscuits were from Dotiwala, the famous Parsee bakery from Surat. “We had 80 kg of surti batasha, vine biscuits and nan khatai sent to us. For most seniors, it was like munching on nostalgia,” Postwalla said.

Christmas onwards, the club saw programmes where senior ladies showed off their embroidered Gara sarees, and the customs of Navjot (thread ceremony), Jashan, Agharani and Achu-Michu. The importance of sadra and kusti (sacred thread and innerwear) were explained to the present generation.

Original article here.