Six Parsi Aunties You’ll Want For Company !

Brownpaperbag knocks on doors from Cusrow to Behram Baug to scout six Parsi ladies with hobbies and businesses that you should know about.


Ranging from suspicious and wary to chatty and cheery, we found Gulshan, Zenobia, Benaifer, Gool, Nilofer and Roshan, all with mad skills. You should see what they can do with a fistful of Czechoslovakian beads from Bhuleshwar.

Turban Legend: Gulshan Kolah’s Parsi Paghdis

Right before her wedding in 1987, Gulshan Kolah had one major concern. It wasn’t cold feet or stomach butterflies, but organizing good head for her fiancé – turns out that she was having trouble finding him a traditional Parsi paghdi (head gear worn by men during marriage) for the ceremony.

“No one knew how to make these pagdhis so I tracked down 90 year-old Nariman Paghdiwala, the last proper paghdiwala in the city,” she says. From him, Gulshan learned the tricks of the trade and has been providing paghdis to Mumbai’s Parsis ever since. You can swing by her home in Cusrow Baug and choose from a collection of turbans that she’ll customise with traditional white crystals or red stones.

We spied a red and black polka-dotted tall cap that’s a stylish shield against the sun, whether or not you’re a Parsi gentleman on your way to getting hitched.

Call Gulshan on 22820017/ email her on, prices start at Rs 10,000 for a traditional Parsi pagdhi.

#SareeNotSorry: Zenobia Davar’s Garas



When Ex UK Prime Minister’s wife Cherie Blair wanted a gara sari, she went to Z’s studio, where Zenobia Davar hand embroidered a bird into the pattern. Feather in her cap!

Recommended by many voices in the Parsi community, Zenobia, who has a fashion degree from Sophia Polytechnic, sees herself as an embroidery purist. “I can make a lot more money if I start using machines but that would kill this delicate art form. Someone has to continue the tradition, you know!” While she swears that each of her designs are unique, be prepared to wait for up to three months for a made-to-order piece. Jabla tops for kids, jackets for women and embroidered frames have shorter wait periods.

Call 9869028943/9324106568 or email, prices start at Rs 4,000 for an embroidered frame.

No one knew how to make these pagdhis so I tracked down 90 year-old Nariman Paghdiwala, the last proper paghdiwala in the city.

From Toran to Czechoslovakia: Benaifer Amaria’s Traditional Door Hangings

Benaifer Amaria and her family have been giving the Parsi community a toran for their money for a while now.

“I come from two generations of toran (door hangings) experts,” she tells us. Creating traditional beaded torans for over twenty years, the ladies of the house scourge old cross stitch books and traditional patterns that are auspicious to bring clients good luck.

“Of course we customise as well,” Benaifer says, in a way that makes us feel silly for asking. “Just recently we had a pushy client who wanted a horse, horse shoe, swastika and even ‘god bless our home’ on the toran. We incorporated all five motifs in a way that kept them happy and was aesthetically pleasing.”

If a toran is really not your thing, Benaifer can use the same technique to make belts and neckpieces, with Czechoslovakian glass beads she gets from her vendor in Bhuleshwar.

Call 9892291565, regular toran with glass beads start at Rs 1,500 for 34-36 inches, crystal torans start at Rs 3,000.

If a toran is really not your thing, Benifer can use the same technique to make belts and neckpieces, with Czechoslovakian glass beads she gets from her vendor in Bhuleshwar.


Cottage Industry: Gool’s Topli Ma Paneer

For Gool Daruwalla, business is all about her friends. It began on a warm day in 2006, when a family acquaintance showed her how to make the traditional Parsi cottage cheese in a basket. Intrigued, Gool decided to try her hand at it, and began sourcing rennet tablets (unavailable in India and integral to many cheese making processes) from friends travelling to Singapore and Dubai, the States and England, who in turn, regularly ordered her succulent creations.

Gool now makes up to 40 pieces of paneer a day, which she recommends be eaten as salad or dessert, and has an ever-widening circle of customers. She is currently recovering from a fall and a fractured hip, so send get-well wishes for now, and place orders at the end of May.

Call 22833567, Rs 15 per piece.

Fruit & Futons: Nilofer Rustomji’s Sofa Sets

When Nilofer and her husband Reshad quit their jobs, they decided to pursue two things they loved – farming and furniture. Twenty five years later, they sip organic coffee from Kodaikanal while seated on a couch they call The Quiet Master. “It’s my favourite couch,” says Nilofer, who makes furniture of all kinds, but is recommended most for her sofas. Bums all over the city, including at Hakkasan, Axis Banks and the Mahindra Headquarters, sink into creations by Nilofer, sold under the Colonial Collections label.

Call 22090129 or email

Jai Beam: Roshan Contractor’s Chandeliers

The adorable Mrs Contractor is in her eighties and in her own words, “has one good ear”, so you’ll have to speak up. She tells us that while she lives in her apartment full-time, it also doubles up as a showroom for chandeliers, art deco lamps and bulbs, all of which you can buy after a walking tour of the home (by appointment only).

The light fixtures are designed and put together by a “sleepyhead man” who takes almost three months to make a piece. While some of the materials are new, others, especially those fashioned from cut-glass, are made with antique materials sourced from around the country. Read more about here here.

15, Walton Road, above Cowies Hotel, near Electric House, Colaba, Rs 2,500 for a single hanging lamp, Rs 20,000 for an elaborate chandelier. Shop by appointment only, call 22842082.