Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

Brun Pav Bun Maska and Chai

By Mark Manuel for the Times of India.

Sahebji, and Navroze Mubarak! I present Boman Irani and Shenaz Treasuryvala, Zoroastrians both; he a blustery and excitable Irani, she a petite

Shenaz Treasuryvala and Boman Irani have a Navroze breakfast exclusively

Shenaz Treasuryvala and Boman Irani have a Navroze breakfast exclusively

and pretty Parsi, both making news in Bollywood for different reasons.
They met over breakfast to bring in Navroze — the Iranian new year and first day of spring, which began last evening at 5.13 and 39 seconds IST. Boman and Shenaz, however, chose the uncivilised hour of 7.30 am for the start of their festivities, because Bollywood recognises only one kind of celebration — hard work!

Breakfast was brun-maska-chai, what else, and had in the authentic ambience of a DPC (Dadar Parsi Colony) Irani restaurant, established 1932. Boman’s chai was the paani-kum weak, milky tea, served only in the Iranis. Shenaz, who lit up the little eatery at that hour with her million watt smile, ordered an akuri and black Irani tea with no sugar. She’s just come back to Mumbai and Bollywood after travelling all over the world and doing TV shows in Hong Kong, LA, Thailand. Now she’s acting in Aamir Khan’s Delhi Belly opposite his nephew Imran and doing another film called Aage Se Right opposite Kay Kay Menon. Boman, who recommended the Irani ‘Wrestler’s Omelette’ to Shenaz (“It’s huge, made of several eggs, dikri!”), is also working with Aamir Khan in 3 Idiots and has just finished Shyam Benegal’s Abba Ka Kuan.

 

Traditionally, and funnily, Iranis and Parsis have always agreed to disagree — but live in harmony. Boman and Shenaz struck the discordant note rightaway and before the first bite of breakfast. “Navroze is an Irani festival,” said Boman spoiling for a fight, “it’s handed down to the Parsis, you’ll just enjoy the holiday aspect, the celebrations of going to restaurants and plays in the evening.” Shenaz wasn’t having any of this. “Nonsense,” she said, tossing her hair, “it’s celebrated by Zoroastrians everywhere. Last year I was in LA on this day, and everybody wished me Navroze Mubarak! Anyway, Parsis are pioneers… we started theatre, we are into education, medicine, the biggest doctors, lawyers, builders are Parsis, we study hard, we are artistic, cultured people, we have the brains, we play the piano.”

Boman, who accepted that Iranis were the more aggressive Zoroastians (“We roll up our sleeves in a fight, Parsis will scoot!”), picked up the gauntlet, “And Iranis… we work with our hands, we are hardy people, we are only restaurateurs, chickoo farmers and bakers? Who made the first Indian talkies in 1931? Ardeshir Irani, heard of him? Have you seen Iranian cinema… it’s the best in the world.” Then, somewhat generously and enthused by the Navroze spirit, he offered, “Parsis have no great numbers, but — yes, they are pioneers, and heard of in every single field.” Shenaz flashed him a sexy smile and offered her olive branch, “Irani men are more manly… but Parsi women, more feminine.” Boman leered like Prof J C Asthana in Munnabhai, “That’s true… and let me tell you, the great Parsi-Irani divide ended on January 28, 1985, when Boman married Zenobia… I’m now half-Parsi!”

Both go to the agiary on this day, then it’s breakfast at home, a big lunch (“With plenty of beer,” added Boman), then the nap in the afternoon normally reserved for Sundays after the heavy Dhansak meal, and a play in the evening. “But there are no new Parsi naataks being made nowadays,” grumbled Boman. “That’s why I’m dying to see your new Parsi film,” said Shenaz brightly, “I’ve been saving it for the new year. Will you come with me?” Drawing back in mock horror, Boman said, “Chali ni, my biwi Zenobia lives just down the road and four buildings away…”

mark.manuel@timesgroup.com