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Parsis: The Zoroastrians of India Pakistan and The World

COVID-19 hits Navroz celebrations in Mumbai

This year, the traditional festivities, which include a lavish bhonu of Parsi delicacies and a visit to the agiary, were toned down, in keeping with advisories to tackle the spread of COVID-19 in India.

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For the first time in 22 years, the doors of Jahan Nargolwala’s house in Dadar Parsi Colony are shut on Navroz.

“I used to have 80 to 90 people visiting my place through the day. This year, it hasn’t even been 15,” Nargolwala (46) said on Friday — when Irani and Parsi communities celebrated Jamshedi Navroz, the Zoroastrian New Year that marks the start of the Iranian calendar.

This year, the traditional festivities, which include a lavish bhonu of Parsi delicacies and a visit to the agiary, were toned down, in keeping with advisories to tackle the spread of COVID-19 in India.

Nargolwala was 13 when she arrived in Mumbai from Tehran, seeking refuge during the Iran-Iraq war. She still has family in Tehran and the Navroz spirit has been quietened owing to the rising death toll in Iran.

Nargolwala has been running a small eatery called Café 792, which caters to the residents at Dadar Parsi Colony. “We usually get 70 orders and this year, it’s only half. However, we made sure that all senior citizens in the colony got their Navroz bhonu delivered at their places. Many of the elderly couples live by themselves and they don’t believe in cooking for two. We don’t think people should be crowding in the café but we hope to deliver orders in the coming days,” said Nargolwala.

Several other Parsi food caterers have also recorded a dip in orders, as fewer guests are congregating at homes for Navroz celebrations. Some agiaries across the city have even urged the faithful not to come inside to avoid crowding. In Dadar Parsi Colony, the Rustom Framna Agiary closed earlier this week, allowing only the usual rituals to be carried indoors by the priests. Likewise, the Dadar Parsee Colony Gymkhana, which was to host an annual charity event called Festival of Spring on March 21, announced a temporary closure.

This year, the tradition of the Parsi natak stands cancelled, as theatre venues are closed till March 31. Meher Marfatia, who has written extensively on 20th century Parsi theatre, said it’s customary for the community to go for a play on Navroz evening, followed by dinner.

The National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) has traditionally been the largest venue to host the plays, alongside other venues such as Sheth Gokuldas Tejpal Auditorium and Sophia Bhabha Auditorium. “This year, NCPA was set to show Sherlock Homi, a play on how Bawa detectives are probably the best. Refunds have come through. This is the first time in 50 years that I won’t be seeing a play on Navroz,” said Marfatia.