After 10 days of praying for the departed, the Parsis are all set to welcome their New Year on Tuesday. Celebration time for Parsis has traditional as well as modern influences. This means, waking up early to a rich breakfast that consists of sev (sweet roasted vermicelli) and ravo (semolina).
Members of the Parsi community make use of the occasion to recall how the first few Parsis to reach India landed on the coast of Gujarat. It was then that the local ruler presented before the priestly leaders a vessel filled to the brim with milk, indicating that the land could not accommodate any more people.
To the surprise of everyone, the Parsi head priest responded by slipping some sugar into the milk to signify how the strangers would enrich the local community without displacing them. Since then, the Parsis have inherited many local traditions, including the Gujarati language.
Another custom is that of laying out rangoli on auspicious occasions like New Year. “Bright rangoli designs with dry colours and floral torans (garlands) adorn the entrances of homes. These are customs we learnt from the Gujaratis,” says Rukshana Khambatta, who made offering of a few sandalwood sticks for the fire that burns in the agiary.
But most non-Parsis, more than anything, are interested in the community’s culinary exploits. The popular delicacies served on hotel menus this New Year are patra ni macchi (steamed fish in banana leaves), lagan nu custard (wedding custard), dhansaak (mixed vegetable daal), faarcha (fried chicken) and akoori (scrambled masala egg).
Khetwadi resident Abaan Rohinton Irani knows what is on her menu this festive season. “Lunch will be a nice, hearty meal of dhan dal, mutton boti and fried fish,” she says. But for many the day is a time to socialise, interact and even party together.
While the elders like going for Gujarati plays, the youth like going out for dinner and parties. For 21-year-old Jamshed Readymoney, Parsi New Year is that time of the year when he can meet other members of his community, which is dwindling gradually. “On this day, you get a chance to mingle around with young bawi women at clubs,” he says.