Parsi New Year blues: Salli boti over patra ni machchhi

For the Parsis, there is nothing ‘fishy’ about fish. They consider it auspicious to have it on their plates. Without fish delicacies on their menu — be it a wedding or any other occasion — they feel like fishes out of water, literally.

By Ashutosh Shukla /DNA

But the recent oil spill off the Mumbai coast has spoiled it all, making it hazardous to have sea food. Many Parsis in the city were forced to celebrate New Year on Thursday without their favourite patra ni machchhi (steamed fish wrapped in banana leaves), saas ni machchhi (sweet and sour fish), fish patio (fish with tomato gravy) et al. Even some barfis are made of fish.

“It is considered auspicious to have fish on our plates,” a Parsi said. Fish is a protective symbol for the community, saving it from the evils of the world and leading it to prosperity. A legend says that when the evil wanted to finish off the ‘Glory of Light’, the fish hid it in its mouth and saved it.

“But there is little we can do when something like this (oil spill) happens. Mother said we are not having fish. Instead, there will be chicken and mutton dishes,” Gulshan Garda said. His family ushered in the New Year with salli boti, pulao dal and rava (sweet dishes).

“We will be having dhan dar (white rice and yellow dal) and chicken masala. Sadly, no fish for us this New Year,” Farida Patel said.

But avid fish eaters among the Parsis refused to be bogged down by the oil spill. Yasmin Sarkari said that she had asked her sister, who came from Gujarat to celebrate the New Year, to get her good fish. “I asked her to bring five to six fishes. The government has declared it safe to have fish in Mumbai, but I was doubtful about their quality. New Years cannot happen without fish on our menu,” Sarkari said.

Ayesha Shroff,12, had no option to get fish from elsewhere. So, her family decided to keep faith in the government advisory. Preparing rangoli, Shroff said, “The oil spill has moved towards Aligarh, so there is no need for us to fear in Mumbai. We are having fish dishes as always, and I helped my mother to prepare them.”