Obituary: Dr (Mrs) Katy F Dalal

Today is the Public Condolence meeting to mourn the death of Dr. Katy Dalal, who passed away recently. Details below.

The following is an obituary written by Homai N. Modi and printed in the Mumbai Samachar of April 04, 2010

My first glimpse of Katy Dalal was when I just joined the K. R. Cama Oriental Institute (KRCOI) as Jt. Hon. Secretary. She was on the mezzanine floor of the library hidden behind a mound of books, peeping out at me with her plump, smiling, rosy yet dignified face. That was the beginning of our friendship in 1982 which grew stronger over the years.

An archaeologist is how I first knew her as she was a regular research scholar at the KRCOI library. Katy obtained a PhD in Archaeology from Poona University in 1972, her subject being “Pre-historic Pottery Industries along the ‘Lost’ Saraswati River of the Great Indian Desert”. She went on to publish several Research Papers including one on Sothi and Malva ware cultures – both pre-Harappan.

As a speaker par excellence she was often on the platform of the KRCOI. She also participated in the Institute’s International Congresses as well as the National Congress on “Ferdowsi and his Shahnameh”. Her pet topic however was Alexander the Macedonian – a topic she was researching till the very end.

Whatever Katy did, it was with passion and excellence as was her catering. She was always the KRCOI caterer where her generosity spilled over. In fact, to those who had been kind to her family and those who were deprived and needy, Katy silently sent food to them regularly and totally free of cost. For her, catering was much more than just a business.

The Community best knew Katy as a caterer and hence I shall dwell more on this area. It is said, that behind every successful man is a woman, but for Katy, her husband Feroze and her children Kurush, Darius and Freny stood shoulder to shoulder with her and shared in her culinary activities. In fact, it was Feroze who first introduced Katy to diverse culinary delights. Her catering activities culminated with her publishing six cookery books.

The first book brought out in 1998 was “Jamva Chaloji – Parsi Delicacies for all Occasions”. This book, dedicated to her grandmother, was sold out within 6 to 7 months of its release. These words “Jamva Chaloji” brings to my mind the man who in the 1950s and 60s used to always announce at Albless Baug in a booming voice heralding the guests to dinner, “Jamva Chaloji – Thank you for your kindly kindness”. This may not be correct English, but there was a graciousness about it and everyone waited for this announcement before proceeding to dinner. These small courtesies are missing in our crowded and stressed lives today.

“Jamva Chaloji” – book Two consisted of recipes which today are not as commonly made as they were 50 years ago. It was a revival of long forgotten tasty dishes which your grand and even great grandparents enjoyed which were reproduced to tickle our palate, such as: ‘Papau-ma-gos’ & ‘Gor-amli-na-ras-ma-patra ni macchi’. Katy’s advice was: Don’t do everything cook books tell you, pander to your palate, for it is only by experimenting on existing recipes that new ones are made.

Following “Jamva Chaloji” – books One & Two, were Vitality Cook Book, Delicious Encounters, Pulaos and Biryanis, and Seafood Fiesta. Seafood Fiesta published by Vakils, Feffer and Simons Pvt. Ltd. contains recipes of such vast varieties of fish. This book contains recipes from Maharashtra, Karwar, Goa, Kerala, Tamilnadu, Bengal, Kashmir and even France, Italy, Spain and Morocco!

Katy saw to it that along with her recipes our general knowledge was increased. As a result of painstaking research, this book informs us of the nutritive value and health benefits of a fish diet and its use in Pharmaceuticals and other industries. E.g. Did you know that Napoleon Bonaparte first realized there was a great need to preserve food and that sardine was the first fish to be preserved in Oil and Tomato Sauce? Did you know that Squid and Octopus have the largest brain of any invertebrates? Did you know that ‘Fish is brain food’ and ‘Sea food is heart food?

Katy came from a family of good cooks and we found similarities between her relatives and mine. Her paternal grandmother and mine, shared the same first name – Cooverbai, both widowed while young. Katy’s Cooverbai as mentioned in “Jamva Chaloji” had a sister-in-law named Meherbai who was not only a good cook but the uncrowned Queen of Rawalpindi. She had given orders to the Victoriawallas that any Parsi alighting at the station was to be brought home at her expense. My Cooverbai’s sister, also called Meherbai (my maternal grandmother) was also a good cook whose orders were that all Parsis who came to her Central Hotel at Darjeeling stayed free and had free meals. These are not lone incidents to Katy’s family and mine. This is what the Parsis in the past were all about – courtesy, graciousness and generosity in the extreme. This forgotten world of graciousness is somehow brought home to us from time to time in Katy’s books. In her 3rd book
“Delicious Encounters” published in 1999, a section is devoted to “An English Tea in your Rose Garden” – One is transported back to those sleepy, lovely, leisurely days under a sun umbrella with the aroma of flowers and luscious cakes, pies etc. In fact, you can travel the world and taste the choicest tea menus through Katy’s book by sitting in her Rose Garden. One just has to open that garden gate!

“Pulaos & Biryanis – A Tribute to Indian Cuisine”, takes you down “History” Lane – if I may coin this word – and through Moghul Courts where cooking became an art as did its presentation with flower petals, essences, wispy sheets of beaten silver and gold and gorgeous displays of roasted peacocks with their feathers decorating the salvers. One is transported to the courts of Lucknow, Awadh and Hyderabad where chefs vied with each other to produce original recipes. From Awadh comes the story of a live bird flying out from a fried puri and one is reminded of the song ‘Sing a song of six pence a pocket full of rye, four and twenty black birds baked in a pie …”. The influences on Hyderabadi food of the Arabs, Egyptians, Europeans and Negroes who formed a part of the Nizam’s security guard are stated while taking us further down “History Lane” and we are enlightened about Moghlai cuisine, Kashmiri, Konkan, Parsi, Punjabi, Bengali,
Coorji, Keralite and Karnataka foods.

Katy kept smiling through her last years of illness and pain even as her generosity increased as did my bond with her.

Last year the Red Cross Funds Sub-Committee; a Committee of which she was a member since 1997, (and where her largesse was also felt both through funds and delicious snacks), had organized a medical camp in Khandala. Kurush did the catering and I mentioned to him at lunch that I wished to visit Katy and Feroze at their home in Lonavala. He informed me that they were on their way to visit me bearing gifts as usual. We had a happy get-together after which they insisted I go to their home in Lonavala for tea. It was as if I was transported back through her cookery book into a lovery quiet cottage in a cul-de-sac with a rose garden. As Feroze prepared the typical English Tea, Katy sat in “her” chair surrounded by a mound of books, just as I had first seen her at KRCOI. She was working on Alexander the Great! I had a strange feeling of going back in time. Hospitality, calm content and happiness seemed to be exuded in this home with a rose garden. I was
plied with more gifts of jams, pickles and fruits as I got up to leave. Katy and Feroze stood waving at the gate as our car slowly went out of sight. That is how I always remember her, even though I later met her in hospital and we had several talks over the phone.

I would like to end on the note: “Thank you Katy for your friendship and your abundant generosity, of which I was so often a recipient.” To all those whose lives she touched with her love and generosity, I just wish to say, that the best way to keep her memory alive is to remember: If you have had a kindness shown, pass it on.

Homai N. Modi

Trustee & Jt. Hon. Secretary

K R Cama Oriental Institute

PTA THE BOMBAY SAMACHAR 04/04/2010
A PUBLIC CONDOLENCE MEETING

to mourn the death of

Dr (Mrs) Katy F Dalal

Convened by:

The K R Cama Oriental Institute,

The Bombay Parsee Association

&

The Rahnumae Mazdayasnan Sabha

will be held at 6.15 pm

on Thursday, 8th April 2010

at Dr Sir Jivanji J Modi Memorial Hall of

The K. R. Cama Oriental Institute

136, Bombay Samachar Marg

Opp. Lion Gate, Fort

Bombay 400001

Members of the public are invited to the condolence meeting

  • Jeannie Antia

    What a great lady!

    I wish she had stood up for the rights of Parsi Zoroastrian Women!

  • dr arnavaz havewala

    i feel so sad i missed the condolence meeting yesterday.
    this happens when you have no time to check email daily, as often happens to me.
    i remember katy in many avatars,…as a caterer, ill never forget the way she presented the food at the navjote of dr noshir gandhis kids at the colaba agiary.
    as an archeologist, i remember her giving an interview which was recorded for our teleserial, humata,hukhta,hvarashta,produced by frohar films, for which i am the project coordinator.
    as a patient, i saw her for her wisdom tooth abscess at the parsi general hospital.
    she was so cheerful..no complaints and no crying at all. i used to marvel at her attitude.
    she was a lovely person.
    katy, we will all miss you.

  • Percy

    @Jeannie Antia : Dr (Mrs) Katy F Dalal did support Parsi/zoroastrian women’s cause much more then you do, she by her self willed job did denoted that, we know what values was she to our community, so we don’t require anyone from outside to tell us the same. Remember it is sinful to put out excuses & say something bad about someone on their back after they are dead, so we don’t require such advice at all.

  • Homiyar Bilimoria

    While my wife had known Katy Dalal for almost 50 years, I have known her since our marriage and I can only say that Katy was a noble person, besides an excellent caterer. I can fondly remember her catering for our silver wedding function many years ago and even now some of our guests remember her innovative and tasty dishes she served on the occasion. In her passing a void is left amongst our community. May her soul rest in eternal peace.

  • I am greatly saddened by the news of the death of Dr. Katy F. Dalal. I was not aware that she was so ill and was thinking of seeing her. I first met her during the Nauroz ceremony of 1993 and it was a memorable day of my life. I had written a research article on Gotama Buddha in West Asia which was frowned upon by most scholars. Dr. Dalal, on the other hand, read it carefully and approved of it. She invited me to dinner next day when her son Kurash returned from Pune and this was one of the few occasions when someone greeted me for my work. In fact when I told her that I was going to identify Gomata as Gotama she reflected for a few moments and then said it is possible. Kurash raised some objections but she supported me. I have thanked her in the Acknowledgement section of my book entitled “Non-Jonesian Indology and Alexander”, the reviews of which are available at http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2007/2007-12-39.html and http://www.classics.und.ac.za/reviews/05-19pal.htm . I always remember her kindness and am grateful to her. Her husband Pheroze also appreciated my approach in history. I offer my deepest condolences.

  • I now think the year was 1989.