An aural archiving initiative records big-hearted Parsi-Iranian stories to inform the future of oral traditions
Freny Daruwalla with Mani Bhagat
They are a community of stories. They understand life, and learn and share its teachings through tales they remember to tell. Mani Bhagat’s 106-year-old memory reaches for fuzzy, warm accounts; when done recounting, she hopes for a lifetime of well-being: “There were a lot more kajio-kankaaj [disputes] in our times; but now, there’s room for love. May all live with tandorosti [health and prosperity].” The profoundness of her words moved Frény Daruwalla, an educator-turned-chronicler who hosts the podcast Parsi-Irani Oral History Project.
Article by Sammohinee Ghosh | Mid-Day
Founded as part of Evergreen Story’s efforts in documenting first-person narratives, the project represents voices from a fast-dwindling community. Daruwalla, who shuttles between Pune, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and beyond in search of extraordinary lives that have remained under the radar of web tokenism, wants to help people access their roots.
Has she succeeded? “Piloo Reporter, former Indian and international cricket umpire, is my grandfather. All these years, I have known so little about his life. The project allows me to find oft-forgotten histories,” she says. She talks about Farokh Mojia, a small-time, Mumbai entrepreneur who has strived to secure his family. “He customises mirror frames, etches on acrylic and glass, and makes lamps based on Zoroastrian gods. My interview focuses on his skill. These gritty anecdotes excite me.”
Daruwalla dodges our question when we ask her to pick her favourite among Pune landmarks Vohuman Cafe, Imperial Bakery and Dorabjee and Sons. She points us in the direction of a vintage exclusivity — the intimate comfort of audio exchanges. “The elderly might be iffy about opening up to the camera but they were happy to know the project is truly about their voices,” Daruwalla notes.
Evergreen Story, a sustainable application conceived by twin sisters Anya and Anvi Fenn during the pandemic, follows a fundamental equation. In it, memories equal tales and tales equal trees. For every story, the platform plants a tree with the help of local farmers in Karnataka. Contributors and listeners can scan a QR code to track the growth of a tree. “As the tree spreads its branches, the circle of life widens through endless accounts,” reflects Dr Joe Fenn, who helps his daughters fund the initiative. Backed by the Parzor Foundation and Oral History Association of India, we hope the podcast evolves through chance and planned encounters. As actor Bomi Dotiwalla, Indian cinema’s most chill pappa, said in Munnabhai: “Carrom ramvanu, juice pivano, majja ni life!”