Today is Navroze, the day of celebration, But there’s a shadow of gloom all around due to the Coronavirus alarm penetrating every aspect of our lives, creating waves of havoc within the community… the sort last seen only when the staple blue wrapped Pestonjee’s Polson’s butter shut down! As the COVID-19 takes a greater toll on the ‘aged’ and the ‘immunity-compromised’, it’s created panic within our fold. After all, it’s these two words which best describe us! With controversial theories floating everywhere, us Parsis are somehow convinced that this new strain was a biological weapon created with the sole purpose of annihilating our tiny Parsi population!
While the aged are trying to wrap their heads around this endemic, the name ‘Corona’ also evokes reflections of that old Corona shoe-shop – that regaled the streets of Colaba, which shut down decades ago – wondering what all the current fuss is all about! Consequently, every conversation with the word, ‘Corona’, veers towards a distant memory of the shop which stood in competition with none other than the majestic Bata – another household name in footwear, followed by a lengthy monologue of the shoes made back in the days – the hardiness of their wear and tear, the leather genuine, the times glorious, and where there was no imminent danger of being placed behind bars for proclaiming so!
The pièce de résistance, each time, is the incredible novelty essentially of those white canvas ones, which came fitted with those tiny little compasses secretly placed at the bottom. Thus, ensuring back in those days, that no little Parsi kids – allowed on field trips and school picnics to the Aarey Milk Colony or the Byculla zoo, (the dangers of which were likened to a wild safari or a jungle adventure) – however bold or foolish, ever lost their way! And try as you might to glean or familiarize them with the advancement of technology with the prevailing GPS and Google Maps, that tiny compass wins every single time!
The youngsters, instead, armed with every type of sanitizer, hand-wash, soaps and detergents, are vainly trying to inject new levels of hygiene and sanitization with the house-hold help, who are anyways practically driven cuckoo in a Parsi home, on any given day!! Amid all this panic, they fail to realise that no matter what steps are taken, our domestic help, dhobis, paav-walas, delivery-men et al, have been to places that could make a leisurely stroll in Wuhan seem a lot safer!
Now there is utter pandemonium with schools being shut and kids being home for weeks on end! Between planning schemes and schedules to keep them occupied and entertained, the parents are working almost as avidly and twice as hard, as those scientists and researchers employed with discovering a cure for this dreaded virus! To boot, the thought of that summer holiday going up in the air, these poor parents are living their worst nightmare ever! Housewives are hoping and praying that public transport does not wane anytime soon, as the house-help is a house fundamental! Working moms are wishing for leave without pay, secretly in the hope to binge on the latest with Netflix. The men-force, who aren’t driven by any enthusiasm of diligence – save craving the peace and sanctity that the workplace affords – of late, are putting in longer hours while they still can!
Driven by ignorance and an overzealous wish, part of our populace believes that Navroze, symbolic of the onset of spring, can certainly elicit a bouncier spring in every osteoporotic step this year, trusting the unfound rumour that a spike in temperature kills the virus! If that was not enough, there is that strong suggestion that alcohol consumption is an excellent preventive measure, thus adding to fuel that fire of ignorance and celebratory spirit! Unfortunately for the Parsi fold, the jubilant spirit is dampened with the Union and State governments advising us against large public gatherings and functions, thus minimising the imminent danger from a person-to-person contact. Missing the age-old tradition of visiting the NCPA for Meherzad Patel’s play, will leave us all disappointed!
Baug and colony residents so look forward to their Navroz Gala nights and festivities, where hundreds of residents and guests get to congregate and meet up with friends who they only ever spend every other evening with, relatives that they have been deliberately avoiding every chance this past year and truth be told – never missed! This assuredly is a chance to catch up with all the colony news and people, always a proposition faced admirably two shots down!
And, no matter how good our Pulao-daar or Sali-boti tastes at home, a chance to relish a Kaizad Patel or a Godivala meal, seated along with 200 odd people, all battling to get that best piece of chicken or fish and that extra serving of Akuri – which somehow always adds to the flavour – perhaps laced with that angst and sense of achievement, all making it far more palatable and enjoyable than those meals served in proportions and portions of waste and surplus at home. As Parsis, we thrive on chaos. Losing one’s sense of decorum and dignity has a rare appeal, especially on special days. So, if it means you managed to get that extra piece of lagan-nu-custard served by fair or foul means, that sense of accomplishment lingers a lot longer than that piece of dessert on your tongue!
Now a lot is going to be different for sure this year. While our Iranian brethren prepare to set their traditional tables with the 7 items starting with the alphabet ‘S’ – Soaps, Sanitizers, Savlon and Serviettes will definitely be part of that list. The mandatory Falooda as much a part of Navroz as any tradition is, going to be prepared a bit differently in every household – milk infused with Aloe Vera juice that claims to boost immunity, is the new secret ingredient added to that Falooda mix; Ravo and Sev will have Goji berries replacing the erstwhile reigning raisins; Patra-ni-Macchi will be wrapped in seaweed and kelp instead of banana leaves to boost inherently flailing immune systems amongst us Parsis!!
I believe fashion houses worldwide are upping their spring summer collections, with masks becoming the ‘new accessory’. You may soon find them at exorbitant prices with trimmings of gorgeous French lace along with racy numbers studded with rhinestones! Our Parsis, not to be left behind, will soon have our very own Zenobia Davar and Ashdeen Lilaowala toiling day and night creating beautiful masterpieces of the Parsi Gara hand-embroidered hand-gloves and masks, perfect embellishments to those gorgeous heirlooms!
Times are tough, it’s rude now to meet, greet, gather, and downright impolite to cough or sneeze! For decades now, we have been gradually sliding into comfortable little niches of isolation with technology, creating social depersonalization. People grieve more over losing their mobiles for a day than not seeing friends and family for weeks or months. Is this the universe’s way to make us realise how important human contact is? Are we living and learning lessons here beyond our ken? May this New Year herald in a vaccine strong in strength to wage a war against this virus and enforced social disconnect!
Stay safe, stay home and wish you a very Happy New year!