New Year (Without) Fanfare

Veera is a published Author (‘Endured’ and ‘#LoveBitesLifeHacks’) and Columnist; a passionate Educator and Counsellor; Poet and Philosopher… but most of all, a lover of all things literary.

2020 could very well have turned out to be every Parsi’s worst nightmare. Right now, in this virus-filled bleak world, the word ‘celebration’ conjures up images of slightly dressed up friends and folk – slightly, as everything above the waist is relatively picture perfect – anything below is anyone’s  guess, with all on a zoom-call, trying to infiltrate drama into a otherwise relatively mundane world. Nowadays, netizens seem more interested in horticulture, cookery and Seema aunty’s latest antics in ‘The Indian Matchmaker’ – a show on Netflix, so cringe-worthy its actually hilarious!

 A day prior to Jamshedi Navroz, the one we celebrate in March in honour of our Iranian brethren, marked the onset of the Lockdown. Now with the Parsi New Year tomorrow, it seems this pandemic, just like the August downpour, has no intention whatsoever of desisting from raining on our parade! Are the festivities to be given a miss, yet again?  Now we do know there’s nothing more appealing to a Parsi than a celebration and nothing as tempting as an excuse to celebrate.

I’m quite certain there are some amongst us, who celebrated the Chinese New Year or even Seollal – the Korean one, with just about as much gusto as any other occasion on the off chance you found yourself in or around China or Korea in the month of February! And some have even enjoyed Nyepi – the Balinese New Year or celebrated Sri Lanka’s Aluth Avuruddha – Sinhalese New Year if you had been frolicking on either of these islands around the time, coinciding with their celebrations. Now months into the pandemic, the Lockdown may have the world knocked down! But for this fun-loving race, it simply means that all our desires and intent to celebrate in the grand style we are accustomed to, may need some tweaking… but celebrate we will!

 So, what’s your New Year celebration looking like? Are you ‘house-bound but wisdom-found’, learning new ways to tap into your energy along with that beer? Are you prepping that New Year menu with ample improvisation and modifications to include Lagan-nu-custard with a notorious dash of Cointreau? Or that Patra-ni-Macchi served tomorrow, now rich in a wicked basil pesto cover instead of that humdrum chutney mix?

Is a rerun on Netflix of the Big Bang Theory your renewed favourite sitcom, probably a sorry substitute to the day’s entertainment usually provided by Meherzad Patel’s Navroze Bonanzas? Will Sheldon’s quips and downright eccentric genius along with his bizarre misplaced logic work as well as Danesh Khambatta’s comic timing and exaggerated mannerism? So, what’s it going to be this year – Pretty Woman or Pretty Boman – your rib-tickling, Silly Point Production streaming tomorrow? Will you miss an afternoon-in with family and an evening-out with friends? Will that zoom party with your close group work as well as that raucous dinner enjoyed at NCPA cafe with them just a year back?

Never one to pass up on an opportunity to celebrate and miss out on chance to eat, drink and be merry, we will do things our way anyway. We follow the ancient philosophy that nothing cures that needs to be endured, as brilliantly as a plateful of Dhansak and a glassful of mellow-aged scotch! “A Triple Malt and a Double Celebration are regarded as the bedrock in the pursuit of a good life the Parsi way.” You do know us Parsis honour not just two New Years, but two Birthdays as well? To the most avid seekers of wisdom within our community, nothing ails a human heart more than the deprivation of wine, women and song. We believe that life is not just for living, but for celebrating. A life bereft of friends, fun and frolic makes a Parsi extremely nervous or bored, neither – a good thing. Our mental stability questionable at most times, but add nervous and bored to the mix, and we are a step away from an accident ready to happen!

Now imagine our plight as the year 2020 rolled in, with all the new protocols, rules and regulations curbing our free spirit and finding ourselves hemmed in, all visions of grand celebrations slowly faded from our view. All that we had known from years and gotten use to was now becoming a distinct abstract memory. (Dementia and Alzheimer’s didn’t help there as well.)  To the average Parsi, this new introspective, isolated, actionless, bland, paradigm-shifting way of life has become shorthand for ‘emotionless-ness existence’!

This year, some of us are stressed (added to the fact that we Parsis are naturally highly strung), some are overworked (this work-from-home business isn’t helping in the least). Perhaps some are struggling with fresh responsibilities as new parents (considering the prolonged lockdown, maybe there’s hope for our tribe here). Or perhaps, you are approaching your golden years (that basically covers 80% of the population, I guess). Are you enjoying the spoils of youth (wonder how that is working out)? Are you keeping busy and active? Or completely bored out of your mind, picking holes in paper or fights at random!?

Whatever it is you’re going through, there is always that sliver of hope. And in the true Parsi tradition, we’ve researched, promoted, added our own two bits to provoke and facilitate asking that big question – will Serum Institute deliver the vaccine by September? Will they reserve those much needed 60,000 vials for our 60,000-strong, community, the number of our Parsi tribe in Mumbai?  In all probability, there are more bottles stocked in PK Wines than there are Parsis floating around in Mumbai. Food for thought isn’t it? And speaking of food, the happiness and well-being of our lot is again dependent on that burning question of that so far elusive vaccine. Cause how else will our community be able to attend all those Lagans and Navjotes and relish that lip-smacking food in the coming season? And solely based on that, we Parsis can verily say, “Ah! Things are reverting back to some form of normalcy!”

So while we sit at home enjoying whatever fare we’ve ordered in or prepared, with immediate family or perhaps just an intimate friend or two, make this Navroz kind in spirit, full-bodied in health, perfecting the joys of enjoyment with a reasoned choice. Don’t glance at our present situation as a period of torture or imprisonment, but a temporary intercession to tweak all our personal operating systems into an enhanced mode of operations. Learn to steal the ball from this virus while playing the game. As time goes by, we are all becoming exceedingly adept and skilled at matching it.

The way our colonies are now functioning, even those ancient bastions in the midst of a war supplied with essentials and wares, without disruption, without danger could not have matched up! So, whether you are food-comatose or friend-deprived, with our resilience we will smile and move forward this Navroz to yet another round of dishes that seem to proliferate like humans in lockdown. We will spruce up our menus and our house, complaining as we polish and freshen up bathrooms and bedrooms, all the while missing Pushpa, the house-help. Even her unpunctuality and attitude now seems a distant yet surprisingly tender memory, even as we count the days when the full work force of household staff will return to the roost, much like an agitated hen waiting intently for her chicks!

This New year, if you are a Parsi and within the folds of your odd, dysfunctional family, do remember to count your blessings! You are here, still safe, still contributing in the best possible way a Parsi can. While the celebrations may lack the fizz and sparkle of the ones we’ve enjoyed for years, the champagne from the well- stocked bar certainly will not. This year, go traditional and simply decorate it your way – take those thermometers and Oximeters as the new Covid-friendly bedside embellishments! Take comfort that, ‘To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven’. Navroz is here and so are we, and that to me is reason enough to celebrate!

Veera Shroff Sanjana
Latest posts by Veera Shroff Sanjana (see all)

Leave a Reply