Brian, Sarosh And I

Hoshang Dastoor

Mumbai-based author, Hoshang Dastoor, is an Associate Member of the ICWAI and shares his over three-decades-rich wisdom in Design, Business Processes and Management. Besides his love for writing, he has nurtured a lifelong passion for European classical instrumental music, presenting programmes for twelve years, as a member of the Sri Aurobindo Society and the NCPA.

Brian, my cousin Sherna’s exceptionally brilliant, white American biochemist husband, who had once been angling for the Nobel Prize, visited India alone last month, from his home in California, on a business trip. I was absolutely delighted to meet him again, for Brian is a truly wonderful chap in all respects, more so because he simply adores Parsi food, which his wife, with her very busy work schedule as a senior practising consultant physician, only rarely finds the time to prepare at home.

So ‘Sarosh’s Sizzling Stuff’, the unchallenged SOBO leader in quintessential Bawa grub, was, come hell or high water, a compelling must-visit indeed. And when I put the idea to Brian, all his imposing dignity promptly deserted him, and he fairly jumped up and down excitedly in anticipatory glee.

Off we went, then, one afternoon for lunch to Triple-S, as it was lovingly called by the cognoscenti – not just us Parsis, but also other fortunate folk of all religions and cultures in our wonderful country. We had hardly sat down when Sarosh, the restaurant owner, came straight to our table and smiled a smile that ran round his perfectly spherical face three times over, like the Parsi in Kipling’s ‘How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin’. Parsipanu will show, you know.

Sarosh was a huge, compact guy, who revelled in his rather conspicuous obesity, with sure-fire enthusiasm and was invariably on Cloud Nine to meet and befriend a handsome white American diner. You know how us Parsis are. Ha!

He gave us a menu each and stood waiting, hand on hips, eyes twinkling. We went through the long list of delicacies, delectable goodies and thick-and-solid firm favourites, and the expression on Brian’s face rapidly alternated between occasional happy familiarity and complete bewilderment. He was hopelessly confused about some bafflingly exotic category titles which Sarosh had personally chosen. I saw his predicament and asked: “What’s the problem, buddy? Haven’t you had a few of these in ye auld country?”

Brian responded, “Maybe, maybe, Hoshie, but what the hell is this KASAA-PER-EEDU thing?”, and his western American Silicon Valley twang didn’t exactly help comprehension. I, a true-blue Indian Zoroastrian, was stumped at first, and, just as the fog began to clear, Sarosh breathlessly broke in, obviously waiting eagerly for a chance to explain, and here was his moment at last! In a booming voice that turned heads, he turned paternally to Brian, and pompously held forth as: “That’s a category with dishes all of the egg-on-something variety, where “kasaa” means something and “eedu” is an egg. For example, Brian, “papetaa per eedu” is egg on potatoes. Brian got it and, smiling with delight at his new-found understanding, exclaimed: “Eureka! I see that all the items in this group are egg on something or the other. For example, what’s Bheeda?” Pat came the reply: “Bheeda is lady’s fingers or okra. Simple!”

All along, I, much entertained, am watching, the quick-fire camaraderie that talk about heavenly food can bring between total strangers. While Brian happened to know that egg is vegetarian to us Indian Zoroastrians, but not to most other Indians, he immediately asked Sarosh, “What’s this LEAFYSIFUD?” I caught on immediately this time, and trying to outdo Sarosh, I spat out: “That’s Paatra-ni-Macchee, which is fish with chutney wrapped in banana leaves, and various items list different varieties of fish cooked in this way.” Sarosh, not to be outdone, beamingly boomed, “Those are all-time Parsi favourites, man! Don’t you believe it. You gotta try it, or you just can’t leave Triple-S!”

By now, Brian was beside himself with tremendous excitement, so we ordered quickly. The fare came pronto, and we set to with gusto. After a Bhaajee-Per-Eedu, an egg on a green vegetable, and one of those leaf-wrapped sea foods (for that’s what the title really was), there followed, an out-of-this world Chicken Dhaansaak, with the tenderest succulent chicken and aromatic and utterly authentic dhaansaak na chaaval, which as every Parsi simply must know, is quite different from pulav.

Throughout the sumptuous meal, I was torn between enjoying the grub and staring with unalloyed pleasure at the ecstasy on Brian’s face as he consumed dish after dish with the unquenchable gusto of a true Parsi.  Superior comestibles give superior pleasure! Q.E.D.

I couldn’t help asking him “Hey man, you are almost a pukka Bawa, except that you need to have your Navjote done!” and glanced nervously around, dreading a cataclysmic bombardment from one of our self-righteous diehard types. I needn’t have worried, though, as stodgy traditionalists and radical reformists alike were all hogging away to glory.

But Brian was unfazed. His quick eyes scanned the menu and read: MITTHOO-MITTHOO BAHOO SOJJHU, and he turned an enquiring eye towards me. I explained: “It means ‘Sweet-sweet Super Good’. That’s the Parsi sweetmeats department, and Sarosh and his ilk dared not present a menu without it!” We finally settled on a platter of jalebi, suterfeni, daar-ni-pori and popatji, all four of which Brian walloped gleefully with unmatched relish and dispatch, with me struggling to keep up!

At bill-pay time, our American with the impeccable table manners belched enormously seven times, and that reminded me of some of those raucously fortissimo passages in Mahler’s Titan symphony conducted by aapro Zubin in Mumbai, not too long ago.

What’s more, our Sarosh heard him loud and clear, and was on Cloud Nine again!

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