Tag Archives: Bombay

Peas, Potatoes & Parsis

14 Oct

“Aye Mahnaz, ai joh, gilora!” came a voice wafting across the produce-lined aisles of my local Indian store, effortlessly conquering Kumar Sanu’s nostrils. The words crashed against my eardrums. My body continued to move on autopilot. An arm rose to open the door to the refrigerator case while the other grabbed a bunch of cilantro. Meanwhile, deep inside me, everything hushed and I strained to listen.

Gilora. The Parsi word for the vegetable the rest of the world calls “tindora”, among other names. That unmistakable accent that belongs only to my people. Here, in the sunny South Bay, thousands of miles away from our hub in South Bombay, were a full three Parsis of the 100,000 left in the world.

Being one of such a unique minority fosters a strong feeling of extended family. We are alarmingly identical (and near-uniformly mad as coots). It means that when there’s a Parsi in the vicinity, I will almost certainly feel the level of kinship the rest of the world feels for an aunt or cousin. As I turned to face the voices in question, my mental checklist fired through its boxes: short hair, cropped pants, hazel eyes. Check, check, and check. And the undeniable proof, the language we took from the well-meaning Gujaratis, mangled into a linguistic pretzel, and unleashed upon the world, sprinkled with the sugar we’re supposed to be.

There’s a solid reason why reality TV doesn’t cut it for me. Daily life offers infinitely better humor. Exclamations floated across the eggplants as the two merry women planned their menus, rechristened theplas “methi ni rotli“, sang along and thumped cucumbers to Bollywood songs from the ’60s, and yanked an entire roll of grocery bags off its holder, expressing loud surprise when bell peppers flew in four directions. As my body continued to pick out groceries independent of its brain, a smile broke out on my face, one I quickly hid amid the spinach leaves, whilst debating whether to let on that there was a clanswoman in their midst.

In the end, eyeing their increasingly amusing trot around the store and eavesdropping shamelessly on their conversation trumped any spirit of confession I may have harbored, and I remained content to spectate. Paying for my purchases, I turned back one last time, gave them a broad grin, and walked out to my car, chuckling all the way home.

My beloved community, may our foibles never stop and our capsicum always fly.

Advertisements

Together

24 Jul

At the beginning of this month, I announced an unusual ‘giveaway’, where we were jointly involved in contributing and none of you knew who the recipient(s) would be. To my base pledge of $50, I would add $1 for every comment received on this post.

67 unique visitors to that post left their comment (one squeaking past the midnight deadline by 5 minutes 😉 ) and together, we raised $117. Sadly, 80% (yes, you read that right) of the unique visitors to that page chose not to share our enthusiasm, and I can only hope it was a logistical issue vs. one of attitude.

Why did I open this up to everyone when I could have quietly slipped my check in the mail, you ask? Why did I invite people from the blogosphere to share, knowing there would be some cynics, naysayers and indifferent folk? Put it down to a case of chronic optimism. Of knowing that it may be my money, but I need it to be OUR attitude. As much as I dislike being preachy and usually save my rather strong views on citizenship for other spaces, I know that alone, I am merely one person contributing to another’s life. Together, that effect multiplies manifold. You may not dash out with your checkbook or sign up to build stacks of sandwiches for the homeless just because of this small effort. You may already be doing things far greater than I will ever dream of. The money you may have raised for worthwhile causes will very likely have exceeded this humble amount we have gathered. But if I got you to think–for even a minute–about sharing yourself with the world, planted a seed about doing something similar or paying it forward in other ways, I’m going to bring out my giant feathered boa and do the chicken dance in circles. (No, I’m not ridiculous in the least, why do you ask?)

Our $117 will be pledged to Ummeed Child Development Center in Bombay, India. The stellar multidisciplinary team at Ummeed (consisting of physicians, occupational therapists, speech therapists, physical therapists, mental health counselors, special educators, caseworkers, etc.) works to serve the needs of children with disabilities across all economic strata. Not only do they work with existing disabilities, they work toward early identification and remedial measures, since disability is a gradient. Nobody is turned away for their inability to pay, and a sliding scale based on income helps families give what they’re comfortable paying. Autism, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities, mental retardation, emotional/behavioral concerns, attention deficit disorder, and occupational and speech disorders are among a wide range of disabilities they assess and assist. Inclusion is a goal, as they aim to integrate children of all abilities into the social mainstream. Ummeed serves the needs of thousands of families in my home city that have nowhere else to turn. Try this statistic for size: One therapist can comfortably manage a caseload of 35 clients. In the city of Bombay, a megapolis where levels of healthcare far exceed the rest of the country, there are 500 children with disabilities per available therapist. The need exists acutely, yet funding is hard to come by.

I have worked for Ummeed in the past. Some of my closest friends continue to serve there. Which is why I have an insider’s view of a truly wonderful organization that has, for the past 12 years, been the ‘ummeed’ (hope) of so many families.

Thank you for visiting my blog, for joining in, for inspiring me with your comments, and for being the vocal 20% that acted to make a difference.

Together is better. Together, we’re better. Give yourselves a round of applause. And now jump in for a group hug! 😀

Speak Not Of My City

11 Nov

I speak not of my city

Not because prettier climes lure me

I speak not of my city

Not because I forget

I turn away

Face another reality

Willfully rejecting the one

That sees my back.

In these ways and all moments, I

Silence the pain

Bury the longing under pillows

And sit on it.

Hat Tip To My Parsiness

20 Aug

Maybe it’s because Navroze just went by.

Maybe it’s because I love food and laughing at myself, like a true blue Parsi.

Maybe it’s because it’s Monday, I have a bad back, am doing a Downton Abbey marathon and curling my toes over the Britishness of it all.

Or maybe I just want to share these awesome videos with you.  Between guffawing and salivating, I’m a right mess and loving it.  Join in, do.

Shit Parsi Women Say

The Parsi Feast

Link: http://cooks.ndtv.com/videos/player/will-travel-for-food/the-parsi-feast/236283?home

Tell me what you think! 🙂

Bloodletting, Memory

30 Aug

I bleed the City.

With shards of rejection in my veins

The fury, the heartbreak, the

Slamming of gates.

A human wall, of

Purified hands, closing in, shutting out,

Spewing fumes of vile smugness.

 

I bleed the City.

The cradle, the earth,

Glass bowls that

Rock babies, among gravel and green.

Passed around communal arms, eyes taped

With certainty, stunted by fawning,

Inspecting sodden roots,

While new leaves are snipped off

For daring to be fresh.

 

I bleed the City.

The fabric I carry, the honks in my

Head; the corners of childhood, neon signs that scream

No, the stripping of self, divesting of entity.

Hurled into a morass of the unknown and

Unknowing, the joy and the light frame my

Dark core, the bounty that decorates

Crumbled pieces of

Heart.

 

I bleed the City.

I bleed the City.

Through lumps in the throat and knots in the spirit

May my ministrations redeem me.

 

Life in California…

14 Jun

….revolves around an ivory leather couch. And a dutifully vacuumed beige carpet. Around a sweet-smelling fruit basket and an oven bubbling with cheese. Around a shared silver car and welcome home kisses. Sherlock Holmes episodes at night and the polite chirping of robins by day.

Life in California revolves around rattan chairs and a white table. Scented candles and sunflowers in a blue vase. Around the warmth of family, a clutch of friends and a cat that eyes me with minimal interest.

Life in California is the goodness of home cooking, lavender in a yellow planter, mildly scented laundry and red Netflix envelopes. French coconut pie, lemons in iced water, shimmering peach gloss and aroma oils. A merging of rhythms, the strains of Sinatra, wide open spaces and Mexican dancing.

Life in California is the technology buzz, swirls of innovation, the thick of things. The beautiful Valley and Mt. Diablo and sting of the cold Pacific on browning skin. Sareed aunties and baby booms and fresh bhel, bhature, bhungra around the nook. Sunshine and summer and chilly evenings; poolside and wifi and stacks of free books.

Life in California is an exhaled breath, a winding down, that feeling of calm. Cherishing people, valuing life, savoring a hard-fought way of being. Counting one’s blessings, praying daily and dangling an evil eye talisman in every reader’s face.

Then comes one downpour in the city of my heart and the fickle spirit turns traitor again.

Unhurried

4 Jun

Soli the Kamakli lives right below us. Now before all you politically correct people pounce on me for calling someone less abled (kam = less, akl=brains), I must hasten to inform you that I am merely faithfully reproducing matters as they stand. And since you are unlikely to storm the almost 100-year-old Parsi bastion of high ceilings and cool corridors that is our common abode, demanding a change in title for him, you must be content with Soli the Kamakli.

Truth be told, I don’t know his last name. Nor can I hazard a guess about his age. He’s always been around, you see. Loping rapidly and uncoordinatedly to the door as we climbed up the stairs, peering out of the peep hole in silence, and then yodeling our names as we ran past, his long, comical face stretching even further into an eternal oblong.

Soli the Kamakli is a lonely man. He lives with Viru, his man Friday, who makes three additional salaries a month by renting out the extra rooms of the house to newly-arrived job-seekers in Bombay. He is also a rich man, the heir to millions and the owner of a South Bombay Parsi housing colony. It is widely murmured among the old families of the neighborhood that there lies a curse on the Kamakli family: no heir shall be able to enjoy his/her wealth. His mother inherited a fortune, but died crazed and clueless. Madness lurks in their genes, you can see it in the crackling dilation of their irises, but for us, Soli the Kamakli is a much-loved fixture who sing-songs daily as we go past, telling us we’ve forgotten him, of how the world has no time, asking after each member of our home, making us stop a while and smile and shush the twinges of guilt we feel about being such busybodies.

Soli the Kamakli is a young old man, an ageless creature of antiquity, a sane man in an insane world and a clock that cuckoos the slipping of time. It’s been years since school and college, so many of us have moved out, swapped continents, returned and traversed mind-zones, but our time-trained ears are still treated to the sound of shuffling feet, a peep-hole shutter being lifted and the precise hush before our name is warbled.

I don’t know why I told you about Soli the Kamakli. He is not a famous man, or even a clever one. He didn’t discover relativity or father babies that resemble gamboling puppies. He lives his long days in sky blue bush shirts and starched white pyjamas and worn leather slippers that scrape soothingly. It is strange to be aware of one’s mortality at 30, but I realize that life is seeping us by. And I want to cling on, just a little while longer, to a time when my name is yodeled twice daily and a flute-like voice declares I have forgotten its owner. The stairs won’t be the same without Soli the Kamakli. Until then, I’m making sure I get plenty of exercise.