By Jackie Thakkar Aug. 17, 2018
Parsi baugs are little ecosystems, the epitome of what it means to maintain a sense of community. To a non-Parsi, sauntering through these little oases in the middle of a hectic metropolis, can appear like the perfect encapsulation of the Parsi mantra of “majja ni life”.
You don’t choose the Baug Life – it chooses you. Just ask Vidhi, my cousin sister who broke the news to our family that she intended to marry her jolly, sports-bike-loving boyfriend of seven years. My family, especially the young ’uns, were elated. Neville was a hoot to be around and every time we met him, he made our stomachs hurt with his travel anecdotes. He loved cars, body-building, and his crooked smile was only rivalled by his slightly crooked nose. Neville had an inherent likeability that few other guys could boast of. As you might have guessed, Neville is Parsi.
But even in our nationally integrated Gujarati family which consists of my Maharashtrian mother, a Punjabi bhabhi, and a Bong brother-in-law, Parsis still remained a fascinating anomaly. I recall hearing an aunt murmur at their wedding reception, “Arré how will she adjust to life in a Parsi colony? In the midst of all that drinking, abusing and crazy bawa quirks?” Her husband chimed in with, “Plus, I hear they are a very close-knitted community. Don’t allow outsiders in the agyari. And offer perks to marry within the gene pool.”
However, those misgivings lasted only as long as the wedding ceremony. After four years of their marriage, my family has taken to Neville and all the characters in his Parsi colony, Bharucha Baug.
From my narrow outsider perspective, on any given night the compounds of Bharucha Baug seem to be strewn with cheerful bawas and bawis chatting, some cleaning their cars, and others simply enjoying the company of their friends: The perfect encapsulation of the Parsi mantra of a “majja ni life”. Here’s who you are bound to encounter.
Gowns and gossip grannies
It’s hard to ignore this truly fascinating breed of women. They possess a peculiarly boomy voice box and are more than capable of having entire conversations by yelling from one end of the colony compound to another. Leaning from their pre-independence era balconies, bellowing, “Bhonu ma su che?” At any Navjote ceremony or Navroze get-together, you’re bound to get all the news about the spicy going-ons from Dadar Parsee Colony to Behram Baug. Things like how Malcom’s son roams around without a sadra kashti, or how Delnaz has a nikambo non-Parsi boyfriend. Also prepare to hear about their “fatakri” days when they were the one hot babe every stud worth his salt would pine after.
You’ve heard that hoary old cliche – Parsis don’t own cars, they pamper them. If I had a penny for the number of times I’ve overheard someone address their automobile as “maari rani” (my queen) in Bharucha Baug… For a true-blue Parsi petrolhead, no amount of scrutiny or meticulous precision tampering is enough. On many-a-boozy night at the Baug with Neville and his colony buds, I’ve been privy to car-maintenance hacks like, “Valet ne kyaare pann gaadhi nai aapvani. Hu to baju ma besavi ne pote park kari lau garage ma.” (I never let a valet drive my car, instead I ask him to sit in the passenger seat while he guides me to the parking spot.) There are also countless pearls of wisdom when it comes to cleaning. Like using toothbrushes to clean the wheels and avoiding detergents on the interior since some may have chemicals that corrode the surface. But perhaps the most intriguing of this lot was a grown man with a school-going daughter who broke down during one of our drinking sessions. As the group consoled him, Freddy tearfully revealed how much he misses his prized Yezdi that he’d sold earlier that year. “Maari dikri jevi hathi,” (she was like a daughter to me).
Many years from now, Sharmin and Keki’s scandalous love story will be narrated to their kids by the colony’s senior citizens over Raspberry Soda.
Reaffirming another old cliche of Parsi couples that stay together for decades on end, are Sharmin and Keki. These two, much like any other pre-teen Parsi couple, began their fledgling romance by taking long walks at the Shopper’s Stop opposite their complex. They’d begun sneaking around each other’s houses before they’d even learnt to cover their textbooks. They are, as Phoebe’s famous theory from F.R.I.E.N.D.S. goes, each others lobsters: destined to mate for life. Many years from now, Sharmin and Keki’s scandalous love story will be narrated to their kids by the colony’s senior citizens over Raspberry Soda.
Black Dog brigade
Sitting around the baug’s benches, enjoying quarters of rum and whisky by sunset, they’ll jovially stop any young chap willing to come join them. By the time the poor sod realises that the invitation was merely a ruse to get him to spill some salacious details about his sex life, it’s too late. They will also incessantly bicker about how present-day wicket-keeper/batsmen like Gilchrist and Dhoni couldn’t hold a candle to the flamboyant Farokh Engineer whom they swore they had drinks with at the Parsi Cricket Club that one time. And how Rusi Surti could give even Imran Khan and Kapil Dev a run for their money as the greatest all-rounder of all time. If you find yourself in their company, it’s best to politely nod, finish your drink and walk away with a smile.