Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Navroz Mubarak!

Navroz Mubarak on the occasion of Navroz today!

Having waited for today, I eagerly looked up the Times of India, New Delhi for the beautiful insights on the festival of the day, which I grew up with reading. Sadly there was no mention of Navroze today, either on the first page (where it usually is), nor in the rest of the paper.

I was surfing the net in a bid to understand more about Parsi traditions when I chanced on Uma Vishnu's superbly written 'Being Parsi' in the 'Indian Express' uploaded by Arzan Sam Wadia. It really gave me an insight on Zorastrianism in Delhi.

A dear friend of mine is a Parsi (not in Delhi). In my quest to evolve a multfaithed personality I hope to visit the Parsi Anjuman - the only one of its kind in Delhi - at Bahadur Shah Zafar marg after work.

My last brush with a relic of the community was at Diu when I came upon a Parsi structure for the dead overlooking the Arabian sea (See my blog on Diu).

The Parsis fled Persia (modern day Iran) and landed on the coast of Sanjan in Gujarat in the year 936 AD. The story goes that the then king Jadhav Rana welcomed them but said there was no place in his kingdom to accommodate them. To illustrate this the king showed them a goblet filled with milk. An elder of the Parsis asked for some sugar and mixed it with the milk without spilling it. The point was not lost on the king. He let them stay provided they gave up arms. In return they asked that no non-Parsi be allowed into the precincts where the sacred fire (ahura badshah) was kept. The king agreed. To this day the practice is observed.

May I be touched today by the special fire at dusk.

But the day shall not end before I break bread with Prof Malik from Srinagar who has invited me for a delectable mutton biryani at 'Dastarkhan Karim' at Nizammuddin. Since we plan an early dinner I want to also step in to the mausoleum of Delhi's greatest Urdu poet nearby, viz. Mirza Ghalib.


Passing by the 'Dar-i-meher'on BSZ marg I glanced at the signage on the courtyard wall which said 'Parsi Rest House.' The tranquil surrounding in pinkish-red structures could not be the site of the famous fire temple which I had read so much about, could it? Not on Navroz, surely. There was no sign at all of festivity. I moved on. But finding nothing up front I dipped into an article on the precincts againg and I walked back to the 'Dar-i-meher.'

The gateman challenged me. I said I wanted to visit the fire temple. He dubiously let me in. As I took in the surroundings I noticed as one steeped inside the sanctuary with the Rest House on the left, the fire temple on the right tucked away behind a facade in front. On the far right white-clothed tables were being arranged for the dinner event to mark the occasion. A Scorpio drove up and a well-dressed Parsi eyed me as though I had no business to be there. This was perhaps right.

Earlier I had looked up Delhiparsis on the net and spoke to Mrs Bagli, the convenor, asking if I could attend the events that evening to mark Navroz. 'I have a dear friend who is a Parsi,' I began. Silence. 'Can I come this evening - I am not a Parsi.' 'But your friend is,' Mrs Bagli reasoned. 'Yes, but she is not in Delhi,' I explained. 'Oh, this is a private function,' she said. And there the matter ended.

As I meandered around the place I spied the aforesaid watchman striding towards me with uncommon zeal and asking pointedly what my purpose was there. Finding the ambience unsuitable for reflection I made my way towards the exit gate. 'Are you a Parsi?' the watchman asked. 'No, I said.' 'Then you will not be allowed to enter the fire temple,' the watchman said in Hindi. I rested my case and was glad to be out of the arena - but not before I photographed the sacred horse on the inner side of the courtyard wall.

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