Tag Archive for 'Parsi'

RIP: Ardeshir Cowasjee, veteran Pakistani columnist

In Dawn:

One of Pakistan’s oldest and most renowned columnists, Ardeshir Cowasjee, passed away in Karachi on Saturday at the age of 86.

Cowasjee, whose weekly columns graced the Dawn newspaper from 1988 to 2011, was suffering from chest illness and had been admitted in a Karachi hospital’s intensive care unit for the past 12 days.

Born on April 13, 1926 to Rustom Faqir Cowasjee and Mucca Rustomjee, Ardeshir joined the family shipping business after completing his education from the Bai Virbaiji Soparivala Parsi (BVS) High School and DJ Sindh Govt Science College.

He had two children with wife Nancy Dinshaw. His daughter lives in Karachi and works in the family business and his son is an architect in the US. Their mother passed away in 1992.

“Now, old at 85, tired, and disillusioned with a country that just cannot pull itself together in any way and get on with life in this day and age, I have decided to call it a day,” he wrote in a column in December 2011 for Dawn. More:

Mourning Cowasjee: Tributes in Dawn

From Cowasjee’s last column, Winding down, in Dawn on 25 December 2011:

On this last Sunday of this year, this is my final column in this space. Now, old at 85, tired, and disillusioned with a country that just cannot pull itself together in any way and get on with life in this day and age, I have decided to call it a day.

To quote Winston Churchill (without at all making any even vague comparison) “I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the ordeal of meeting me is another matter”. The weekly writing has been a long and rewarding haul, and the column can record a few incidents where it has made a difference. I must also thank all those readers who have responded, generally favourably and with common sense.

Mourning a man who mourned for Pakistan: Nadeem F. Paracha in Dawn

Old man by the sea: when Nirupama Subramanian of The Hindu met him


A boy called Farukh Balsara

Vir Sanghvi on Parsi boy-made-good Freddie Mercury:

I know a lot of people are going to treat this as blasphemy so I better just come out and say this.  I saw a DVD of a concert by Queen with Paul Rodgers on vocals and you know what? I didn’t really miss Freddie a whole lot.

Of course it wasn’t the same without the Mercury factor. The camp element was missing. So was the over-the-top nature of the classic Queen concert. As an Indian, I always felt a certain horrified fascination at watching a Parsi boy prance around on stage looking like a gay weightlifter in a Cusrow Baug gymnasium.

But apart from that, the concert was fine. Rodgers is one of rock’s great vocalists and while he can’t go quite as high as Freddie, he makes Queen sound like a rock band, rather than an opera queen’s little dalliance with rough trade. more

The peculiar pedigree of the business class

The Baniya’s culture of focused wealth creation is very good in many ways, but not all of this culture is good. Aakar Patel in Mint Lounge:

Forbes magazine has put out a list of the world’s 1,210 billionaires. Fifty-five of them are Indians. A billion dollars is Rs. 4,480 crore. A Baniya is a member of the Vaish caste, originating mainly from Rajasthan and Gujarat.

They are under 1% of India’s population.

India’s richest man is a Baniya (Lakshmi Mittal, world’s sixth richest with $31.1 billion), India’s second richest man is a Baniya (Mukesh Ambani, $27 billion), India’s third richest man is a Khoja (Azim Premji, $16.8 billion), India’s fourth richest men are Baniyas (Shashi and Ravi Ruia, $15.8 billion), India’s fifth richest person is a Baniya (Savitri Jindal, $13.2 billion), India’s sixth richest man is a Baniya (Gautam Adani, $10 billion), India’s seventh richest man is a Baniya (Kumar Mangalam Birla, $9.2 billion), India’s eighth richest man is a Baniya (Anil Ambani, $8.8 billion), India’s ninth richest man is a Baniya (Sunil Mittal, $8.3 billion). India’s 10th richest man is a Parsi (Adi Godrej, world’s 130th richest with $7.3 billion).

Score: Baniyas 8, Rest of India 2. If we consider the Gujaratis Godrej and Premji (from the Lohana caste) as coming from mercantile communities then actually Rest of India wasn’t playing this match so far. More:


Parsi genome sequenced

From The Times of India:

For the first time, scientists have sequenced the entire genome of a Parsi woman (74) suffering from an heritable form of breast cancer.

Researchers say, the exercise will help in finding variations in DNA. Once matched with DNA of other communities, they will know if these changes in DNA are unique to Parsis and are associated with the disease.

The finding will lead to proper diagnosis and help the Parsis — a fast depleting community — not to be susceptible to it.

The exercise is a part of “Avestagenome Project” — a study on the Parsis to determine the genetic basis of their longevity and age-related disorders.

Speaking to TOI, Dr Sami Guzder, head of science and innovation division at Avesthagen — a Bangalore-based biotechnology company — said, “we will know in two months that variations is possibly causing this spike in breast cancer cases among the Parsis.” More:

A jury of one

Feisal Naqvi at 3quarksdaily:

Kawas Nanavati (left) was tried for shooting dead his wife Sylvia's (right) paramour Prem Ahuja in 1959 in Mumbai.

In 1959, Kawas Nanavati, a commander in the Indian Navy, was stationed at Bombay. Married to an English beauty by the name of Sylvie, and universally described as handsome, the 34-year-old mariner seemed to have it all. Unfortunately for him, his wife was sleeping with his best friend, Prem Ahuja.

On April 27, 1959, Nanavati confronted his wife and learnt of her adultery. Pausing only to sign out a revolver from the Navy’s storeroom, Nanavati then dashed off to Ahuja’s house where his friend was lolling around in a towel. Nanavati asked him if he would marry Sylvie and take care of the children. Ahuja’s somewhat undiplomatic response was blunt: “Will I marry every woman I sleep with?”

What happened next is unclear. Nanavati claimed that after Ahuja spotted the revolver, he and Ahuja struggled and that he shot Ahuja during that struggle. In self-defence. Three times.

The Bombay police did not agree with Nanavati’s interpretation of the facts and promptly charged him with murder. The trial became a cause celebre in India. The Parsi community to which Nanavati belonged was outraged, organising rallies and petitions in his favour. Newspapers gave saturation coverage to the case, and later the trial. When Nanavati left the court room after testifying, he was showered with hundred rupee notes smeared with lipstick. Like many teen idols after him, he received marriage proposals by the handful, as India concluded that he was too good for his wife even as a penitent Sylvie, dressed in a white nylon sari, testified in favour of her husband. Bombay’s merchant community also jumped in on the act, selling miniature Nanavati revolvers and Ahuja towels. More:

How Bombay made Hindi a heroine

Mukul Kesavan in The Telegraph:

We do, however, know one remarkable fact: historically, before Bombay became the epicentre of Hindi cinema in India, it had already established itself as the beating heart of the subcontinent’s commercial Hindustani theatre. Remarkably, this Deccan port, a thousand miles from heartland of Hindi-speaking India, remained the hub of both commercial Hindustani drama and commercial Hindi cinema for a hundred-and-fifty years. It’s not a coincidence that India’s most successful repertory theatre and its most profitable film industry were both incubated in Bombay and that the medium for both was Hindustani.

Bombay’s history brought this about in two ways. As one of the principal sites of colonial rule in India, the city hosted English stage plays in the late 18th and the early 19th centuries which helped create a hybrid commercial theatre that drew on both European and Indian theatrical traditions. But this wasn’t unique to Bombay; the same could be said of Calcutta. What was peculiar to Bombay was the presence of a merchant elite from elsewhere that was willing to experiment with commercial drama in any language that would fetch a return. Parsi theatre happened in Gujarati, Marathi, Urdu and even English, but given the currency of forms of Hindi/Urdu/Hindustani in northern and even some southern cities, it was a cheerful and robust Hindustani that found it the largest audience.

And while the Parsi theatre as a mobile repertory form wasn’t confined to Bombay, it is in Bombay that many of the major companies were centred. It was Bombay that provided much of the entrepreneurship, and many of the patrons, financiers, managers and performers who helped the Parsi theatre create the largest ticket-buying audience in Indian stage history. More