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   As I walked to the office this morning, Parsis, (August 21, 1992)

As I walked to the office this morning, Parsis, either on their way or returning from the fire temples around the office, wished me Pateti Mubarak. It may be because I do look a little like a Parsi and am sometimes mistaken for one, or because the Parsis are friendly and accommodating by nature and have a tendency of sharing the new year with everybody.Actually, the new year is tomorrow, but the holy days preceding the new year have begun: The Zoroastrian calendar, I understand, is divided into 12 months of 30 days each which totals to 300 days. The remaining five days of the 365-day year are the five separate holy days.The Zoroastrian calendar is based on the sun. All the great religions of the world are based on the sun. Hence, the original Zoroastrian New Year is on March 21, the day of the spring equinox, when the earth in its orbit goes nearest the sun. In Persia, before the Zoroastrians were driven out of their land, they used to celebrate March 21 as their new year, Sometimes, I dream of the day when the Parsis would return to Iran, by peaceful negotiations if possible, war if necessary. It would be like the Jews returning to Israel. Amen.But to return from the past and the future to the present, the five holiday days are when the Parsis pray for the dead. In the temples, fresh flowers are placed in vases, each vase representing the dead of a particular family.

The festivities will be tomorrow. I remember in my youth (no, at a time earlier than my youth), the nankhtai bands from Bhendi Bazar and Pydhonie going around Cusrow Baug and playing Down Mexico Way, and other popular hits of the era, from door to door for a small fee.There would also be an exchange of breakfasts between houses. Large dishes would arrive, covered with an embroidered cloth, containing sweet and fried vermicelli, garnished with almonds, raisins and rose petals, hard boiled eggs (shelled), sweet curd, and bananas.Lunch would be plain saltless dal and rice, and a rich thick fish patia. No onions are served with it. The practice of eating a plain dal and rice on an auspicious day, I learn, also comes from the origins of the religion in Iran. On auspicious occasions, it was ordained, there should be no difference between the rich and the poor and all should eat alike. And, since the poor could not afford the rich people's fare, the rich ate the poor man's dal and rice. The patia is a compromise.Evenings, in those early days, meant a Parsi play by the late Adi Marzban, that most gifted of men. Now, I suppose, it is a play by Bharat Dabholkar. Who is as little a Parsi as I am.

 
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