SHERNAAZ ENGINEER's blog on the Parsi community

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Banish those Botas!
What, for most Parsis, is the worst word in the English language? It begins with the letter ‘V’… ‘Vegetarian’!
No affront or insult could possibly be worse than the blood-curdling indignation, alarm and aversion that ‘V for Vegetarian’ induces. Parents almost always never teach it to their children, preferring A for Aleti-Paleti, B for Boomla, C for Chhamna… instead.
When it comes to tucking in, bawajis just cannot do without their botas – reformists and traditionalists alike. Food is the great leveler for every Parsi reveller!
Suggesting vegetarianism is akin to asking Warren Anderson to return to India and take some accountability for the Bhopal gas tragedy – it’s pointless and a perfect waste of time. So why are we bothering to bring it up?
Well, it’s Bahman mahino – that time of year when we’re supposed to spare poor little animals the tragic plight of being butchered, basted, broiled, baked and barbecued for our meals – at the very least on some days of the month.
Should you decide to continue reading ahead, a few unresolved questions: Are animals meant to be eaten? We have heard of the food chain and how vegetables are intended to be eaten by animals and, conversely, animals are supposed to be eaten by human beings. This is theoretical the ‘cycle of life’, but is it really so?
Do animals hurt as much as we do? In their final moments, as the fish is hooked and writhing for that last breath before being forever stilled for saas-ni-machhi, or the goat is hacked and bled to death for Sunday’s dhansak-kawab, or the chicken is slaughtered and de-feathered for those deep fried faarchas, in their final moments, do animals feel the pang of separation from the little families they have nurtured… or been nurtured by? Do they wish they could spend a few more moments on God’s great earth, unfettered under a blue sky (or a starlit one), instead of having their lives snuffed out for voracious human palates?
Parsis have been indomitably feasting on animals for the longest time. We even seem to delight in all their bits and parts with grisly zeal – puchri, doki, pag, bheja, kalejee, paya, khariya, jeebh… go on, feed your greed!
Our lagans and navjotes are occasions for mass animal slaughter. Of course, we don’t feel guilty since we don’t actually kill the animals ourselves – we just pay the butchers to do so and enjoy our meal. Which is how it should be, isnt it? Our social conditioning ensures we don’t get unduly bothered.
Vegetarians are often asked, aren’t you killing plants when you eat them? Perhaps. Or perhaps not – most fruits and vegetables are the offerings of plants and trees. You seldom eat the whole plant or tree itself.
Animals on the other hand are, well, animate. They run, they yelp, they see, they react, they bleed. Ironically, as a community, we love animals and care for them with the sort of deep devotion you don’t often find.
Bahman mahino, then, ordains a little more respect and a little more restraint when it comes to making a meal out of innocent animals. They have a right to life too.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla Bereaved

Late Villoo Poonawalla with Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla at the Mahalakshmi Race Course in Mumbai earlier this year
Villoo Poonawalla, wife of Dr. Cyrus Poonawalla and mother of Adar, passed away on June 8, leaving an irreplaceable void in the Poonawalla family. She is also mourned by daughter-in-law Natasha and grandson Cyrus, as well as other family members and friends.
Villoo Poonawalla was a low profile and graceful lady, preferring to live out of the spotlight. However, she was the backbone of her family and lived up to the proverb: Behind every successful man, there is a woman.
Gracious and graceful, she was often spotted at the Race Course, sharing her husband’s passion for racing. At the Poonawalla Breeders’ Multimillion, held this year at the Mahalakshmi Race Course on February 28, she was, as every year, the hostess with the mostess!
However, her life was not merely all glitz and glamour. Deeply religious, she was a proud and practicing Parsi till the very end. In a recent (albeit rare) interview, Dr. Poonawalla had confessed, “My wife, Villoo, comes from a priestly Athornan family (nee Panthaky) and is a devout Parsi – very religious. She prays for several hours every day.”
Perhaps, Dr. Poonawalla’s stupendous success was wrought, in some measure, by the power of her prayers.
At the all-Parsi youth meet held in Pune last month, it is said that it was at her insistence that her son, Adar, came forward with a generous sponsorship to enable the event organisors meet the expenses.
One wishes eternal behesht for her soul. May her love for our community and our religion be a legacy that forever guides the Poonawalla family, so that the virtues of philanthropy, compassion and community service continue to perpetuate her memory. R.I.P.
* This article appeared in the Jam-e-Jamshed dated Sunday, June 13, 2010. To subscribe to the Jame email:

Friday, June 11, 2010


This blog has not been updated in a long time. Apologies to all those who have taken, and are taking, the trouble to visit it and have found it static!

Truth is, life has been anything but static.

Ever since I assumed Editorship of Jam-e-Jamshed on 14.1.2010, there has barely been time to blink. The paper, at 178-years, is Asia's second oldest and the responsibility is both an honour as well as onerous. The Jame is part and parcel of many, many Parsi homes in India and abroad (if you don't get it, do consider subscribing). We are committed to keeping this much-loved community institution robust and raring-to-go!

Will, in the coming weeks, continue to post more columns...

Till then, thanks for taking the trouble to drop by!