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‘Bawa-Bhonu Gupshup’ promises to bring Kolkatans closer to the dwindling Parsi community – GetBengal story

15 March, 2024 17:30:18
‘Bawa-Bhonu Gupshup’ promises to bring Kolkatans closer to the dwindling Parsi community – GetBengal story

Conserving the heritage of a city is not just talking about the crumbling buildings. It is also about bringing the fading or lost communities who have dwindled over the years together and opening the gates to all. That’s exactly what ‘Own the Past,’ a group of heritage enthusiasts will be doing this weekend.

Vibha Mitra

“We want to bring the Parsi Connect of Kolkata together and enjoy a wonderful food and adda session and build connections as well,” said Vibha Mitra, the person behind this initiative. The adda aptly named as ‘Bawa Bhonu Gup- Shup’ will highlight the Parsi Connect of Kolkata that began as early as the 1760s, with the first members of the community arriving from Surat and the gradual emergence of Dadabhai Behranji Banaji, popularly known as “Banaji Seth” among the city’s business community. The Parsi community of the city grew and they contributed largely to the enrichment of the city and its inhabitants over the next few decades. Till 1990s, they were an integral part of Kolkata, till their numbers started to dwindle.

Mitra mentioned names of Parsi stalwarts whose contribution to industry, media and music cannot be ignored. From Rusi Modi of Tata Steel to V Balsara, the famous music composer to C.R. of the erstwhile newspaper The Statesman, the community was at the helm of many milestones. Unfortunately, with the passage of time, the city’s Parsis receded and many left for other states. “Our perception of the Parsi community today has been through images portrayed by Bollywood. Bollywood especially has painted the community in hues as diverse as a bumbling comic (think Dinesh Hingoo from the 1980s) or caricatures of real-life characters (adaptations of Russi Karanjia and Ram Jethmalani in the more recent Rustom) or the ever-enduring family man, Pestonjee (Naseeruddin Shah).

As Mitra says:  “The time is therefore ripe to get real. Thus we have come up with such an immersive event delving into the world of Parsis. It will be an evening of fun, laughter and great food as we get to know who is a Parsi?” But what or who is Bawa? Philanthropist and author Prochy Mehta will discuss her new book, ‘Who is a Parsi?’ with Yezdi Karai for whom life is always Funny Side Up.

While for Bhonu, a traditional and entirely Parsi meal featuring the famous dhansak and other favourites curated by Khurshid Vatcha will be offered. The ‘Haft-seen’ Table will be set up by Sanam Karai and the lovely Parsi ladies. And then there will be a string of Gup-Shup with Cyrus Madan and Noomi Mehta and dozens of the community who will liven up the evening with generous doses of wit and good Parsi humour.

The evening promises to be distinctive, offering a rare opportunity to meet the Parsi community still residing in Kolkata and hear their stories firsthand. Attendees will immerse themselves in the ambiance of a Parsi home, surrounded by various artefacts and possibly viewing pictures from their lives projected on a screen, accompanied by their narratives. Discussions will delve into the Bengali cultural connection, tracing back from the times of Prince Dwarakanath to V. Balsara.

Members of ‘Own The Past’ have a mission to cultivate pride in Kolkata's built heritage, advocate for conservation and restoration, promote creative re-use of property, and raise awareness by integrating heritage with urban development. They believe that only by collectively appreciating our antecedents can we truly become heirs and guardians of our legacy. To achieve this, it is crucial to spread awareness about the importance of preserving these edifices and neighbourhoods, and to learn about the intrigue, mystery, culture, communities, food, lifestyle, and other intangibles that were integral to these spaces.

Date March 17th Time 5 pm
Venue: The Olpadwala Hall. 

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