The Parsi Family: Dikra kem che?
Paris's are a small % of indias population, but are very impactful! I grew up with Parsis, and read on to learn about Mr. Pestonji's family, and their style, that I loved so much.
Mr. and Mrs. Pestonji lived down the street in an old creeper covered bungalow, whose paint etched ghost rivers into the wall with every monsoon. The Pestonji’s house was built with mementos from everywhere, stone and wooden busts, an old phonograph that played ABBA songs, and Mr. Pestonji’s solid rocking chair. Mrs. Pestonji would greet me by patting my head and say with a loving smile ‘dikri, kem che?’ (how are you, child?). I loved her soft wrinkled hands that came out of her deep cut blouse, covered by her pink translucent embroidered sarees, which were always connected by a large but delicate brooch... an outfit very typical of the Parsi dress. Mr. Pestonji would wear a suit, distinctive in his stance with his slightly hunched back, walking stick and thick eye glasses.
The Perstonji’s did not have children. Their nephew Feroz and niece Dinaz, would visit them often from Mumbai. Dinaz had married out of the community, so according to the Parsi rules, she wasn’t a Parsi anymore. Everytime she visited Pune, Dinaz would get my mother Dar Ni Pori from a Mumbai Parsi bakery. I never mastered the name of the sweet dish, so I fondly called it “parsi pooran poli”, and I would finish in 2 days with midnight runs to the refrigerator.
Every morning, Mr. Pestonji would read the newspaper in the veranda, in his white pajamas and white shirt, with a black topi on his head. He would squint through his thick spectacles, and then wave ‘kem cho’ to us, as my mom dragged me to a morning walk to get chitale bandhu milk. On our way back he would talk to us occasionally like, ‘jo ne, aapro Behram ne football thi baari tori naakhi!’ [
We knew all the parsis in the neighbourhood. Mr Batliwala whose fluffly dog was called snowball, Mrs. Wadia the speech therapist, Faroukh who tinkered with old cars, and the Contractors whose son Behram played state level football.
As time passed, and I went to college, our visits to the Pestonji’s house decreased. When my sister was getting married, we made the Pestonji’s the chief guests for the day and Mrs. Pestonji, gracefully lit up the event with her deep cut blouse and soft tone sari. But for the first time I saw mortality. Mrs. Pestonji, literally the pillar for her Mr, was herself having trouble walking.
5 years later, as an expat to the US, I was visiting Pune for the first time. My mother told me that Mrs Pestonji passed away. Mr. Pestonji, who was now 95, was taken to mumbai to live with Feroz and The stone bungalow was torn down to make way for a 8 story building.