By arzan sam wadia

The renowned site where Powai Lake stands known as Framaji Kavasji was Powai Estate. It was in 1890 that the Britishers dug out the lake at a cost of Rs 6.5 lacs which was given to one Dr Scott in 1799 on payment of yearly rent of Rs 3,200. After Dr Scott’s death in 1816, Powai was taken back by the government in 1826 and leased once again to Framaji Kavasji, a Parsi merchant.

At the time, Powai lake supplied two million gallons of water to Bombay. Today, on the ADS Marg near the Powai Police stn on the lake side remains a dilapidated cottage whose wooden pillars jut on the pavement on the widened JVLR section II. This is the sole remnant of the Framji Kavasji’s presence on the landscape of Powai which may soon whither in the sands of time after 270 years.

Towards the Parksite Vikhroli are the remnants of hillocks called ‘Godrej Hills’ now leased out for quarraying. It is part of the biggest land tracts running along the Eastern express by any private trust is the Godrej factory and offices. Again a leading Parsi business house.

The Godrejs, Tatas, Screwwalas, Sorabjee, Batliwallas, Merchants and so on? ‘Bawas’ as Parsees are popularly known, have become synonymous with quality, trust, sincerity and industriousness. May it, be in politics, entrepreneurship or their contribution to the society at large, the Parsi Community has always managed to carve a niche for itself. On August 21 (Day – Hormazd), the Parsi community celebrates its New Year (1370) – Pateti. For a community fast dwindling in numbers, Pateti, one of the four or five new years in the Parsi calendar, is not only a day of joyous celebrations, but an expression of the true Parsi identity. On Pateti, Parsees celebrate the onset of the New Year with flowers, sweets, feasts, family gatherings and pray for a year of prosperity and well-being.

The Parsi New Year was celebrated initially in springtime but due to technical difficulties like the absence of the extra day in the leap year in the Parsi calendar, the date was shifted to August.

The day before the Navroze is the ‘Pateti’. ‘Pateti’, literally means repentance and on this day Parsees are supposed to pray for the pardon of their sins or misdeeds. The prayer ‘PatetPashemani’ is recited by all Parsees to ask the lord for forgiving them and give them the strength to adhere by the principles of the faith.

Legends say that the community’s presence in India finds roots in the exodus of immigrants from Persia, who sailed the high seas in search of safe land to settle, centuries ago. They touched the western shores of India and landed in Sanjhan, a tiny village in Gujarat and asked the King to allow them to stay on.

The King in jest showed them a bowl of milk filled till the brim indicating that in his kingdom there was no space for any more people. To match up with the wit, one of the immigrants went forth and added some sugar to the milk and with a great conviction assured that their community would not only dissolve into the local populace like the sugar in the milk, but also ’sweeten’ it!

Centuries later, the community has indeed been true to its word. It has not only dissolved in the melting pot of Indian Culture, but has also enriched Indian society and culture. However, the community, otherwise known for its peaceful and tolerant attitude, today faces the danger of extinction, thanks to the fierce protectiveness about its racial identity?

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