The Parsi Connection: The Déjà vu of Sari, Furniture and Food

Reading Time: 3 minutes

This story is as much a sari story, as it is a story of furniture – a Parsi obsession and feature of their traditionally elegant homes. Nilakshi remembers Gustad Noble’s father’s furniture shop, and his love for the craft, in Rohinton Mistry’s .  We were surrounded by objects de arts and bric-à- brac from generations, especially those handcrafted chairs. She loved the telephone stand and the nest table Furokh’s father had designed to perfection. The white and pink marble topped tables reminded her of Kolkata houses, her mamarbari (maternal ’s home), in particular, just as the big wooden cupboards. Here’s an interesting remanence about a black sari that brought back so many memories for the author, exclusively in Different Truths.

Niloufer. Someone I admire. My professor. A Zoroastrian (Parsi) lady. Devoted to  in English studies. I’d like to name this black Zardozi sari after her. I like to name my saris and associate some of my favourite ones with fond memories.

I'm sitting on Furokh's father's wedding chair. By The Taj on a lovely glass topped wooden table. Elegantly carved.

I’m sitting on Furokh’s father’s wedding chair. By The Taj on a lovely glass topped wooden table. Elegantly carved.

Zar means gold and Dozi stands for embroidery, in Persian. Thus, embroidery with gold thread is known as Zardozi. It was an ancient art, which the Chinese made popular among the Parsi women right across India, from Bengal to Kutch and other places, and they learnt the art and used it on their gara-s or saris, and kor-s or borders. Though the embroidery has mixed influences from China, Europe, Iran and India, the Zardozi sari is essentially Parsi today. They are on beautiful coloured silk, with fruit and flower embroidery and the older ones have a distinctly Chinese look about them. Many of these are now part of heirlooms, as they used real gold and silver earlier.

The golden hearted Santokes simply radiate the gentle aura accentuated by the tilted plates on display in their subtly decorated drawing room. Both treasures to last a life time and more!

The golden hearted Santokes simply radiate the gentle aura accentuated by the tilted plates on display in their subtly decorated drawing room. Both treasures to last a life time and more!

Well, I’m wearing a synthetic version, nowhere near the original, but it was popular about five years ago, with little stone bits and golden thread. I decided to wear this to Furokh Santoke and Janki Chogle Santoke’s house, for lunch and adda (casual and or intellectual chitchat).

The telephone table designed by Furokh's father

The telephone table designed by Furokh’s father

Today’s story is as much a sari story, as it is a story of furniture – a Parsi obsession and feature of their traditionally elegant homes. I remember Gustad Noble’s father’s furniture shop, and his love for the craft, in Rohinton Mistry’s Such a Long Journey.  We were surrounded by objects de arts and bric-à-brac from generations, especially those handcrafted chairs. I loved the telephone stand and the nest table Furokh’s father had designed to perfection. The white and pink marble topped tables reminded me of Kolkata houses, my mamarbari (maternal uncle’s home), in particular, just as the big wooden cupboards and of course the chairs did too!

My sari looked too bright, and therefore, too dull amid this elegance. But I leave to judge. I had another one, in a very nice magenta but long taken away by my sari-snatcher sibling (woe be to thy kind!)

When I had read a paper on Rohinton Mistry’s novels and the depiction of Bombay in it, a few years ago, many Parsi members of the , at Sophia , including Hoshang Merchant, the poet, congratulated me for my sensitivity to the core issues of the Parsi identity. I think I was a Parsi in my last birth, maybe of Amitav Ghosh’s Behram Modi’s family, or Gustad Noble’s distant cousin from Such a Long Journey. Oops did I just mention it! Or am I Miss Kutpitia reborn?

Now the story of the chairs: Parsis get married in chairs, therefore there are pairs of them in every household, plus the ones that get carried down the generations. The Santoke household has these pairs which look so pretty that you don't need any decoration. The rich dark and the lovely elegance of the wood gives texture, depth and class to the white interior room decorated by Janki Chogle Santoke, the Vedanta practitioner, interpreter and philosopher.

Now the story of the chairs: Parsis get married in chairs, therefore there are pairs of them in every household, plus the ones that get carried down the generations. The Santoke household has these pairs which look so pretty that you don’t need any decoration. The rich dark and the lovely elegance of the wood gives texture, depth and class to the white interior room decorated by Janki Chogle Santoke, the Vedanta practitioner, interpreter and philosopher.

This post is a tribute to the Parsi , especially to my friends the Santokes and Khursheed Ardeshir-Vatcha, and Rhea Mitra-Dalal and Kurush F Dalal. I love them just that much more. Their saris, food, theatre, writing and their dedication to making lives better.

Thank you, dear friends. Please forgive, I have no intention to hurt anyone or misrepresent anything.

For further reading: http://www.craftrevival.org/CraftArt.asp?CountryCode=INDIA&CraftCode=003730

©Nilakshi Roy

Photos by the author.

Nilakshi Roy

Nilakshi Roy

Dr. Nilakshi Roy, an Associate Professor, of English, at Vaze College, is an academic writer and writes poetry for Different Truths. Her other writing is chiefly on saris, published in Different Truths and The Ladies Finger.
Nilakshi Roy

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