If the poet who wrote the line ,” if there is a heaven , it is here , it is here ” ( he was referring to Kashmir during its gloroius days , he would certainly have to change his opinion about Kashmir , l am sure – Ali Peter John
Kashmir has been “burning ” for the last 30 years and nothing seems to be done to save it from becoming a valley of fear .
There seems to be no hope of finding a peaceful place in lndia , but l have seen places like Cusrow Baug , Parsi Colony, Tata Colony and Malcolm Baug which are closest to what peace actually means .
These are places which are inhabited by the Parsi community, which is sadly growing extinct .
I have spent a long time walking through these Baugs of peace for several years. I had a friend who lived in Malcolm Baug in Jogeshwari called Porus Cooper and I had several occasions to visit him and it was during these visits that l experienced what peace was .
There was not a sound all around and people rarely came out of there bungalows and there was no sound even when they played games like volley ball and cricket.
Porus went away to Philadelphia in America and l never had the opportunity of being in a Parsi colony for a very long time .
Parsis are basically a very peace-loving people and l know of only one exception and that is the horrible murder case in which a young Parsi called Daruwala had murdered four elderly Parsis in a building close to the Metro Cinema and had rushed to Andheri to file his nomination for the elections to the Bombay Municipal Corporation and had pleaded his own case in the Sessions Court of Bombay , in spite of the Government of Maharashtra providing him with the best Parsi lawyer called P R Vakil . I had skipped my MA classes for more than 40 days to watch and listen to the Daruwaala case as it was called .
I was in Sessions Court on the afternoon when Justice C T Dighe pronounced the death sentence on him and had said ” you shall be hanged by your neck till you are dead ” and had walked alone across the Oval Maidan opposite the Eros Theatre and had walked home without a trace of sympathy or pain or guilt on his face ( I had followed him that afternoon to try and know how a judge felt after sentencing a man to death) . The Parsi community in Bombay was aghast at the way Daaruwala had harmed their community by his dastardly act .
Why am I talking about the community everyone has the highest regards for , a community which has made a massive contribution to society and the country ( it is one community which makes sure that no one from their community begs )?
It is because l was at the Parsi Colony in Dadar some days ago after l had first been their when l was in school .
I walked up and down the Colony , in spite of my acute disability to walk even a few steps. I walked because l had not seen the kind of peace that l saw in that Colony.
It was like visiting a country where peace was a religion which was followed by every citizen living there.
It looked like l could recognise every old bungalow which was kept spick and span by the people who had continued the traditions set by their ancestors and their forefathers and fathers .
There were a couple of new buildings, but even they looked so clean and tidy that l just kept looking at them , as if l had seen such places for the first time in my life .
When the leaves on the trees seemed to be clean and so were the little and big lanes .
The security guards were from different communities , but they too seemed to follow the rules , traditions and guidelines set by the Parsis .
During the 2 hours that l was there , l swear that l didn’t hear a sound , not even the sounds made by the leaves and the gods in the air.
There were people around, but on close observation l found that they were not Parsis , but men and women who worked for the Parsis .
There was peace even otherwise , but the lockdown had added to the peace that was living in the Colony for hundred of years …
What was l doing in Parsi Colony? I together with some friends had an appointment with the brilliant actor Boman Irani who in spite of his grand success as an actor had refused to leave Parsi Colony.
Knowing the discipline and the respect for time among the Parsis , I made sure that we reached the Colony a full two hours before the acquainted time .
And as l had expected, Boman was in the compound of his house exactly 5 minutes before the time we were to meet .
He was a picture of humility and civility and made sure that we were comfortable and kept apologizing for not being able to be hospitable because of the lockdown…
We talked about many things , but l remember vividly what he said about his mother , who he said was his source of encouragement and inspiration till she was 90 and died just two months ago .
It was his mother who ran a shop which sold bread , cakes and namkeen in a small shop to bring up her family after her husband had died young .
It was his mother who instilled in him the dignity of labour and made him work in her shop and also encouraged him to watch many good Hindi and English films in theatres around Parsi Colony.
It was his mother who showed him how to watch films. She taught him what good cinema was , what good music was , what good writing was and what good acting was .
She showed him some films repeatedly just to show him what good acting was and how it could grow better by practice .
His mother never imagined that Boman would be a successful theatre and film actor one day , but she was lucky to see her son start late in Hindi films , but still be one of the most successful actors who was compared to great actors of the past like Motilal , Balraj Sahni and some other legendary actors of Hindi cinema.
He was to talk about a great actor of the 50s, 60s and 70s , but the way he spoke about the actor who he had not met but whose work as an actor his mother had shown him countless times to show him what acting really was.
He kept making small mistakes while speaking on camera , but every time he made a mistake, he said sorry at least 6 times .
In all my 50 years and more as a journalist who had met countless actors , Boman Irani turned out to be a golden leaf in the history of Hindi cinema.
I know many may pick up cudgels agaisnt me for saying this , but what do l do when a man does everything possible to make me respect him the way l do ?
Our meeting got over in less than an hour all because of his sense of commitment and discipline .
He had several back to back meetings that day because he had to fly out of Mumbai the next day but he made sure that he did more than a good job with our appoinment with him
He drove out of his own Parsi Colony where he has spent his whole life . And we ( at least me ) felt like staying on in Parsi Colony for as long as we could but would he be able to keep Parsi Colony as clean as the Parsis have been doing ?
And for me , I had the good fortune of meeting one more celebrity son who loved and respected and remembered his mother every time he had to talk about any achievement in his colourful life .
Thank you , Boman for being the son of your mother and keeping the flag and the spirit of all Parsis flying high .