Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Close Encounters of the Parsi Kind

It will be 13 years in a few days. That's the official count of course. 13 years of official togetherness with all the due stamps of approval from parents, family, the law and the public in general. 13 years of marriage. A Bengali girl joins a Parsi family - new experiences, exposure to a whole new world of beliefs, etiquette, food, dress, everything! It's been fun and it's been exciting too - the personal and the public part of this life with the Dalals and their oldest son, Kurush.

In these 13 years I have collected a variety of really memorable experiences - some touching, some eye openers, and some were just downright hilarious.

Running a catering business ensures you meet a wide variety of people. And when most of them are Parsi things can get as befuddling as they can get entertaining.

I started working full time with the hubby at one of the gymkhanas in south Mumbai, where we ran the canteen. It was my first week handling things alone. The staff was busy prepping for the evening crowd and dinner thereafter and there were a few members sitting in the tea rooms or on the lawns.

One of the waiters, John, came to my desk looking quite perplexed. He had a white plastic container in his hand and in it, nestled in pretty pink tissue paper was one egg. He mumbled something to me and then said he'd be right back, and went off back to the table he was serving. He returned after a couple of minutes and said " madam wants an omelette and she wants you to make it using her egg (the one in the container) and she wants you to replace her egg with one of yours" What??! Yes, that was my immediate reaction. So he patiently repeated the instructions.

I think I laughed for a good few minutes before I could respond. I sent him back saying the lady could order whatever she liked from the menu but we would use our own stocks and produce. Needless to say she came rushing in to argue but I stuck to my guns and did not play musical eggs with her. The egg the lady had brought was supposedly cholesterol free and she was going to sell the unused egg from my kitchen to her grocer! Where would this end? Someone would walk in with organic rice the next day or come trotting into our kitchen with what they were sure was a free range goat. There was no way I was going to leave ourselves open to such nonsense.

Another day, at the same gymkhana, I was discussing an order with a client. She was speaking in Gujarati and I responded as best as I could in my severely handicapped Gujarati. All went smoothly and the lady was quite happy with her final menu. We were chatting in general, just small talk that one sometimes exchanges with people, and my mother called. I spoke very briefly to her in Bengali and hung up. The lady looked at me very impressed and asked "Arre, you speak such fluent Bengali!" I explained that I am Bengali. She looked quite shocked and exclaimed "you mean to say you're not Parsi?!" So I said, no I'm not and smiled at her. "But you look so much like Katy!" And then finally, in desperation she asked me "Are you sure?"  I was tempted to offer to call my mother back to confirm. Hmphh!

One year for Navroze (New Year) we used boneless Pomfret fillets in the patra ni macchi instead of the regular  slices on the bone. Our clients were very happy and we got many phone calls praising the idea. Of course there had to be one who thought otherwise! "You have cheated us! I want to see the bones or how else will I know you have really use Pomfrets and not some other cheap fish" she ranted. Well, it wasn't possible to deliver the bones of the fish to her, they had been long discarded, but we did end up with one very disgruntled client at the end of an otherwise very satisfying work day! You simply can't win them all.

As far as customs go the biggest shock to my Bengali sensibilities was the Parsi practice of pooling all the money gifted at weddings and navjotes and using it to pay for the function. K laughed loud and hard at my absolute dismay when I had to hand over his share of the loot to his parents and my share of the loot to my mother after our wedding! Yes, it is a practical and sensible way of dealing with expenses that big functions throw up but hello?! I was looking forward to that fat stash of cash!

The stories are endless and I hope I will have many more years filled with many more stories... Thank you Kurush for a life full of stories.

4 December 2013
Marathon Bloggers


Me! In words said...

Rhea! What lovely memories... we are closing in our 10th anniversary and you suddenly made me remember all the funny incidents across the years. I am going to put them down, just as you have some time soon!!

Samarpita Sharma said...

<3 <3
This is so sweet!
And, of course, hilarious!
And!! Parsi and Bengali, oh my god, so much of good food!! :D

Kurush F Dalal said...


deseng said...

too many years now for me - twenty +. Congratulations to you both. Keep cooking, eating and having fun.

Panfusine said...

wow, you have a wonderful way of expressing yourself Rhea. for a couple of minutes, it was pure bliss reading the post. Makes me want to go back & read it all over again, and again and again! Happy anniversary to you & Kurush, & here's to many many more wonderful years to come!

Anjali Koli said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anjali Koli said...

Rhea, among Kolis too it is practiced to pool all the cash gifts and pay for the function. It is also customary to give utensils as presents which led to the public writing statements like "Do not gift utensils"! LOL

Kalyan Karmakar said...

What a wonderful read as always Rhea and here's wishing you and Kurush and you many years of togetherness. You are one of the nicest couples we know. Oh, and sending those fillet bones to my mom in law would have been a good idea too as she too was a bit flummoxed by boneless pomfret