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Flashback: Like sugar in milk


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The Bamjis at their Karachi residence – Photo by Fahim Siddiqi / White Star

Gulbano Bamji talks to Moniza Inam about her golden childhood in Quetta:

Legend has it that when the Zorastrian king of Persia, Yazedird, was defeated in the Battle of Nehavand, many Parsis fled their homes to escape persecution and moved to the mountains of Khorosan, where they lived for almost a century. In the mountains, they heard about India, and about 500 families got together and sailed towards the shores of what was then the land of opportunity.

The year was around 755 AD when they arrived at the coast of Sanjan in Gujarat, which at that time was ruled by the King Jadav Rana. The Parsi delegation went to meet the king who was somewhat puzzled by their arrival. As a symbolic gesture, the king sent them a jug with milk filled to the brim to indicate that there was no space for a new community in his state. The wise Paris priest added some sugar to the milk implying that the Zoroastrians would mingle with the natives of the land and sweeten their lives and country without disturbing the fabric of the community. The king was impressed and granted them permission to live in the country on the following conditions; a) their ladies must wear the local dress i.e., saree, b) they should learn to speak the local language, and c) they should not indulge in conversions. The Parsis accepted these conditions willingly.

This was how the Zoroastrians migrated to India more than a millennium ago. They rose to prominence under the British rule and ultimately achieved a great deal of social and economic success.

Under the Raj, the British army established the garrison town of Quetta in Balochistan to safeguard its north-western frontiers and keep an eye on the Iranian and Afghan borders while keeping the Bolan Pass under its control. To help achieve this task, many Zoroastrians migrated to Quetta to assist the British governance in the region.

Another legend says that when Sir Charles Napier came to Quetta in the 1800s, a Parsi gentleman accompanied him, and according to the claims of a senior member of the community, “We were the earliest settlers in the garrison town after the local Kansi tribe and now our fifth generation resides in Quetta.” The Parsi Colony in Quetta is a home for most of the community. In 1883, the British government allotted the site to them to build their houses. The colony was rebuilt after the 1935 earthquake.

Gulbanoo Bamji was among its residents, although she has been living in Karachi for the past 40 years. She is a mother of two grown-up daughters, has worked in various capacities at different schools and now she is busy with social work and is a member on the board of the committee of the BMH Parsi General Hospital to oversee its day-to-day management.

In this interview, she shares memories of her life in Quetta as a kid, teenager and young woman. When I went to meet her, I was dazzled by the beauty of the residence. Right in the middle of Saddar, with all its noise, congestion, pollution and hustle bustle, the premises were an oasis of calm and serenity. In a way it reminded me of the Parsi Colony of Quetta where you would feel the same emotion of peace and tranquillity. There is a neat row of apartment blocks surrounded by open space on all sides with lots of foliage and tall trees. Bamji’s own house is modestly yet tastefully decorated with classical artefacts and plants all over the place, as she has a passion for gardening.

Gulbanoo Bamji traces her family history starting with her grandfather, Behramjee, who came to this part of the world in the 1880s from the city of Yazad, Iran. He was married to her grandmother, Piroja, the daughter of Jamasjee. They had a house on Habib Nala in the compound, now known as Mission Hospital in Quetta. They shifted to the Parsi colony after the earthquake.

Her father, Merwan, was born in Quetta in 1901. She says, “Later he became a soldier in the British army. He married my mother Daulat in 1945, who was from Mumbai. We are three siblings; Roshan Bharucha, my late brother Mondigar Merwanji, and me.”

When asked about her childhood in the city, she exclaims nostalgically, “Life in Quetta was wonderful as the city was so picturesque and serene. It was more of a hill station than a town, a well-planned city rebuilt after the horrific quake. There were a few cars and the roads and streets were well-kept and lined with trees. Everything was within walking distance and we used to commute to our school, St Joseph’s Convent High School, Quetta, later college, Government Girls College Quetta, shopping centres, and visit friends’ houses on foot. Such was the beauty of the town and the simple lifestyle in those days.”

Describing her childhood further, Gulbanoo remarks that there were no more than 14 families living in the colony at that time. Those were bungalow-type houses and such was the level of security that none of the houses had to be locked. “We were more like an extended family than neighbours and there were genuine feelings of camaraderie and bonhomie.

“I was among the 25 kids living in the colony at that time. In those days the school syllabus never changed. Therefore, our parents never had to buy new books every year — the old books were passed on from student to student. I still have a book which has eight names written on it, my name being the last one. Similarly, the clothes were also shared amicably. We had a very simple way of life and there were no parties. On Nauroz we laid out tables and visited each others houses,” states Gulbanoo.

Elaborating further, she states, “After coming from school and finishing our homework, we all played different outdoor games in the compound. The biggest treat was to go to Hanna Lake or Urak for a drive; even that happened only once or twice a year. We had friends from all religions and ethnicities and we visited each other’s houses quite regularly.

“I was also a part of the Pakistan Girl Guides Association and toured most of the country with them. I met Field Marshall Ayub Khan and Queen Elizabeth II at the Lahore Fort, during our Girl Guide camp which is still a lovely memory. In college I was a member of the Rangers.”

At this point, her husband Jhanbux Bamji also joined us. Although he is a Karachiite, he lived in Quetta for a decade when he was working for a World Bank-funded project. As part of his work, he travelled to every nook and corner of Balochistan. He also has fond memories of his stay in the colony at his sister-in-law’s place.

The Bamjis have lived a very simple, happy and contended life and prefer to stay in this country despite coming across several opportunities to move to greener pastures.

Comments (77) Closed

Amina Aug 12, 2012 10:51am
Such a beautiful glimpse into the past life of an important and old community in a city now associated with intolerance and insecurity.
VKD Aug 12, 2012 10:52am
We used to go every evening at Paris Colony for 8 year for our tuition's at Late Kaikobad Jamshed. I have very fond memories of the colony and still miss the days spend around. The people were so calm and peaceful and this had an impact on our upbringing. The colony have couple of beautiful gardens and one with swing, miss them.
@RameshManghirma Aug 12, 2012 10:50am
I agree
M. Y. Tajik Aug 12, 2012 12:08pm
It's very unfortunate that the peace and tranquility of this majestic city has been completely destroyed. I was born in Quetta but had to leave Quetta recently not only because of the insecurity but also due to the degrading social order. And what a coincidence. I have also been visiting Parsi colony to meet my KG-1 teach Sir, Bahram. I still remember his wonderful smiling face! In Parsi colony, I also used to visit Bohman who was one of the pioneers of dealing with property business. Parsis have persistently honored King Jadav Rana's conditions regarding wear of local dress and speaking of local languages and not to indulge in any conversions. Indeed, they were sugar in the then Balochistan's milk which has now gone sour!
Ammar Aug 12, 2012 10:07am
Malik Khalfan Aug 12, 2012 09:49pm
I salute the Bamjis. With such uncertainties and worsening security situation they are still opting to live in Karachi. Bravo ! There is no reason, whatsoever, not to call them true Pakistanis.
Gerry D'Cunha Aug 12, 2012 11:28am
Majority of peaceful people from the minority communities like the Parsis and the Christian Goans who had settled down in Pakistan have migrated to foreign lands from the 60s and when they look at the present situation in Pakistan, they are happy to have taken their right decision. What a shame!!!
U M Aug 12, 2012 10:55am
This, coming with the Hindu migration controversy, is not a very enlightening piece - after a nice read, the last sentence is objectionable, to say the least. Everyone has a right to choose, to live wherever they want.
Nayeem Aug 12, 2012 07:42pm
May i add on the name of a brilliant indian army general-GEN.SAM MANEKSHAW...
Hamid Abbasi Aug 13, 2012 01:00pm
Hi Moniza(Dolly)!!! Your late Abboo,grandpa Alam and me did enjoy the teacher and taught relationship of Prof.B.E..Mirza a very dedicated educationist though from Karachi community.His brother Prof. R.E.Mirza was in university).Another name of Prof.J,B.Sidhwa comes to my mind who alongwith Prof.B.E..Mirza authored a chemistry text book for intermediate students. Thousands of their pupils owe a great deal to them.My own boss with whom I worked for seven years Dr.Virasp.K.Davar a man of exemplary character and knowlrdge..Indeed this community has rendered a lot for Pakistan. I am glad you wrote a beautiful article, keep it up. Hamid Abbasi
umesh Aug 12, 2012 11:30am
Parsis proved to be an Asset to India..............who can forget the great JRD TATA . It was a very wise decision of the King Jadhav Rana to allow them to mingle in Gujarat area ( Sanjan is not very far from MUMBAI). .They also kept their promises. However the same has proved detrimental to their growth............Parsis are on a decline As they had been presecuted for being after invasion of islamists in PERSIA ( present IRAN), they worked hard for survival. They have been the best phillanthroprists........, educationists..............
ALLAUDDIN Aug 12, 2012 05:00pm
Hopefully green days will come back very soon!!!
F N Aug 12, 2012 04:58pm
I don't see your point. Of course,"everyone has a right to choose to live wherever they want." What is objectionable in the fact that chose to live in Pakistan?
shahzad Aug 12, 2012 07:36pm
Who is to blame for disorder in third world countries, in world's hot spot regions. we can blame for our fortune only. i guess if interests of world powers are not there than and only than we can expect some prosperity coming back. bad luck for us
sja Aug 12, 2012 07:34pm
That is the difference between when you were independent and now dependent upon PPP type democracy.
VKD Aug 12, 2012 07:17pm
We used to go every evening at Paris Colony for 8 year for our tuition's at Late Kaikobad Jamshed. I have very fond memories of the colony and still miss the days spend around. The people were so calm and peaceful and this had an impact on our upbringing. The colony have couple of beautiful gardens and one with swing, miss them.
Mangesh Aug 12, 2012 12:51pm
and the Sindhi Hindus too.
Razzaq Aug 12, 2012 11:18am
What a sweet memory of my childhood and teenage days of Pakistan that was and the happy time spent with my Parsi friends like Mancherjee,Cowasjee and degamwalla,
Gunjan Aug 12, 2012 10:48am
India is lucky to have Zoroastrians as its citizen. There is a saying in Hindi which urges mothers to give birth to children who are either knowledge driven or charitable or brave. The parsis have delivered all of this to India in measures beyond their community's size (Just about 50,000 of them). From Homi J Bhabha, father of India's nuclear science to the Tata group who are unparalleled in charitable causes to lastly Sam Bahadur Maneckshaw, our hero of 1971. Proud of the parsi people in India.
Kashif Aug 13, 2012 12:18pm
My father shares the same pleasant memories of Quetta. Its a shame that Balochistan is burning and yet our rulers care none.
Moin Aug 12, 2012 08:34am
A nostalgic piece about a city which was known for its peace and serenity. It pains to see what is happening in that part of our country today. Having lived in Quetta for 25 years, I am well aware about the Parsi community who were wonderful people - peaceful, polite, simple yet enterprising. i remember going to the Parsi Colony many times to visit my Grammar School teacher Sir Bahram. As mentioned in the article, it was an oasis of tranquility and peace. I wonder how is that place today.
Khawar Khyam Aug 12, 2012 01:16pm
Where are those good old days. When there was used to be peace in Pakistan. When people were used to love each other.Life was simple. Not much greed and killing of innocent. Who should I blame?.
Ali Aug 12, 2012 02:06pm
It is unfortunate that we don't see very many Parsis in Pakistan now. Growing up in Lahore Cantonment, I have fond memories of Parsis. Among other things there was a general store "Jamsatjees" where we used to go for buying candies. They were affluent but simple.
R.E.MALIK Aug 12, 2012 02:06pm
I have lived in Quetta for many years and have very fond memories of peace and tranquility of this majestic city but unfortunately it has been completely lost. And what a coincidence, I have visited Parsi colony to meet my Grammar School teacher Sir, Bahram and few class fellows as well as Mr. Bamji. Both me and my father has worked with him for many years. Like Sir Bahram, Mr. Bamji used to be highly knowledgeable and a competent professional of his field of expertise. No doubt, Parsi community of Quetta are very peace loving human beings and sugar in the Balochistan's milk which has now gone sour courtesy of so called nationalist.
ShaukatFarooq Aug 12, 2012 02:03pm
Who destroyed our peaceful lives.Petrodollars and Nationalisation brought Greed Redistribution of wealth and extreme level of corruption which destroyed our respect for each other.This makes me cry as being an old man i have seen those peacefull days when your neighbour was your family member. how can we bring back those days for our future generations.
karun khanna Aug 12, 2012 02:02pm
While Parsis and other minorities have fled Pakistan they have flourished in India where both Parsis and Christians have risen to the highest levels in govt (particularly military) and the private sector.Such a great contribution from a minute community ! Karun Khanna,New Delhi
DARR Aug 12, 2012 06:16pm
Special thanks to Parsis, Hindus, Christians and all others who are alienated in Pakistan for religion. They are brave, committed to their divine right to stay in their homeland.
ritu Aug 12, 2012 05:52pm
Good to see some parsis have survived in pakistan. It is sad see that Pakistan once home of diversity and vibrant cultures now known for intolerence and religous viloence. Sindh had many beautiful carved jain temples and so did lahore and other big cities. I wonder how many pakistani do know anything about jains? I haven't read single stories about them in pakistani newpaper. Can Dawn find even single jain family still living in pakistan? will love to read about them.
Prakash Aug 12, 2012 05:48pm
....and Godrej
Madan Aug 12, 2012 05:19pm
Parsi community has played a siginificent role in the upliftment of the economy in India too.The communitiy leads a simple life mostly in Mumbai and has set up charities to eradicate poverty in India and by setting up industries for employment of local people I can relate to this story as a child. I lived with my parents and siblings in Bhera town of Pakistan before partition of India,played with my Hindu and mostly Muslim friends without fear and led my childhood life like Gulbanoo.Which people on earth will not like to live among Parsis in their midst?
Mohammed Baluch Aug 12, 2012 10:52pm
The Parsis have contributed immeasurably to the prosperity of Pakistan - including the philanthropical act of Mr. Dinshaw in the establishment of N.E.D. Engineering College, Mr. Dorab Patel as a Justice of the Supreme Court, Mr. Cowasjee fondly known as the conscience of Pakistan, Mr. Jamsheed Marker, one of our most famous Ambassadors and cricket commentator in the company of his erstwhile friend, Mr. Omar Kureshi, Ms. Bapsi Sidhwa of literary fame. At this critical juncture in our history, we have much to learn from our Parsi community in how to live non-aggressively amongst people of other beliefs, be productive, and appreciate the gentle and beautiful things of life.
Muhammad K Aug 12, 2012 11:47pm
I have started my education from Quetta cant School in end 50's. Quetta was a beautiful and very peaceful city at that time, it was just like some European city with snow in winter. Parsi people did great work for Pakistan before and after partition NED College to Shipping lines. Due to non cooperative and unaccommodating attitude most of the Parsi left Pakistan like other. It is a big lose for Pakistan. Whose PM says to CNN that " Why people are waiting, why they don't leave Pakistan, who is stopping them"
PAKISTAN Aug 13, 2012 12:29am
One thing i do not understand when its good it ok when it get bad they dont want to deal with it.not to say that whats happening in pakistan is good but its like mother no matter what happen to her her childs gonna stay by her side he or she is not gonna say i shouldve left her in old people home.there are people who do leave their parents in old people hom like edhi center.but what i think about them is they are cowards.
Hamid, California Aug 13, 2012 01:09am
I have great respect for Parsis. Karachi at the time partitation was a very clean and well developed city. Parsis have contributed heavily to Karachi development. DJ Science and NED Engineering colleges are two examples. When I went to DJ College in early 60's our principal Mr. Sidhwa was a parsi. In NED my Vice-Principal Mr. Roostamji was a Parsi. They were loyal Pakistani who tremndously contributed to our education. They were polite, calm, very clean, organized, enterprising and civic minded. I have fond memories and very high repect for this community. Although NOT muslim by religion, their behavior and action were totally in line of the Isalm. I am sorry that Islam has been hijacked by extremest and at time these elements cease to be "human". Best way to love Allah(swt) is to LOVE other creations of Allah, including other humans of faith different from ours. H.H '
Muhammad K Aug 13, 2012 01:26am
I have started my education from Quetta cant School in end 50's. Quetta was a beautiful and very peaceful city at that time, it was just like some European city with snow in winter. Parsi people did great work for Pakistan before and after partition
Fahim Aug 13, 2012 02:40am
O' Muslims , please learn to live in peace ! In our religion respect and tolerance for fellow human beings should be paramount.So, lets practice it.
jksinha Aug 13, 2012 02:43am
Parsi community's contribution is monumental, and that too without asking any thing in return; no quota, no reservation, no freebies. I salute them for choosing India as their home.
Osmond Aug 13, 2012 04:15am
Look no further than the text books of history, or Pakistan studies & u'll know where it started.
shukla B Aug 13, 2012 04:17am
Field Marshall MANAK SHAW WAS PARASI and he is the only one Field Marshall in INDIA
shahrukh Aug 13, 2012 04:49am
I first visited Quetta (my last time also) in 1961 with my mother and a group of Parsi friends from Karachi, when I was still in school. I remember staying at the Parsi Dharamsala (inside the Parsi colony).The colony was very well planned with beautiful old style bungalows and a playground where all the youngsters would play base ball in the evenings. In the morning we would walk to the local market and sample different fruits from the local Pathan vendors who were very pleasant and friendly. I remember visiting the powerhouse owned by Mr. Romer who was an engineer and also part owner. We visited many fruit orchards and ate lots of fruit from the trees.
Pakistani Aug 13, 2012 05:54am
There have been unfortunate events of minority persecutions in Pakistan, but then there similar events in India and many other countries in the subcontinent also (point in case: Rohingya Muslims in Burma) . Parsis of Pakistan might be near extinction, but they are still highly affluent people. Perhaps you should do some research on Byramjee Avari of Avari Hotels, Darayus Minwallas of Hotel Metropole, Isphanyar Bhandara of Murree Brewery. Also on the likes of Adreshir Cowasjee, Bapsi Sidhwa, Minoo Bhandara, Jamsheed Marker, Dorab Patel etc. There are all prominent Pakistan Parsees.
Zalim singh Aug 13, 2012 06:35am
Parsis are declining not due to their inability to convert locals. It is due to the fact that they have less children per family. On par with maybe Sweden or Nordic countries. But to be fair to them they do not convert them strictly. even to this day they do not break the promise given to King Rana Jadhav. We need to even appreciate the king from 755 AD. He was broad minded to accept them into his country. Even to this day rich nations like Saudi Arabia (and other neighbours of it) do not allow even Muslim refugees also.
Gujurati Aug 13, 2012 06:41am
It is because we are a tolerant community . Our history ,our ancient culture and knowledge seeking culture are key to it . We welcome all community who can contribute to our country . Parsis and Jews are very nationalists and intelligent people and TATAs,Godrej,Mr.Bhaba and many more are bright examples of it . in Stead of dominating our culture or spreading their religion , they have really migled with us like sugar in milk . What else do we want ? Time to give them full credits to them.
P. Kur Aug 13, 2012 07:09am
Why Indians are politicizing a socio-cultural piece?
Khalid P Butt Aug 13, 2012 07:25am
During my nearly 20 years stay in Baluchistan- 09 in Quetta; I came across many wonderful persons. SR Pooneagar was one such person who was a pride for Parsis living there. I happened to come in contact with him during my posting in Quetta from 1984-91. Those were really golden days. I pray for well being of my friends living all over the province. I have there an old classmate from primary school days.
B.Ally Aug 13, 2012 07:53am
Bravo, They can still live here where even Muslims are finding difficult to survive. Every second Pakistani wants to leave this country given an opportunity. Big Salute to the Parsees
Viraf Aug 13, 2012 02:35pm
B Shukla India had two Field Marshalls; Sam Bahadur was one, and the other was Field Marshall, the late Cariappa
Shermeen12 Aug 13, 2012 02:42pm
I was also brought up in Quetta and yes "those were the days" a beatiful town with beautiful and hospitable people. Life was simple then. I remember the highlight for us was to visit a neighbour or a friend and go to beautiful picnic spots where the air smelled of Junipers and lavender. A lot of people have mentioned Sir Bahram who was my uncle and passed away very tragically(may his soul rest in peace). Paris colony used to be so peaceful and I still remember the gorgeous rose bushes at my grandma's house. It was such a tranquil place. Had beautiful and unforgetable memories. I wish & pray peace & properity for our small community and our dear country Pakistan
karun khanna Aug 13, 2012 03:47pm
Absolutely -I am aware of all these eminent Pakistani Parsis.However I still maintain (and this is supported by facts)that minorities in secular India got a much better deal.(Incidentally I don't regard Muslims as a minority in India since they have been part and parcel of the fabric of our country and are represented ,at he HIGHEST echelons, in every facet of our society).That said, the two major communities of un-divided India -Hindu and Muslim-have a responsibility to ensure minorities and their institutions are fully protected and nurtured. Karun Khanna
Shahji Aug 13, 2012 03:49pm
Is this an Indian forum?
jamshed mirza Aug 13, 2012 04:13pm
Lest we forget, Freddy Mercury, Zubin Mehta (the famous conductor), Lord Billimoria (of Cobra beer fame) are/were all Parsis. Also Dadabhoy Naoroji was the FIRST non-white Member of the British Parliament.
Rasesh A. Dhru Aug 13, 2012 05:23pm
India's National cricket team had: Polly Umarigar, Nariman Contractor, Farruq Engineer, Rusi Surati, Rusi Modi. Parsi community is simply a blessing whereever they have settled and all the rest can learn from them to mingle like a sugar in the milk pot.
n.qureshi Aug 13, 2012 08:11pm
i wish people our elders who emigrated to sindh had followed the same 3 principles of dress,language and conversion.we wouldnt have the mess we have at the present time.we try to do the same in usa.
Yawar Aug 14, 2012 02:26am
I salute the Parsi community in Pakistan. Some of the best teachers and students in my school, Karachi Grammar, were either Parsi or Goan Christian. I remember my brilliant friend Rayomond Kotwal who always topped my class and was the first Pakistani to get six points in "O" Levels. I beleive he is now the CEO of a large financial institution in Karachi. I wish to thank you from the bottom of my heart for your contributions to the Quaid's and your Pakistan.
Yawar Aug 14, 2012 02:34am
I remember during the Urdu Sindhi riots in Karachi in 1972, our schools had closed for several months. Mrs Minwalla, on her own accord, got her class together at one of my freind's home and taught us all the subjects free of charge to get us caught up. She did not have to do that. But she did it. I learnt so much from her.
Dinaz Aug 14, 2012 03:06am
Shahrukh, what is you full name? I am from Quetta, and we used to be at the Dharamsala ALL THE TIME when people came from Karachi. We showed them around and showed off our colony! I now live in Toronto, Canada - used to be Dinaz Kapadia.
Dinaz Aug 14, 2012 03:07am
I am happy to see your comment. S.R. Poonegar is my Mamoo and yes, we are very proud of him. I now live in Toronto, Canada.
Dinaz Aug 14, 2012 03:09am
What is your full name? Sir Bahram was my Mamoon - brother of S.R. Poonegar, who was Secretary Finance, Baluchistan, at one time. I am his niece, Dinaz and now reside in Toronto, Canada.
Dinaz Aug 14, 2012 03:11am
What is your full name? If you came to the Parsi Colony for 8 years to Mrs. Diana Kaikobad (Now deceased too), I would remember you. What years were your visits? My name is Dinaz and I now live in Toronto, Canada.
Dinaz Aug 14, 2012 03:15am
What is your full name? I am so pleased to see that you still remember your KG-1 teacher...... Sir Bahram was my Mamoon and if you came to him for tuitions, I would remember you and also if you came to Boman Uncle Irani, I would know you. If you knew them, then you probably knew my father, Homi Jehangir! I now live in Toronto, Canada.
Dinaz Aug 14, 2012 03:16am
Moin, what is your full name........ it is possible that I would know you. Sir Bahram was my Mamoon and if you came to the Colony, I would remember you. I now live in Toronto, Canada.
Dinaz Aug 14, 2012 03:53am
My name is Dinaz and I was formerly known as Dinaz Kapadia and I too am a resident of the very same Parsi Colony in Quetta and grew up with Mrs. Gulbano Bamji and her family. My Grandfather, Mr. Jehangirji Hormusji was once the Political Agent of Quetta - quite an influential position in the early 50's. One of my Uncles is Mr. S.R. Poonegar, who was also the Secretary Finance, Baluchistan Cabinet and my other Uncle, Mr. Behram Poonegar, a teacher in the Grammar School. I can proudly say that almost ALL boys, who have at one time or another studied at the Quetta Grammar School, and are now scattered, throughout the world, have been my Uncle's students!! The topmost picture, at the top of the article is, in fact, my Grandmother's house (Sir Behram Poonegar lived here with his mother, my Grandmother). We were ONE BIG HAPPY FAMILY, in the Parsi Colony, as Mrs. Bamji has rightly commented. We were SO CONTENT........ Most of our homes had NO phones, NO television - Computers AND Cellphones were absolutely UNHEARD of, and yet we were happy. We were honest, loyal, and each one looked out for the other. We ALL lived frugally, NOT to mean we lived Poorly - No, we had the best of everything, but in moderation - we had NO BRAND NAMES to compete for, yet dressed like royalty - had the most purest of foods to eat, from vegetables to fruits that we personally picked straight off the trees, washed in the natural springs running at our feet, on our way to URAK and PISHIN and above all, in spite of not living in the lap of luxury, WE WERE HAPPY!! Whatever we each had, we shared with the others. Our Games were simple - an old bent Tin of Ovaltine or Coffee or Bournvita was enough to keep us occupied for days on end, as we contently played "KICK THE CAN", until it was time to replace it and we would go to each household, in search for a new one! Out other favourite games were Baseball, Badminton, Seven Tiles, and Hide and Seek........ the hiding places only WE Colony-ites knew...... we often played with the visitors from Karachi who stayed at our Dharamshala and there is no way they were able to find any of us, when it was their turn to 'seek'!! Our hiding places were sacred! I have been living in Canada for the past 27 years now - and before that I was in England for 10 years. Although far, far away from our hometown of Quetta, the Memories we grew up with are still very NEAR AND DEAR TO OUR HEARTS. Even outside our Colony, I had loyal and loving friends, from all religions, whose friendship meant the world to me and I never stopped searching for them, over the years...... FINALLY, my search brought results and during the past 2 years, I have been united with some of my childhood friends after 46, 42, 38, 40, 37 and years, respectively. When I visited Pakistan in January of 2012, I flew from Karachi to Multan especially to visit another classmate (She and I shared the same bench in class and were best friends!) - I met her after 48 years!! Thank you for your interest in our Community and especially US - THE PARSIS OF THE QUETTA PARSI COLONY!!!
Ardeshir J. Elavia Aug 14, 2012 04:13am
Quetta that beautiful city where I studied and was fortunate to be posted to my first Battalion after my commission from PMA, Kakul. Those were the days, what fond memories, good people all. Miss Quetta still, but Pakistan more.
Tahir A. Khalifa Aug 14, 2012 08:09am
Tears came to my eyes when I read the article and comments. My 59 years of life in Quetta moved like film scenes. I came to know of Parsee Community of Quetta through my dearest friend S R Poonegar; a prominent Parsee of Quetta. His family came to Quetta with his father who was a respectable officer in North Western Railway. The community was characterised by its members who were distinct in their nobility, kindness, helpfulness, beneficence, honesty and trustworthiness beside being upright, brave and steadfast. These traits made them the best community as a whole in Quetta. I remember Behram Poonegar; the brother of Savak Sb. who taught his students with love and affection. My son Fakhar was his student in 5th and 6th class. It was he who transformed him from an average student to a position holder. He was mourned by many of his students and their parents on his accidental death from severe burns.
Tahir A. Khalifa Aug 14, 2012 08:12am
I remember Quetta Electric Supply Company was owned by Parsee Mr. Roamer and there were a number of Parsee engineers and mangers, such as Mr. Bharucha ( whose daughter Mahzareen is married to Brig.(Ret. Agha Gul ). I also remember Nariman Bharucha, a fine man, a very kind, honest and helpful person. He was brother in law of Savak Sb. He passed his life with honour and dignity. Another brother in law of Savak Sb. was Homi, a pleasing personality, always ready to help others. His wife, Poonegar's sister, died when her two daughters were young. Poonegars mother and sister brought them up. His mother was a kind, loving and affectionate lady who was simple in her manners. Johonsus Patel, and (Justice) Dorab Patel are two very noble and upright persons worth remembering. So are worth remembering old Mr. Marker who established Marker Alkoloids and an ice factory and his sons Ambassador Jamshed Marker (better known in Cricket circles ) Kurshid Marker and Minoo Marker.
Tahir A. Khalifa Aug 14, 2012 08:14am
Pervez Rana, an engineer and a man of excellent disposition is still in Quetta holding the fort. He was a director of present QESCo. which is a far cry from QES Company of Parsees, when there was uniterrupted power supply, no power thefts and complaints if any were attended to within a few minutes.I also remember old and graceful Mr. Dastoor who made an honest and graceful living from rock salt agency. I must also mention late Eruch Manekji, the father in law of Poonegar, who was a topmost businessman (of Tata and Birla level) who had a business empire in undivided India. He opted for Pakistan. A man who was friends with Rockfellers and Tatas and Birlas ultimately died because of his business empire destroyed due to Govt. policies nationalization and looted due to law and order in the country.
Tahir A. Khalifa Aug 14, 2012 08:16am
All of the above Parsees made Parsee Colony an Oasis of peace tranquilityand security in Quetta city. However, thirty forty or fifty years ago Quetta was a very peaceful, clean and friendly city where all residents treated others affectionately and almost everybody knew everybody. The residents of the city were like a closely knit community without cosideration of religion, cast or creed. Students of Govt. College were smart and well dressed unlike what they are now. Jinnah Road was worth a visit in the evening where there were cafes and gentry of the city would gather there to socialise.There were working libraries such as Sandeman Library and US information centre library. Students used to visit these places frequently. Remembering Quetta of those times, and its residents, cannot but bring tears to ones eyes.
VKD Aug 14, 2012 09:30pm
We all brothers and sisters used to come from 1980 till 1992. My name is Vijay and I now live in London.
sja Aug 14, 2012 10:55pm
Flashback: Like sugar in milk------------- that is how the elders of the yester years thought to survive and thrive. Flashnow ---- Sugar is for the one who rules and the sour milk is for the riayaaa or the governned. Ask now the current democratic leaders of Pakistan. They have no flashback but they hold back the sugar for profit.
sja Aug 14, 2012 11:02pm
Good recollection: This article reminds a lot of Ardeshir Cowasjee the elder, concerned fellow countryman who had lot of memories, he thougt and articulated in the columns of DAWN, the good and the bad and the systematic destruction of Pakistan to no avail, as the Urdu saying naqar khanay main toooti ki awaz. He finally gave up and retired at the beginning of this year. Such is the fruit of loving one country. I studied at the Govt Commerce College next to DJ Science college in Karachi in the late 1960's, we had some Parsi students, and enjoyed their Gujrati jokes and their unique interactions, and worked to make a career. Time flies and memories remain. Ask Ardeshir Cowasjee he is tower of Patience and intellect who tried to help us all.
VKD Aug 15, 2012 06:53am
Vijay - we were a 5 sibling who used to come till 1990. We used to come in her old house and then she moved to another house which I think is the top left. The top right was at the opposite to her house
Taronish Bamji Aug 15, 2012 05:32pm
When my mother was first approached to talk about her childhood and life in quetta her inital reaction was excitement something that most quetta citizens tend to feel they have a very strong and a special bond they still tend to stand by each other in good times and through rough times its almost like when they were children they had taken an oath to be there for each other whatever our people lack today is that connection that special bond i grew up in the big city of karachi and have not been able to see the same bond within the people what we lack today is emmotions to do something selflessly it is everyone's right to choose where to live but what we were taught was family came before everything as a family we are blessed my sister and i live in the same city as our parents i actually live with them and am able to share little joys and some moments of sorrow but above all we are able to share lives where you live is not important its how you wish to live and who you wish to share it with which is important i see people around me having children who have opted new grounds and they are proud of their children achievements which is great but for me to achieve but not have family to share it with isnt a choice i would like to make. pakistan is home and i have no reason to leave i have every reason to repair and fix it those who live i wish them good luck and good bye those who stay i tell them you have passion for your country then play your role. my country is suffering because we are a nation that loves to talk and do little like our talk show hosts talk less and do what is your responsibility as a citizen because nobody can bring a change but oneself. that is what my parents and life has taught me but then again this is just my opinion which may not be yours like my grandfather would says it happy days and keep smiling
Dinaz Aug 15, 2012 06:11pm
Hello Tahir, Thank you for sharing your memories!! Savak'is my Mamoon and his brother-in-law, Homi, was my father . I am the older of the two daughters you mention. I have been living in Toronto, Canada for the past 27 years. By the way, both Jahansouz and Justice Dorab Patel have passed away, and so has their only sister, Rodabe, who was married to Roeinton Khambatta - brother of Dr. Kershaw Khambatta. Khurshid Marker has also passed away.
Dinaz Aug 15, 2012 07:32pm
I would like to convey my personal and grateful thanks to the Editor(s) of DAWN for introducing this wonderful and nostalgic article on the Parsis of Quetta, with the interview with the Bamjis. Thank you also for approving and printing not only local comments, but the comments of those of us who are no longer residing in Pakistan but are scattered all over the world, but who were born, raised and educated in Quetta. It is so heart-warming to read the gracious comments of our NON-Parsi friends and well-wishers who hold us in such high esteem and who, along with us, have fond memories of a once safe and peaceful city! Thank you, DAWN!!
armita Aug 16, 2012 07:56am
Yes those were the days We have spent such a beautiful time in Quetta I can never forget. Going to our Fui’s (Aunty ) house on Friday for breakfast and playing with our dear friends Kaiwan, Shireen & Bohman who passed away last year may God bless him soul in peace. I remember the celebration of Navroze when all the Parsi used to get together for prayers and our Angel like Dastoor jee he was just like a farishta. I miss those days and cherish all those beautiful memories in my heart.
M. Y. Tajik Aug 17, 2012 12:46pm
I was in KG-1 around 1964. Sir Bahram was our great teacher. I used to visit him out of sheer courtesy, respect and love, when grew up. He was a wonderful personality. Boman Uncle was also a great man. He helped us sell our shop at a very good price when we need money urgently. I remember him as a very sweet person, socially amiable and down to earth. He used to visit our Restaurant opposite district courts. Perhaps, I could recollect some more details on some other channel. Yahya
dinaz Aug 17, 2012 04:24am
Oh, then I don't know you.......... I left Pakistan in 1976, for England. Lived there for 10 years and am now in Toronto, Canada, for the past 27 years!! Anyway, it is good to know that you have good memories of our Parsi Colony.