KARACHI: “Yes, we are celebrating Navroze, but quietly in our homes, no functions, no gatherings,” said well-known rally driver Tushna Patel, who also happens to be a proud member of Karachi’s Parsi community.
The country’s first female rally driver, besides racing in big trucks over uneven hilly and dusty tracks, is also a caring homemaker. Early on Friday morning, at exactly 8.49.37am, she had her Navroze table all set and ready to usher in spring and the new Parsi year of the rat.
“Jamshedi Navroze is basically the Iranian new year. Therefore it is traditionally celebrated, with the setting of the Navroze table, usually by Parsis of Iranian descent,” Tushna explained.
“My family have been celebrating it ever since I opened my eyes. Then when I got married to Ronnie some 20 years ago, I started the tradition in my home,” she said, adding that Navroze is also celebrated by many other people such as Shia and Ismaili communities who would be celebrating the festival along with other Parsis who are not of Iranian descent on Saturday.
The festival is a low-key affair this year to stop the spread of coronavirus
“There is a second Navroze celebration in August as well but I enjoy this one as it falls at the time of the spring equinox and is really a cheerful time to celebrate fresh new beginnings,” she said.
The Parsis set the Navroze table with a lot of care. There is fruit, sweetmeats, vegetables, lentils, dried fruit, boiled eggs (usually decorated by the family’s children) and little bottles of sherbet, vinegar, fragrant candles, rose water, sprouted wheat in a little planter, flowers, fish, a mirror, etc.
Traditionally, guests are welcomed to a Parsi home during Navroze with the sprinkling of rose water, which signifies good fragrance throughout the year. This is followed by their seeing their reflection in the mirror on the table to signify a happy reflection after which they are offered the sweets which signify sweetness. Tushna explained that the table is left like this, laden with all these things for 13 days.
“We, and our guests, who keep coming to the house on our lunch or dinner invitations during this time, are supposed to finish almost everything by the 13th day after which the things that we could not eat like the sprouted wheat, we take to a river or any other flowing water body to dispose of. Here in Karachi we take it to the Native Jetty bridge,” she said.
“Of course, due to the current coronavirus threat, we couldn’t celebrate Navroze the way we used to this time around but I am quite positive that 2020 will be a good year,” she said. “We are being socially responsible by staying inside our homes and restricting interaction. But it is also fine when you look at it this way that the earth and its people, too, need to take a break to heal as we use this time to reflect, regret and then get up again and face the world afresh,” she concluded.
Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2020