KARACHI: The geriatric ward at the infirmary of the Bomanshaw Minocher-Homji (BMH) Parsi Medical Relief Association was decorated with pink, white and gold balloons. You could see flowers everywhere as the Parsi community in the city came together here to celebrate the 107th birthday of Dina Homi Sethna, the oldest living Parsi in the world.

The birthday girl herself, sporting a pretty pink sash over her pink party dress, cut her big rectangular chocolate cake though with a little help as everyone around her said “Happy Birthday”. People from outside the Parsi community were also invited to celebrate the momentous occasion. There was Cardinal Joseph Coutts, politicians Mangla Sharma, Ramesh Singh, Anwar Lala and Abdullah Hussain Haroon along with other celebrities from the showbiz and sports world including actor Feroze Khan.

Well-known female rally driver Tushna Patel, who organised the birthday party, was trying to figure out how to fit 107 candles on the cake. She settled for a set of golden alphabet candles that she put together to make up ‘Happy Birthday’. “My daughter is also name Dina, and today it is also her birthday, according to the Parsi calendar,” Tushna shared with Dawn.

“It’s a big honour for our community to have someone among us who is 107 years old. We Parsis are dwindling in numbers so having a 107-year-old member in our community is amazing,” she added.

Dina’s daughter Sunnu and son-in-law Farrokh Golwalla were also there. “My mother is as wane as any other woman,” said Sunnu. “She was born in 1914 and when we were celebrating her 100th birthday in 2014, she was most annoyed to receive cards that congratulated her for completing a century. She returned all the cards that had 100 written on them. She didn’t want anyone to think she was a day older than 70,” the daughter laughed.

“Mother, as not everyone would know her, is an introvert. She keeps mostly to herself. She has also been hard of hearing. Her hearing is almost gone now. Because of this she has been unable to converse confidently,” Sunnu added.

“She is very caring. When she naps in the afternoon, she tells her attendant to also have a shut eye. ‘Tum bhi so jao, baith kay kia kerna hai [you should also catch some sleep while I do the same]’. The lady volunteers, her attendants lovingly call her Maa [Mother]’,” she shared.

About having her mother committed at the home, Sunnu regrettably added: “I have not left her care to them completely. Physically I am unable to lift her or bathe her but mentally and emotionally my good husband and I are 110 per cent engaged with her well being.”

About the facility, Roshan Mehri, chairperson of the managing committee at the BMH Parsi Medical Relief Association, said that it was a pre-Partition hospital to help the local Parsi community, which has now been turned into a kind of nursing home as well as a facility for geriatric persons who are alone and don’t have anybody to look after them or who can’t be looked after at home.

Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2021

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