My latest article that was posted on Lonely Planet India’s website today.  Check it out, and let me know what you think!

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It’s Navroz, let’s PARSI!

August 18 is Parsi New Year and while the Parsis are celebrating with prayers and festivities, let us celebrate this wonderful community. Let’s get a little bit of ‘Parsi’ in each of us.

Walk by a Parsi Baug

These are large housing colonies by the Parsisand for the Parsis. It is believed that the first baug came up in 1912. Within these large colonies are facilities that will make even the well-heeled Mumbaikar green with envy. Some have not one but two swimming pools, gymnasiums, gardens and playgrounds. You might have noticed the prominent Cursow Baug as you walked down Colaba Causeway – that spreads over 84000 sq feet or around 12 football pitches. Even today the rent in these baugs could be as low as Rs. 500 – 1000. The sad part, no entry for non-Parsis. But despair not. There is one Parsi Baug in Mumbai that has no walls and everyone can walk in. Yes, you’ve guessed it – Dadar Parsi Colony. Wikipedia says this is the largest Zoroastrian enclave in the world – believed to house around 15000 Parsis! You must have heard it multiple times and at the cost of sounding repetitive – Freddie Mercury, lead singer of Queen, was from this very colony. Spend an evening walking along the board avenues with branching lanes. If heritage housing is your ‘thing’, head here.

Check out an Agiary

An agiary or fire temple is the place of worship of those belonging to the Zoroastrian faith. There are believed to be around 50 agiaries in and around Mumbai. Most of these fire temples were sponsored by rich business men and named after them. One of the oldest The Banaji Limji agiary close to Horniman Circle is the oldest surviving agiary.  It is more than 300 years old.  Close by near CST is Maneckji Seth agiary. It has two huge winged bulls on either side and the motif of a fravashi or angel just above the doorway. There are three grades of fires and temples are classified according to the type of fire. What is contrasting to other faiths is that the priests do not recite prayers or hymns, neither do they preach, they merely tend to the fire. That is also why agiaries are intentionally simple with no embellishment.

Sample some fantastic Parsi food

We finally come to the food – did someone just say save the best for last? That’s true! This is one element of Parsi culture that everyone can partake, and joyfully so. Parsi restaurants or cafes are a dying breed. Parsi migrated from Iran centuries before Iranis moved – these are the two groups in the Zoroastrian faith. Whether it’s a Parsi Cafe or Irani, the food is pretty similar except for the restaurant specials. In the mid-1900s, there were more than 500 such restaurants in Mumbai; today maybe an optimistic 15-20. Britannia is probably the best known, especially for its berry pullao; a secret recipe that’s guarded even today. There is an interesting story that when Mr. Kohinoor wanted to open this restaurant the then British commissioner was reluctant to give his permission.  Mr. Kohinoor thought of a British name i.e. “Britannia”. The rest is history. “Britannia” pleased the commissioner and they were open for business. Many of these restaurants had humble beginnings as roadside tea cafes and maybe that’s why they still continue to be such meeting points, community areas for everyone comes together for that cup of chai with bun maska. Most of these cafes are at a corner. Legend has it Hindus were superstitious about street corners but Parsis weren’t. You could also check out Ideal Corner, Jimmy Boy, Yazdani Bakery or any Cafe at the corner of Mumbai city. If you are a vegetarian, then these places might not be the best for you except if you love caramel custard or bun maska. In that case, visit the Cafe at NCPA for some sublime vegetarian dhansak or Parsi dal. Grocery shops near Dadar Parsi Colony stock Dhansak masala powder if you are the home-chef.

With that we come to the end of this Parsi journey. Feel like you need more Parsi-ness? Gatecrash a wedding! Yes, you heard me right. What I find the most interesting is you hover around the community dining table, the minute someone finishes you stand behind that chair and it’s not considered impolite. Go stake claim on that chair now!

And Navroz Mubarak to one and all!

It’s Navroz, let’s #PARSI! #NewYear #Mumbai My latest article that was posted on Lonely Planet India’s website today.  Check it out, and let me know what you think!
When Whatsapp did a ‘Happy New Year’

We have always known Shah Rukh Khan to get as innovative as we could possible imagine with the marketing and promotions of his movies. And with Happy New Year the team has done something never done before and taken movie promotions at an all new high…



Last year, when Chennai Express came along, the team resorted to carpet bombing, and the shows were captured in a way that the audiences had nothing else to see. Needless to say, Chennai Express ended up being one of the biggest hits seen by the Bollywood ever. And now Red Chillies Entertainment comes up with a new movie whose trailer was launched just last week – Happy New Year, which is as they call it, a story of six losers.


From the look of the trailer it seems like a complete combo package of a lot of concepts and a lot of dance; it seems grand and larger than life for sure. Be it the TV, the newspapers, the social media or the gossip columns, everybody is talking about this extravaganza, directed by Farah Khan, marking the mended relationship between Farah and SRK. And publicists can take a bow for making the trailer launch as big as the launch of a film itself!


SRK, the ultimate marketing king in Bollywood has had a big hand in sending this while hype sky high. It is said that it was his idea to tour the United States with the entire main cast September onwards to promote this multi-starrer film that has SRK, Deepika Padukone, Sonu Sood, Abhishek Bachchan, Boman Irani and Vivaan Shah (the very dashing younger son of Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak Shah who impressed us with his ‘Arun Kumar’ in Saat Khoon Maaf) as its main cast, while there are supporting roles and guest appearances by Jackie Shroff, Dino Morea, Prabhu Deva, Sarah- Jane Dias, Malaika Arora Khan, Anurag Kashyap, Vishal Dadlani, Sajid Khan and Anupam Kher. This tour will be with famous rapper Yo Yo Honey Singh and the tour is titled SLAM! Starting on 19 September in Houston, it will continue over to New Jersey, Toronto, Chicago, Vancouver and San Jose.

The official announcement for the film was made by Farah Khan on Twitter. The first look of the film was launched on 2 January 2014. As part of the promotions an official Twitter handle has been created and several hash tags on the topic have been doing the rounds on social networking sites. The campaign was one of a kind where digitally signed personal posters were given out or rather tweeted out to the followers.


Striking the right chord with the yuppie generation of today has been so important and the team has managed to create enough hoopla about the movie. And if YouTube teasers weren’t enough already, the HYN team decided to release the trailer of the movie on the popular messaging service – Whatsapp. With the move, Red Chillies Entertainment aims to reach out to more than 14 crore users. The audience had been asked to register their mobile numbers with the HYN team and they would be given the trailer on their mobile devices itself through the Whatsapp application. Moreover, the HYN team is also inviting fans over twitter to send the trailer personally to them. Till date, no other movie has ever released its trailers on Whatsapp or used Whatsapp for promotions the way the movie has. And there is so much of a buzz already about the movie that the expectations are soaring really high, and all this even before the actors engage into full-fledged promotions!


Also, the worldwide distribution rights have been sold to Yash Raj Films for 1.25 billion, the satellite rights have been sold to Zee Network for 650 million and the music rights have been sold to T-series for another 120 million. This totals up to a pre-release revenue of 2.02 billion!

When it comes to marketing its hard to beat SRK for sure. No matter how well the movie does or how good the story is or how bad or good reviews it gets, it definitely offers a lesson or two for marketers, especially in this dynamic social age.


Till then, Navroz Mubarak and Happy New Year!


Navroz Mubarak folks! We’re on a festival roll, what with Independence Day and Janmashtami goodies on the table. Now we have some of the tastiest fare to choose from on Parsi New Year.


Those of you who have lived along the West Coast of India would be familiar with the exquisite dishes that Parsis are known for. Navroz calls for an elaborate lunch featuring Parsi favourites such as Patra ni Machhi, Jardaloo Gosht, Akuri, Dhan Sak and Dhan dar Patia. But it is the dessert part we are keen on, which includes either Jalebi, or Sutarfeni, which is our dish spotlight today.


Image courtesy Shree Krishna Sweet Bhandar

Sutarfeni is essentially flaky vermicelli (or filo) deep fried in pure ghee and soaked in sugar syrup, garnished with pistachios, shredded almonds and saffron. There is an unsweetened version as well, though not as popular; it is eaten with milk and nuts like porridge.

Many Parsis make it at home, while the ones in Mumbai enjoy the awesome alternative of getting it from the legendary, forth generation-run Parsi Dairy Farm, where they excel at making all Parsi sweets, Sutarfeni included. D. Damodar Mithaiwala in Dadar is also famous for its Sutarfeni.

However, the dish itself is not only a Parsi specialty; it is enjoyed equally by Gujaratis. In that regard the most famous place for getting it is Khambhat, which is hardly known on the tourist circuit. Originally known as Cambay, it was a very important trading centre as it lay along the Gujarat coast, and is today well known for its Sutarfeni and Halwasan, another popular sweet dish.


Image courtesy Shree Krishna Sweet Bhandar

In Khambhat, try Shree Krishna Sweet Bhandar, one of the oldest sweet shops around, today exporting Sutarfeni right uptil Australia. While Ratilal Chunilal Halwasanvala located in Chitari Bazaar have been making Sutarfeni since 1905, and the taste has remained the same since then as have the recipe and the ingredients. Ahmedabad and Vadodra too have a number of sweet shops that specialise in it.

What sweet are you digging into for Navroz? Exchange notes with a community of passionate foodies only on Dishgram.

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Leaders greet Indian Parsis on Navroz

Leaders greet Indian Parsis on Navroz

The President of India, Pranab Mukherjee in his message on the occasion of the Parsi New Year said,“On the joyous occasion of ‘Navroz’, I convey greetings and best wishes to all my Parsi fellow citizens,” informed a PIB release.

“The Parsi community has contributed immensely to the development of our nation through their hard work, diligence and perseverance. May this year’s festivities be a…

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