Talk like a Parsi

Celebrate the success of Parsi Bol 2, whichmakes a reader privy to the Parsi way of life

Did you know that a baira master is a casanova, tumboo ma saheb means that someone is pregnant, and suhrah chhuh noh kato is a euphemism for impotence? The news of a person’s death is announced as wicket puree guyee , an expert in cock-and-bull tales is termed a fekology master , and a never-ending story is sarcastically called dastaan-e-dilrooba .

This is a tiny sampling from 1,058 phrases crowd-sourced from 308 contributors and compiled by photographer-screenwriter Sooni Taraporevala and writer-editor Meher Marfatia in Parsi Bol 2 , a book that released in March 2016. The success of the book will be celebrated, quite fittingly at SodaBottleOpenerWala, this evening. The new edition, an expansion of Parsi Bol , which was published in December 2013, features a large new collection of phrases, and an audio CD with the phrases recorded by Boman Irani, and Dolly and Bomi Dotiwala.

While the text is enjoyable in itself, the audio CD is a significant value addition for visually-challenged readers, younger Parsis who are unsure of the pronunciation, and for people not familiar with Gujarati. It places emphasis on preserving the cultural legacy of the Parsis through their rich linguistic repertoire. It’s a thought that resonates with Irani, who got roped into the book project by Taraporevala after she directed him in Little Zizou (2008), a film about the adventures of two Parsi families.

“We, Parsis, have our own special vernacular, ” says Irani, “which is unabashed and metaphorical in a twisted sort of way. Young people hardly use these phrases now, but what is rare becomes more cherished by oldies like myself. I hope there never comes the day when we lose this Parsi Gujarati language. It would be like losing our identity, like losing the recipe for dhansak or patra ni machchhi. ”

Taraporevala says the book celebrates how Parsis have subverted the Gujarati language and made it their own. “What we have now is a language full of imagery and funny associations, wild juxtapositions and inventiveness, ” she says. The contributions to this book “were received orally, via email, handwritten letters. People sent them from Gujarat and other parts of India, New Zealand, Canada, the U.S., and other places. We also collected phrases on a visit to an old people’s home. ”

Marfatia, who wrote and self-published Laughter in the House: 20th Century Parsi Theatre (2011) says, “Language is such a vital part of one’s culture, so I used to regret the fact that my kids hesitated to speak Gujarati. After Parsi Bol 1 and 2 , I find that my daughter has got more interested in using some of the phrases. She finds them cool. I think a large part of the appeal of the book lies in the illustrations. They bring in a level of humour that people find endearing. ”

The art for the tomes has been done by Hemant Morparia and Farzana Cooper. “Being a Parsi, I enjoyed this project very much, ” says Cooper. “It was effortless. For example, we call each other kagra khao because our bodies are traditionally feasted on by the crows after we die. We also refer to Queen Elizabeth as aapni rani . Working on this book gave me a chance to celebrate and also laugh at my own community. ”

Morparia, whose illustration features on the cover of Parsi Bol 2 , says, “Since I am a Gujarati, many of the phrases were familiar to me. Of course, the naughty ones were more fun to illustrate. I have been living in South Mumbai for several years and there are many Parsis here. Therefore, this book was great fun to work on. ”

Irani and a lot of people hope that Taraporevala and Marfatia will consider compiling a collection of Parsi gaalis or swear words. However, “I am afraid it will be an expensive volume. It is bound to run into several pages, ” says the actor. We hope not; that book will definitely be a knee-slapper.

Success party at SodaBottleOpenerWala, BKC, at 6.30 p.m. Entry free; limited seating. RSVP (to shonali.t@ is mandatory.

Published on The Hindu