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Zoroastrian Club turns 100

Parsis in the city live it up on the occasion

Caught in a time warp, fading away and dwindling numbers are what one usually hears about Parsis, but the microscopic community is truly alive and kicking as was evident at the Saturday night bash held at the Zoroastrian club in Secunderabad. As part of the year-long celebrations of the club that started on October 1, 2015 to September 30, 2016, the party was full of fun and frolic with skits, dances and a sumptuous dinner.

We got a chance to meet up with one of the oldest members of the club, accepting the accretion of years with dignity and composure; 86-year-old Phiroze Bapooji who was the president of the club in the 80s says, “The most memorable day was way back in 1953, when I got a chance to play against Horace Lindrum who was among the best in the world in snooker and billiards at the club.” He adds, in typical Parsi style, that his father had told him to get going soon as he had come to watch Horace and not him.

In the past, the club used to brim with activity and had its own dance band. Ballroom dances were common. Kersi Patel, president of the club says, “Initially the club started at Prenderghast road and was a gents club, it was shifted to the present premises in 1930. The wives were allowed later for four days a week as lady guest members.”

The Zoroastrian Club has the distinction of having the first indoor badminton court in Hyderabad. Shapoor Toorkey, a member of the club who represented the State himself says, “The courts were developed on the lines of the Cricket Club of India at Mumbai and stars like Erland Kops who won the ‘All England Open Badminton Championship’ played at the club.

“Nawab Sohrab Nawaz Jung donated the present land to the club and was the first president in 1915,” he adds. Spread over 1.5 acres, Zoroastrian Club has played host to several eminent personalities and has managed to keep intact an old world charm. “Though one does not get to see many ballroom dances and youngsters in the community are getting busy with modern life, but on traditional days and events, the community gets together,” says Kersi.

What has not changed in all these years is the verve for good life, good food and lots of humour. Although the young take to modern ways of living, they do not leave tradition. One can see men still wear the ‘dagli’ – the traditional jacket – and a ‘pheto’ and women in embroidered lace sarees worn in traditional Parsi style. Chhaiye humay Zarthosti Re Mazdayasni nek Kul jehan sathe dosti-Rakhiye nibhavye tek. Mootthi bhar aa tolo Saoo no sangar. Re bol bala bolo Oh, saoo nur ne nar.

English translation: “We are all Zarthostis Good Mazdayasnis we The whole world our friend is-Let’s keep our dignity. Our Group is a handful and no more In learning still we score Its glory and its great fame Let all of us proclaim.”

  • A few prominent members of the community started the exclusive club on October 1, 1915.
  • The club shifted to the present location in 1930.
  • In 1948, two open badminton courts were constructed under the then secretary Soli F Pestonji. The courts were later developed into covered courts on the lines of the Cricket Club of India (CCI) at Mumbai.
  • Hyderabad had its first indoor badminton court, designed by the retired chief engineer P E Aibara, which was inaugurated in 1951.
  • Erland Kops from Denmark, one of the most successful players at the ‘All England Open Badminton’ Championships with 11 titles in singles and doubles between 1958-67 played at the Zoroastrian Club.
  • The billiard table dates back to 1918 and was made by Dawson & Company. World champions like Kingsley Kennerley, Bob Marshall and Horace Lindrum played at the club.
  • In 2012, the silver jubilee edition of Jiji Irani Challenge Cup was held in Hyderabad and former Indian test cricketers, Nari Contractor and Farokh Engineer graced the occasion.

Believe it!
The monthly membership fee is only Rs 10 and there are 750 members at the moment. This probably makes it the cheapest club in the world. The club had a dance band of its own. There were ballroom dances, ladies would frequent the club and play a Chinese game, mahjong while the men took to badminton courts. The land, which was all along held on lease by the Zoroastrian Club, has been converted into freehold land in 1991

Published on TheHansIndia

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