Two gentlemen of Calcutta: Merwanji and Motabhoy are long dead but here’s their link to ‘PadMan’

‘Arunachalam Muruganantham’ is slipping off everyone’s tongue as easily as kollu rasam. So, i’m jumping on the Padwagon too. My story dates to a time when Akshay Kumar wasn’t even a Twinkle in his father’s eye, but i hope it will tickle your funnybone. Back in my hometown, i sat with my younger friend Sarosh Gherda, bemoaning the shrinking size of our Calcutta Parsi kaum. Laughing fondly over its colourful characters, the talk turned to his granduncle, Merwanji Gora. I recalled him as upright-tall, rake-thin and parchment-pale. Sarosh sexed up this image. “Mamaji was a puccah, dapper ‘boxwallah’ in his time. He’d stroll to work at Shaw Wallace in his ‘tropical suit’ and sola topi; and his personal valet would arrive there each evening with a felt hat, which he’d don for his after-work conquests. Oh, there are lots of family stories about Mamaji as the Don Juan of the ’30s,” said Sarosh.

Merwanji’s best friend was Motabhoy Guzdar, as unlikely a companion as cannot be imagined. Motabhoy was stout, stentorian and straitlaced. He was paterfamilias of a flourishing jute business which didn’t need the social graces required of sterling-company executives. He presided over the imposing, three-storied Guzdar building at Bow Bazar, which still houses what’s left of that once-grand Calcutta Parsi clan. The bachelor Merwanji occupied a wing of the sprawling Wellesley St mansion of his own Gora-Gherda family. His collection of antique Chinese porcelain was as fabled as his collection of nubile, Anglo-Indian lady friends.

When he wanted to entertain them in style, Merwanji would, in an oblique sort of way, ask Motabhoy for the use of his car. Each morning, when Merwanji came to return it, the orthodox Motabhoy would seek the assurance that the lady of the evening wasn’t in that ‘unclean’ period of the month – “Time ma betheli ke?” Taking no chances, Motabhoy would then have the possibly ‘polluted’ seats rubbed down with ‘taro’ – the ‘gaumutra’ of Varasiyaji, the pure-white bull housed in every fire temple, used for all Zoroastrian ritual purification.

So, whaddyouknow, Sarosh’s ’30s tale has a today-connection twice over: PadMan, and Patanjali too.

Published on Times of India