Punyanagari, our very own melting pot of cultures and traditions is Maharashtra’s cultural capital, and for good reason! We can rightfully boast of having several historical and cultural significances in Maharashtra’s identity, our multi-coloured communities are to be thanked for that!
India being a secular country has ensured its cities and citizens of several cultural exposures. For Pune, the Parsi community and the vibrant and joyful culture they bring forth has somewhat been hesitantly acknowledged, to our great sorrow! Pune Camp area stands as a proud testimony to our Parsi brothers and sisters, and before we get busy with our mundane daily schedules, I want us all to address their vast contributions.
Every time I am around the MG Road area, I’m transported to the Parsi dominant era, largely during the British rule. Peppered with eateries, schools, shops, and even markets, the Camp area now has transformed from being a noteworthy landmark to just an area in our city. Several ethnic identities are now the patchwork quilt draped around this area, however, the Sharbatwala Chowk still stands as an easily identifiable spot within this area.
Populated by Zoroastrians and Iranis, Sharbatwala Chowk still feels like a still from a black and white movie, and I mean this in a good way. You see, not everything has to change in the modern times, and Sharbatwala Chowk is a staunch reminder of this positive rigidity. Parsis are renowned for being smart, witty, stubborn, and hilarious!
To simply focus on MG Road, our beloved Parsis have given us Kayani Bakery, Dorabjee, and Café Yezdan. To say, “Parsi cuisine is delicious”, is an understatement. Authentic Parsi cuisine, which includes our favourite- Dhansak – is still popularly regarded as one of the best cuisines in our country.
Visually and architecturally, MG Road has been influenced by the Parsi community more than any other. The Zoroastrian Fire Temples and the quaint Parsi homes give MG road an outwardly feel, a polaroid living version of the 1950s. Even today, you will be greeted by a slightly irritated Parsi old aunty or a sleepy, newspaper-reading Parsi uncle on MG Road and you wouldn’t help but wonder, “Is our city’s Parsi population dwindling?”
And yes, it is. As pointed out in DNA India, the low birth rate in Parsi community and much of the young Zoroastrian population migrating to the west, our city’s Parsi population stands at a sad standstill. The old architecture and houses are being replaced by modern housing societies, thus effectively killing the Parsi charm of MG Road. It cannot be helped, as we will all agree, that change is the necessity of time. However, one cannot help and get nostalgic when he remembers MG Road from their childhood. With much of the Parsi charm and population having been vanished, what fate awaits our city’s Parsi community?