The Bawaji: A ride of humour and compassion

Book: The Bawaji: Chronicles of a Vanishing Community

Author: Berjis Desai

Publisher: Zero Degree Publishing

Pages: 232;

Price: Rs 299

Parsis can be wise — or otherwise,” exclaimed Zoru Bhathena, citizen activist and tree conservationist, with a chuckle, as he described the Parsi community in one sentence. And, Berjis Desai, writer and columnist, in his second book called The Bawaji — Chronicles of a Vanishing Community, explains this description as he dissects the nature, attitude, passion, humour and distinct qualities of the people belonging to the Parsi community.

A carousel ride of 50 anecdotes of Parsis from different walks of life, The Bawaji is a picturesque read which appeals to one and all. Berjis Desai, during the launch of his book, said, “These stories are of 50 people who were not great or famous but were simple yet different. All of them had certain qualities which distinguished them from the crowd thus proving to be a mirror to the life of the Parsi community.”

With humour as a tool to leave a smile across your face, Berjis paints a canvas as he tells each story which grips you to keep on turning the leaf to know with the usual underlying mystery of ‘what happens next’. But at the same time, each portrait of the characters opens a window for imagination and free interpretation to the readers to create a characterisation of their own.

Firstly and almost unknowingly, the definition of characters like The Fixers — The Accountant, Godmen — The Avatars, Theatre — The Showman or even Sex — The Philanderer and The Stud in the index grab your attention which make you flip pages to unravel the story behind these intriguing tags. Without much of a thought, every story makes you hungry for more while subtly giving you a taste of the Parsi community coupled with a chuckle.

Breaking stereotypes

Breaking stereotypes by unveiling the harsh reality, some short stories like The Parents portray the poverty prevalent within the pockets of the Parsi community. Berjis Desai, during the launch of his book, said, “Everybody thinks all Paris are rich with big well furnished houses in upbeat areas of South Bombay, dhansak dal on the table and fancy vintage cars. But this is not true, some of us have faced the wrath of unprecedented circumstances and hardships of poverty resulting in an economic struggle.”

Portraying the passion

Compassion, passion and empathy is dwindling in society as the stories of The Opportunist, The Dancer and The Couple show the magical personas through simple deeds. The Opportunist conveys the story of a simple man who laboured relentlessly for thousands whose tears he wiped and whose smiles he restored in his last few days of sickness. The stories propagate a strong and loud message: Passion can drive you to touch lives and go beyond the obvious.

Revealing harsh realities

Myths of AIDS and devastating taboos prevalent in the so termed well-educated Parsi community, Berjis courageously explains the redundant beliefs of the Parsi community. The story of The Philanderer explains the tragedy of HIV, narrow mindsets towards inter-caste marriages and orthodox values passed down from generations. It is a brave and commendable effort to educate and encourage broad thinking free of the shackles of prejudices and judgements.

Wit and originality

Benign humour and inimitable satire at every step to extensively dissect the highlights of the peculiar community will provide you an escape from the grim daily life. The portrayal of The Journalist, The Showman and The Sisters display a hilarious account of the unimaginable characteristics and its effects. One can harmlessly say, probably these characteristics are quite peculiar only to the Parsi community.

During the launch of the book, Justice Rohinton Nariman, Judge of the Supreme Court (SC) of India, said, “Berjis has inspired me to look at some of the characters in my own family. I have some family members who are hilarious and peculiar in their own way which is both intriguing and amusing.” While Jehangir Patel, Editor of Parsiana, said, “Readers of Parsiana have always looked forward to Berjis’ columns because of the human interest aspect. This book is a piece of non-fiction which depicts the reality, weakness, strength and existing phase of the Parsi community.”

Berjis, author of ‘Oh! Those Parsis’ and ‘The Bawaji’, said, “In my first book, I portrayed the entire existence of the Parsi community depicting who they are, what do they do, how do they talk, walk, eat and celebrate life. But in this book, I have given a tribute to the Parsi community by telling stories of colourful characters who were not great, good or bad but compassionate and distinct. One can understand the gene of the vanishing community through these anecdotes which are grounded in humour and truth.”

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