Mumbai, Parsi Community and Britannia & Co.

It was my first ever visit to the City of Dreams. A city where people come with their dreams, making it big in life. Mumbai not only gives you a glimpse of its multi-layered lifestyle from rich to poor, but gives you enough reasons to fall in love with it. You are introduced to a city where dreams come alive and people celebrate the true spirit of life. The most thriving fact about the city is it’s fast paced life. This city has its own rhythm which blends with its complex yet cheerful tone . Being one of the most expensive cities in India, life in Mumbai has many shades. The moment I landed, I was amazed by everything passing by. Be its incredibly beautiful Marin Drive, those Colonial Architectures, the overcrowded Local Trains, Double Decker Buses, the Dabbawalas, Chaotic Traffic, Amazing Street Food, and the Docks with Fishermen.Basically, Mumbai has it all.

A Little Bit About Parsi Community

Well,in my random conversations about Mumbai with different people on many occasions, somehow the Parsi community takes a prominent place in those small talks. Since I have been fascinated by the lifestyle of this community, it created an urge to know more about this community. Thus being in Mumbai, spending quality time with the Parsi Community to understand the kinetics of their much talked lifestyle became imperative for me.It is said that the Parsi community has contributed immensely in making Mumbai what it is today. A community, which is declining slowly yet you can’t ignore their immense contribution in the field of arts, culture, science and commerce. Mahatma Gandhi once stated,“In numbers Parsis are beneath contempt, but in contribution, beyond compare.” The Parsis are one of the most progressive communities in India, who are certainly the early traders in India and contribute tremendously to build Modern India.

IMG_20150922_091327732_HDR

I visited the Parsi colony called ,Cusrow Baug,” located in Colaba. And, I must tell you that once I entered the main gate of the colony, I was in a completely different world.

IMG_2490

I noticed the architectural style of the quarters, which were symmetrical in shape and size. A colony, where only Parsi people are allowed to live in. Located in the heart of South Mumbai,this colony takes you to a space where time stands still.

IMG_2440Parsi people love to live exclusively within themselves. It was between 8th and 10th century, Parsi Community migrated to India from Iran after it was invaded by Arab Muslims. Though Parsis are located in many major cities in India, they are mostly settled in Mumbai.

IMG_1819

Being the migrated ones, most of the Parsis don’t have any ancestral home. They consider Mumbai as their first home. They have a strong emotional connect with this city and consider themselves as an integral part of it. It is a known fact that Parsis are considered as the pioneer of Modern India. While exploring the colony, I came across their Fire Temple and could not stop myself from asking my Parsi friend about their religion. The Parsis practice Zoroastrian religion, which encourages Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds. According to their religion, you have one life to live and that is why one should live this life in the most comfortable way.

IMG_2466

They are opinion oriented and at the same time argumentative in nature. Besides, they are known for their love for food. They literally celebrate Food and Drink.

Britannia & Co. 

I could not stay away from sampling a few of the famous Parsi delicacies in Mumbai. So I headed towards one of the most popular Parsi restaurants known as Britannia & Co in Balad Estate. To my delight, I was greeted by the Britannia man,Mr. Boman Kohinoor. I was overwhelmed. The old charm of the place and love for food was seen in every corner of the restaurant. Someone told me once ,“ Parsis love their food at the table, but they are very particular about having good food.”And I experienced the same in this place. The colonial structure, the classic photo frame of British Queen Elizabeth, the Certificates of Excellence on the wall was giving a glimpse of a bygone era.

IMG_2403

I was surprised to see the 93 years old, Mr. Boman Kohinoor, roaming around, having small talks with his customers and taking orders from each table. I decided to have a conversation with him over my lunch. Without delaying much, I ordered the famous Berry Pulav and Caramel Custard for lunch.

IMG_2386
Berry Pulav
IMG_2395
Caramel Custard

The food is undoubtedly the best Parsi food I have ever had in my life. While having my food, I was joined by Mr. Kohinoor and we struck the cord quite well. The very first thing he asked me,“ How old do I look ?” I said,“ You look younger.”He smiled at me and said, “ I am 93 years old , younger than you and I am going to break my father’s record of 114 years.”

IMG_2397

It brought a big smile on my face.  Then he started sharing his journey to India and also about the  Britannia & Co. restaurant. It was in 1923,  like other Zoroastrian immigrants from Iran,  his father Rashid Kohinoor decided to get into the restaurant business in Bombay. He opened Britannia & Co. But then they were only serving continental food to Britishers. It was only after 1957, Mr Boman Kohinoor introduced Parsi food in Britannia restaurant.  According to Mr. Kohinoor, it was his late wife who was a legal adviser in Iran, joined him in the restaurant business after she retired from her job and introduced the Parsi cuisines like Dhansak and Patra Ni Macchi to the menu. Not only that, the signature dish(Berry Pulav) was put in the menu on her insistence. The recipe of Berry Pulav was imported from Iran , though it was later improvised according to Indian taste.

Joy of sharing the stories could be seen on his face. He showed me the pictures and letters he had got from Queen Victoria from London.

IMG_2388

I could see his loyalty and love for the Royal family of Britain. According to him, Britannia emphasises on the quality of food and not on the decor of the restaurant. Interestingly, when I asked  him,“why do you need to come everyday to this place at this age?” He replied,“I have sentiments attached to this restaurant. I feel restless and just want to come to the restaurant. This is like my first home.”

I was speechless. I had never met a person like Mr. Kohinoor who is not only charismatic, dynamic, immensely charming but one of the most passionate Parsis. He runs this restaurant not to earn profit and lead a comfortable life, but for his sheer passion for food. The earnings from the restaurant cannot be compared  to its towering fame and legacy.

I was mesmerized by the Parsi community.What makes this community unique is their fantastic sense of humor.  They can find humor in everything, even in death. Their charmingly eccentric and quirky nature make them one of the most loved communities in India. What I love the most about this community is their way of life. The Parsis celebrate life like nobody does. We should learn, “The Art Of Living” from Parsis.  My Parsi story would not have been complete if I had not met Mr. Boman Kohinoor.

From the sparkling city life to discovering this amazing community in Mumbai, I found what I was looking for. Mumbai is a city of hope  and a city of joy. Sitting at Nariman Point, watching the world passing by, I was not only intrigued by the cultural landscape of the city, but also felt immensely happy to see the celebration of life by every Mumbaikar in spite of everything. “Keep Moving On” spirit is the most beautiful thing about this city. And, I did not realize when I fell in love with Mumbai.


My Photographer Friend Tinkesh. A has contributed some incredible photographs to this blog post.

About Tinkesh A :

Tinkesh A is a Mumbai based photographer who specializes in Food Photography. Apart from Food photography, he has established his niche in Travel as well as fashion photography. He has assisted few top food photographers after his completion of the photography course from National Institute of photography. It was his passion for photography and urges to create the perfect shot with minute details; he landed the job as a Photographer and Photo Editor in BBC Good Food India Magazine. Presently, he is concentrating on Freelance photography for Food, Travel and Fashion.

You Can check his work on his website.

Website : www.shutterbug.co.in


Reproduction of any of the contents, including the photographs without prior consent/permission of the Writer is strictly prohibited and a violation of the same will attract legal action.

9 Comment

  1. Lovely writeup about the Parsi effect on Mumbai. I’ve loved the Parsi food since my first visit to Mumbai. I always pass through Colaba Parsi Colony but never thought we could go there. Next time.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I really love the way Parsis celebrate life. One of the most interesting communities in India 🙂

  2. Whenever you are in Mumbai, you must not miss a Parsi restaurant and nothing is better than Britannia. The Britannia is an old institution and you will be regaled with stories of the British raj. Parnashree, Great information about the Parsi community!
    Vikram Kamboj recently posted…Top Highlights of Wonder Cement Saath7 Cricket Mahotsav 2015-16My Profile

  3. This post is well detailed about Mumbai. I really like this post.

    travel agents India
    Deepika Sharma recently posted…Tour packages | Book Flights and Hotels at JMMTT, Mumbai
    My Profile

    1. Thank you Deepika . Keep visiting my blog for many more destinations

  4. They are also a dying breed. In 1950 there were about 550 of them, many of which grew from humble tea stalls; now only 15 to 20 are still open.

    1. I am in love with Parsi Community. I will be covering them more in coming days

  5. That’s some good travel writing happening. I have been to the place once and I did order the famous Berry Pulao. More than the food, I loved the place for its history and old world feeling. As if, a slice of yore is stubbornly preserved for the posterity. Though I had seen Mr. Kohinoor then but I did not talk to him. I was shy and a reluctant travel blogger back then. I agree the sense of humour of parsi community is unique. I always wished I had a Parsi friend. Sadly, I never did.

    1. Thanks Abhinav . I love the way Parsis live their life. They are one of the most interesting communities in India.

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge