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Saturday, Aug 17, 2019

What’s funnier than Parsis? A book on their hilarious phrases and insults

Ahead of Navroze, Sooni Taraporevala and Meher Marfatia release their second book of quintessential Parsi quirks, phrases and insults

books Updated: Mar 17, 2016 18:22 IST
Arundhati Chatterjee
Arundhati Chatterjee
Sooni Taraporewala and Meher Marfatia with their new book Parsi Bol 2
Sooni Taraporewala and Meher Marfatia with their new book Parsi Bol 2(Aalok Soni/HT)

Ahead of Navroze, Sooni Taraporevala and Meher Marfatia release Parsi Bol 2, their second book of quintessential Parsi quirks, phrases and insults

In 2012, writer Meher Marfatia and screenwriter-photographer Sooni Taraporevala took it upon themselves to compile commonly used Parsi sayings, phrases and insults. To make the book as comprehensive as possible, they also welcomed readers to send in their suggestions. But little did they know that their book, Parsi Bol, would take shape of a mini lexicon of Parsi idiosyncrasies, thanks to phrases like ‘Khopree’ (crackpot), ‘Char sau vees’ (rogue) and ‘bhoot no bhuroso’ (undependable), among others.

Published in 2013, Marfatia says the stock ended within six months. Now, the duo is back with a second edition of Parsi Bol, which will include the first part as well as newer additions. Moreover, the new book also comes with an audio CD to familiarise people with the usage of the phrases in everyday life. The audio has been recorded by actors Boman Irani, Bomi and Dolly Dottiwala. We meet Taraporevala and Marfatia at the latter’s Warden Road residence to chat about the book.

How did the idea of the first book come about?

Meher Marfatia: Sooni had done the photographs for my book on Parsi theatre called Laughter in the House, back in 2012. We were discussing that book, and suddenly she used a particular phrase. And then we spoke about how these are the kind of funny, quirky phrases Parsis used, and the thought of compiling them all crossed our mind. Even my friend, psychiatrist Pervin Dadachanji, suggested that this is a book waiting to happen. She provided some “early inspiration”.

Sooni Taraporevala: But we didn’t work on the idea for another year or so after that. Once we started, the book took us two years to put together.

Marfatia: It was actually a crowd-sourced project. The phrases truly belong to the community. Whatever we could remember from our conversations over the years, we included them, and then we asked for entries.

An illustration from the book denoting ‘Chuttees noh aankdo’ or never getting along (Courtesy: Parsi Bol 2)

Was it completely done online?

Marfatia: We did create an email id. We are still receiving entries there.

Taraporevala: We went all out with the initiative. We also advertised in the community newspapers. We gave out our postal addresses. So we had people calling us, writing emails to us, as well as sending postcards.

So, was the second book already in process when the first one ended?

Marfatia: No, we sold out within six months of the first book’s publication. After that, we didn’t do anything for five to six months. And because people were still writing in to us, we decided to enhance the list. Also, there were a lot of people who couldn’t get their hands on the first book. So, it was only natural to include the entire first part and make a more comprehensive collection.

Read:Four Parsis came together to talk food, culture, quirks, and more food

How often do you use these phrases in daily life?

Marfatia: Not anymore; actually not as much as we used to (laughs).

Taraporevala: Certain ones, yes. For instance, we have a section called twin words. The phrases under that section are quite commonly used. For instance, ‘Lutuk Mutuk’ (walk in style) and ‘Husto rumto’ (in good health).

Illustration from the book depicting the terms ‘Thingooji thus’ or somebody short in height (Courtesy: Parsi Bol 2)

Is the book a cultural documentation of sorts?

Marfatia: The book is archival on various levels, but we have tried to focus only on the quirky bits.

Taraporevala: When the first book was launched, my then 10-year-old nephew found it pretty fascinating. In fact, he found some of it to be quite taboo, since portions of the book are quite ‘non-veg’.

Marfatia: And these are not just innuendos, some are pretty in-your-face (laughs).

Taraporevala: Also, a book like this comes with its share of challenges. When someone reads the book, they might think it’s too easy, and that it must have taken us a month to put it together. But it took us a lot more time. Besides, finding out the correct meaning of the phrases was an issue, because there would often be conflicting opinions.

Was it a conscious decision to unveil the book around Navroze (March 21)?

Marfatia: While it’s always good to have an occasion to celebrate, it’s also helpful to have a deadline to work by. It just motivates you to deliver.

Taraporevala: Moreover, there’s a major exhibition, titled Everlasting Flame, opening in Delhi later this month. Sponsored by the Government of India’s Ministry for Minority Affairs (MOMA), the show explores the cultural history of Zoroastrianism. So we wanted to have the books ready by then.

Marfatia: Sooni is also exhibiting some of her photographs there.

Parsi Bol 2
By Sooni Taraporevala and Meher Marfatia, illustrations by Hemant Morparia and Farzana Cooper, phrases translated by Rutty Manekshaw. Price: Rs500 Publishers: Good Books and 49/50 Books. Available at leading bookstores.

First Published: Mar 17, 2016 00:00 IST

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