Nowroze – Nuts about the Spring Festival

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Nowroze – Nuts about the Spring Festival

Nowroze, one of three New Years the Parsi Zoroastrian community in India celebrates, is all about gorging on nuts, fruits, falooda, sweets… And an upset stomach the following day. It’s a price we are more than willing to pay for the grand indulgence on the 21st of March each year. Even today, the child in us does not let the adults we are, deny us the joy of revelling in the celebration.

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Preparations for the event starts well before the big day dawns. Family members pore over the list of items needed for the Nowroze table – dry fruits (almonds, cashews, pistachios, raisins, dates, walnuts, apricots…) fruits (apples, grapes, oranges, melons…) ice-cream for the falooda, green vegetables, egg, oil for the diva or lamp, paneer, an assortment of sweets… How could we forget the pomegranate in which we would stick a silver coin? And flowers!

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Once the table is set, we gather around it and wait for the year to ‘turn’. This is the exact moment, down to the hour, minute and second, of the spring equinox: the moment the sun crosses the equator and enters the northern hemisphere. And as the year ‘turns’ we welcome it with a prayer, the lighting of the diya, a word of thanks for the favours granted and a silent plea that His divine bounty keeps flowing.

And then we splash each other with rose water and smile into a hand mirror; a ritual that ensured that we laugh our way through the next 12 months.

Many years ago, we travelled to Yazd, a little town marooned in the deserts of central Iran, and suddenly our perception of Nowroze changed. Here we met a relative from our distant past and he embraced us like long-lost children who had finally found their way back home. He insisted we visit his pomegranate orchard at the fringe of the village. Inside the orchard, he plucked the choicest fruits that hung like Christmas ornaments on trees and offered them to us. The pomegranate, he added was the chief crop and lifeline of the Zoroastrian community in Yazd and that is why it occupied such an important place – the proud bearer of a silver coin – on a Nowroze table. Yes, it all fell into place there; that the Nowroze table was how the poor farmers of the community offered their produce to the Lord and thanked Him for His bounty.

The following year, we added items that had nothing to do with a traditional Nowroze table. These included clippings of our articles, our favourite cameras, a pen drive of images, our passports, visiting cards… a symbolic offering of our ‘produce’ of the previous year to the Almighty. This year too, the table will feature work that defines us at our current stage in life along with nuts, fruits, falooda, a coconut ( the latter is symbolic of the fact that India is now our home) and the pomegranate with a silver coin that reminds us of our roots.

Gustasp & Jeroo Irani