Peace is important for our very existence and I believe without inner peace we all would have gone bonkers by now. For me, peace is like emptying myself up of all the worries, sorrows, and frustrations that I carry in myself, which multiplies over a period of time. I believe when peace comes to us, we get rid of all the negativity and become as light as empty glass, ready to fill in more that life has to offer. Amidst all the stress and worries, I and Sarah decided to take a short trip to Navsari, not too far from Mumbai where I would celebrate my Parsi New Year and would also get the much deserved break that I need.
Navsari lies to the south of Surat in Gujarat and it is because of Surat that Navsari has quickly developed into a bigger bustling city. Although, it still retains the same old small town appearance when you get down at the railway station. It is also known as the twin city of Surat as it is just 37 kilometers away and there are frequent state transport buses running up and down. I had been here earlier with my family visiting the Atash Behram (Fire Temple) with my family, but I probably was too young then to recollect anything about the city. So, when I had the opportunity, I decided to take my wife along and explore the city in a better way on my own terms and also take her back in time.
So, rather than picking a hotel we decided to stay in a dharamshalas, which are Indian religious rest houses. The moment we stepped in, we felt as if we were transported back in time. Our room was airy and had lot of sunlight penetrating in through front side facing windows (the ones on the first floor that are closed in the picture), but there was not a single piece of technology around, except tube-lights and a ceiling fan. It was sort of good and bad in its own ways, and to some extent I think it was good for both of us. Sometimes getting away from technology is the best way to make time and explore the inner conscience and contemplate and ponder about what’s going on in life. Our room was next to the terrace of the dharamshala, so we enjoyed a 180 degree view of the area which was good for us.
Navsari has remained the hub of Parsis for many centuries and being a Parsi myself I couldn’t help, but explore more into small details that was around me. Navsari is among the oldest cities in Gujarat with historical records that date back 2000 years ago. In Persian language, Navsari actually means New Region and it was certainly a new place for Parsis when they flocked to India. Some of the great legends of India like Jamshetji Tata and Dadabhai Navroji were born here. The food at the dharamshala was finger-licking delicious and at a price that would put 5 star hotels to shame.
After some nap, I and Sarah decided to explore this small town that were filled with old houses, small by-lanes and shops that sell everyday essential products. The kind of joy that you get roaming these small rural markets is far better than what you experience when you are walking in a mall that only offer an air of fake sophistication. When you walk down these small streets you experience the true rural India that still beats in the heartland and that is full of warmth, affection and courtesy and void of business-profit and sales. People are genuinely willing to help you out of their way to ensure you have a great time in their home town and that is something that city-dwellers should learn.
On the Navroze day, I visited the Navsari Atash Behram also called as Desai Atash Behram that was consecrated on December 2, 1765. Since it was a festival day for me, I decided to put my best clothes on and visit the temple which was not too far from the dharamshala. While Sarah stayed at the dharamshala because she can’t enter the temple (only Parsis allowed in Fire Temples), I went ahead to the temple, prayed and returned to my room.
After that we explored some more places around the city and just around the corner of the temple we decided to enjoy one of the oldest falooda shops in town. The Kolah Ice Cream Corner has mastered the art of making falooda (cold milk drink with a scoop of ice cream, vermicelli and basil seeds) and ice creams since 1885 and it was surprisingly good to see that the shop is still very much in the same condition as it would be in 1885, except for a few seating modifications. The shop continues to make ice creams and faloodas in the same old way and I guess that is the secret behind why that shop is still there attracting not just Parsis, but local Hindus and Muslims as well to beat the heat with some cold refreshments.
Navsari is also good for shopping clothes and cloth materials so we did some shopping around Dudhia Talao which is one of the small lakes in the heart of the town. I bought some Kolah brand pickles that have been immensely popular with Parsis for many decades.
On the way home, we found many migrant birds that had made their nests on trees close to the railway station. It was certainly the best way to bid adieu to this small town that is so deeply rooted with the past while it has one of its foot in the present technological world.
Surely, whenever I get time I would love to visit Navsari again and feel myself going back in time when technology was not in the driver’s seat in the vehicle of my life.