THE BOHRA SALAAM
Predominantly a business and trading community, with their base in the state of Gujarat, the Bohras are a close knit community with a following of almost a million around the world. Bohras are followers of Dr. Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin Saheb ,the well known international personality and the ambassador of peace.Derived from the word vahaurau which means to trade,these hardware specialists, have spread their wings far and wide.
"Being a bohra is a matter of pride for me", says Director; Business Develpoments at Chiniwalas Pvt Ltd,Ebrahim Chiniwala." Bohras have a strong sense of humility responsibility and a strong value system", he says. "Pune felt like a strange place when we moved here when I was a child,today this city has grown to become my home. I believe Pune has great potential and provides a good quality life to its residents" ,says Ebrahim. '"I love that we can still get to any part of the city in not more than 45 minutes and we dont spend time commuting like in other cities", he laughs.
My family moved to Pune almost a hundred years ago. We are originally from Balasinhor in Gujarat ",explains performing artist and script and dialogue writer, Natasha Poonawalla." Our family name is actually Taherbhoy and "Poonawalla" was put to my fathers school name to differentiate between the other Taherbhoys in school",smiles Natasha."The Bohras are a very tolerant community, true to their customs and religion but also extremely acceptive and appreciative of ssother cultures.They have a lesser known fun loving and lively side to them," explains Natasha.
"Our family migrated to pune in the early 1900's and this is our ninth generation in Pune", says businessman and owner of Impex Agencies,Mudrik Poonawala. "Pune is a beautiful city. More and more bohras from across the country are choosng Pune as their choice to stay", he says.
Bohras are over all simple people the community does a lot to help the poor and has launched massive rehabilitation programmes to provide better housing and other facilities to community members. "The Bohri community tries to provide homes to the homeless,interest free loans against gold for our community members who may need it and Moulas has introduced a concept of Faize- al- Mawaid al- Burhaniyah that provides food to each and every Dawoodi Bohra House world wide.The main motive is that each and every person of the community should get the same good quality food. This generates oneness and knits us closer ,explains Mudrik Poonawalla.
Salaam-the way in which Bohras greet one another is Ebrahim Chiniwala's most loved custom." A salaam signifies brotherhood,love and respect for one another", says Ebrahim." Bohra surnames are deduced from the family profession or the place of origin/ residence, explains Natasha poonawalla." The bohra rida is colourful and not black in colour and this is what helps in differentiating bohra women from sunni muslims. A rida for women and an aaba for men is considered as the formal and traditional attire in the community", saya Natasha.
The community in Pune is extremely close knit and has about 20,000 members. Fakhri Hills is popular bohra residential complex. "We have been staying here since 21 years and its like one big family", says media professional Shazia Tinwala."We have a Mosque in the society that gives us all a chance to come together on festivals and special occasions."
The younger generation of bohras is excelling in diverse professions around the globe. "I have been very fond of art and photography and always knew this was my calling", says life style and candid wedding photographer, Taher Husain K; Founder of Amour Affairs. "Bohra weddings are all about family, food and bonding."
Food is an integral part of all bohra celebrations. The most distinct bohra custom is that of eating meals in a Thaal. A thaal is a huge plate, big enough to ideally sit eight people around it. While eating in a thaal,a dish is kept at the centre of the thaal and everyone serves themselves with a share of it. Quantities are kept moderate and dishes are refilled to avoid wastage of food,which is the strongest principle of bohra food habits.
A bohra meal starts and ends with everyone tasting pinch of salt as we believe that this activates the salivary glands", says Shazia Tinwala.
"The thaal is my most favourite part of being a Bohri", says Natasha with a big smile. I believe this builds a sence of sharing and sharing a thaal with eight people,also ensures that ones table manners are impeccable." In bohra meal, dishes are served in a particular order of khaaras mithas. The meal begins with something sweet and is then alternated with something spicy.
Bohra have strong roots in the of Gujarat and one can find a lot of similarities between Bohri and Gujarati customs. Bohra Cusine is believed to be an unbelievable blend of the simple Gujarati food and the rich and spicy non-veg muslim food."This combination is difficult to imagine but very easy to overeat", laughs Natasha.
"My most favourite dishes are bohra style mutton biryani,khichda and the list can go on", grins Ebrahim Chiniwala.
Eid is celebrated with a lot of fervour at all Bohra households."My friends come home to eat sirkurma and can have bowls of it",says graphic designer Zainab Poonawala. On the Bohra new year,the thaal is decorated with a certain number of dishes. All the items on the thaal a coin of the Mecca,salt, fruits ,sweet dishes, main dishes and side dishes must total to an auspicious number.Friends and family greet each other with the traditional Bohra salaam saying pehli raat mubarak.
“The Bohra community is a perfect blend of simplicity and customs along with a fresh and modern outlook.Heres a salaam to this beautiful community “,says Fiona poojara, who met the Bohra community in Pune to learn some more about their customs and the ties they share with the city and shared her thoughts about the bohra community in her article THE BOHRI SALAAM,CRÈME MAGAZINE, JULY ‘2014.
PHOTO COURTESY: Amour Affairs