Members of the Parsi community come together to reminisce and share a meal.
Last month Cama Baug, which also houses the oldest agiary in Mumbai, completed 150 years. The anniversary was celebrated with prayers and a dinner within the complex.
For some of the old-timers and traditional Parsis, the Baug is a symbol of union, as countless weddings and navjotes have been held here since April 30, 1869.
“It is the cheapest venue for weddings and navjote ceremonies,” said Anahita Desai, CEO of WAPIZ World Alliance of Parsi Irani Zarthoshtis.
“We have the Colaba agiary, where weddings are held, there is Albless Baug on Charni Road, too. But Cama Baug is the most economical venue for having our type of open air weddings and navjotes. Everyone has increased their prices dramatically. For the middle class this is the most affordable and they have improved facilities with an air-conditioned hall. It is also the most traditional and orthodox of all the community venues – no intermarriages can be celebrated in Cama Baug.”
Most of the staff at Cama Baug have been serving for decades and all were felicitated at the function on April 30.
“It was popular as a fire temple formerly and the whole area of Khetwadi was a Parsi area,” said Khushroo Jamshedji Press, managing trustee, Cama Baugh.
“Just to make sure that the fire temple doesn’t get starved of funds, the baug was built in 1869 to hold functions like weddings and navjotes. The revenue from the baug would keep the fire temple alive. It is an open air party hall. The other baug is elitist. The rent they charge is Rs 1.25 lakh for an evening and for lighting it is Rs 50,000. There is another baug charging Rs 75,000 and Rs 50,000 for lighting. The bulk of Parsis who can afford go there. This isn’t inclusive of catering and other expenses facilities. So the tendency is for the lower middle class to go to hotels and have their functions or a banquet hall. But then the nostalgia value of having an open-air function is lost. So we have been striving to keep our rates as low as possible.”
Cama Baugh charges Rs 6,000 rent and Rs 15,000 for the lighting per function.
“It makes it affordable for many Parsis but we keep upgrading our facilities. Out of 365 days a year, 110 days are booked. We have the highest occupancy rate,” said Jamshedji Press.
The agiary building is a listed Grade II A heritage structure and the trustees are very conscious of their history.
“We don’t make any external changes. But of late the BMC has upped the market value of the property. The trust wants to keep the rates affordable but the money charged isn’t enough to pay the property taxes and salaries of the staff,” Jamshedji Press said.
On their 150th anniversary, Cama Baugh launched another scheme to generate funds.
“Lots of people hold their functions. There are many who spend a lot on decoration. We got a big hall in the centre and there is a dining area, sitting area and a stage. Last year we opened a small room as a dressing room for hosts who come from far off places, for which we charged Rs 3,000. This has caught on well. Now we have gone one step further on the 150th year and installed a 20 tonne air conditioning in the big hall and charge extra Rs 15,000. If they don’t want AC, they can still use the hall. There is also jashn ceremony, which is like a havan performed during birthdays and auspicious occasions,” Jamshedji Press said.