Preserving a collector's dream

An 18-year-old has raised over Rs 4 lakh to restore rare 19th century antiques from Mumbai's only Parsi museum

Eighteen-year-old Zara Heeramaneck has been passionate about art conservation since childhood. Her home at Kemps Corner also boasts of artefacts from across the world. ic/Suresh Karkera
Eighteen-year-old Zara Heeramaneck has been passionate about art conservation since childhood. Her home at Kemps Corner also boasts of artefacts from across the world. ic/Suresh Karkera

Zara Heeramaneck was in her early teens when she first visited the 62-year-old Framji Dadabhoy Alpaiwalla Museum in Grant Road. Enamoured by its prized collection, which offers a rare glimpse into the Parsi community, Zara recalls how she was fuelled by the desire to do something about its antiques — some of which were already witnessing severe wear and tear. That was five years ago. But, the young Parsi girl never forgot the promise she made to herself.

Giving wings to her dream, Zara (18), a student of BD Somani International School, recently launched the 'Adopt an Antique' initiative in order to preserve the city's only Parsi museum. She has already managed to collect over R4 lakh for the same. As part of the initiative, donors can adopt an artefact from the museum and donate a sum, towards its restoration.

Keeping a legacy alive
Located at Khareghat Parsi Colony, Grant Road, the museum is home to the private collection of famed Parsi collector Framji Dadabhoy Alpaiwalla. With 600 porcelain antiques, over 300 glass artefacts, Parsi gara saris, several wood and stone pieces, and other textiles, the collection is both, diverse and unique. However, over 50 antiques from the museum are in need of immediate restoration, Zara informs.

The broken 19th century Chinese umbrella stand, belonging to the Lid Qing dynasty, was recently restored at a cost of Rs 40,000 by conservationist Edul Fannibunda
The broken 19th century Chinese umbrella stand, belonging to the Lid Qing dynasty, was recently restored at a cost of Rs 40,000 by conservationist Edul Fannibunda

Sitting in the living room of her Kemps Corner home, amidst artefacts from all over the world, Zara, who is passionate about art conservation, said, "Someone's personal collection narrates a story of its own, and I find that fascinating. All these artefacts came from Alpaiwalla's home and it's amazing to know that he left it for people to see. Being the only Parsi museum in the city, it's extremely important that we put our best foot forward to restore it."

"The museum is in poor condition. Restoring it will keep the story of the founder alive," added Zara. With the help of her family friends Phiroza Godrej and Firoza Punthakey Mistree, Zara reached out to the museum's trustee, Bombay Parsi Panchayat, and made tiny brochures urging donors to donate anywhere between Rs 5,000 to Rs 30,000.

Proud parents
"We're pleased that she's trying to keep the face of the community alive," said Zara's mother Harsha. "To see my daughter do all this on her own makes me feel very proud," her father Mehernosh said, adding, "An initiative like this will not only make Parsis more aware about their hertiage, but will also encourage them to donate from their own collection, so that this museum flourishes."

The teenager's efforts have already helped restore a 19th century porcelain umbrella stand, also called the Chinese export ware. The antique was restored at a cost of Rs 40,000 by conservationist Edul Fannibunda. "Young Parsis should at least acknowledge the fact that our community is being ignored. They need to co-me forward and change things arou-nd," the 18-year-old said.

Long history

After Framji Dadabhai Alpaiwalla's death in the early 1950s, his private collection was handed over to the Bombay Parsi Panchayat. The BPP started the Parsi Panc-hayat Museum in 1954 at the Khar-eghat Memorial building, which was later renamed after Alpaiwalla.

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