Monday, September 14, 2009

An ode to Irani restaurants


No talking to cashier
No smoking
No fighting
No credit
No outside food
No sitting long
No talking loud
No spitting
No bargaining
No water to outsiders
No change
No telephone
No match sticks
No discussing gambling
No newspaper
No combing
No beef
No leg on chair
No hard liquor allowed
No address enquiry
— By order.

This was a notice board hung at the entrance of Bastani & Co, one of Mumbai's Irani restaurants which closed down some time ago. I regret that I couldn't go there for one last bun-muska-chai-smoke before it downed shutters. Located diagonally opposite Metro Cinema (now Big Cinemas after Reliance bought it), Bastani served some lovely bun-maskas, mawa cakes, rum cakes, biscuits, scrambled eggs on toast, and had a delightful owner with whom I had the pleasure of a long chat. Bastani also had a mezzanine floor which used to serve draught beer some 15 years ago before airconditioned bars hit Mumbai like an awful storm. Though the floor was nothing more than a storage space to dump furniture and other stuff, from the looks of it, it appeared as if the mezzanine floor must have been a rocking place once upon a time. Perhaps in the golden days of Fities and Sixties when Mumbai still had that genteel charm about it.



Losing Bastani broke my heart. It was the fourth Irani restaurant to close down or change. One near my college in Matunga suddenly embraced uber-coolness one fine day, and started selling combo meals of burger, and cola, and softie icecreams. The decor and the patrons frequenting the place changed overnight. Another one right outside the Dadar East railway station, which had a lovely mezzanine too, sold out to an Udipi and transformed into an idli-wada sambar place. Cafe New Empire opposite CST sold out to McDonalds in late 1990s. After these catastrophes, I made it a point to frequent Bastani whenever I could. But, when bastani downed shutters, I wasn't around. I had the oppostunity to write a piece about it. You can read it here http://www.telegraphindia.com/1040815/asp/look/story_3611577.asp
The piece ends with Nissim Ezekiel's tribute to Irani restaurants:

Please
Do not spit
Do not sit more
Pay promptly, time is invaluable
Do not write letter
Without order refreshment
Do not comb
Hair is spoiling floor
Do not make mischiefs in cabin
Our waiter is reporting
Come again
All are welcome whatever caste
If not satisfied tell us
Otherwise tell others
GOD IS GREAT!


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