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A fading Irani cafe culture

Today, we have a report on the shutting down of B Merwan and Co, outside Grant Road station.

The report states that the 100-year-old Irani Café is going to down its shutters in March this year, ironically just two months after marking a century.
Merwan’s sad demise is symbolic of the fast disappearing Irani Café culture in Mumbai.

Just like so many features of this city disappearing in these times, Mumbai’s most prolific and vocal chroniclers have rued the Irani café’s erosion.

From the immortal Busybee who would often feature these Café’s in his columns, redolent of the tea and egg concoctions they served, to late cartoonist Mario Miranda who captured the essence of the Irani in his quirky work, the Cafe and its culture have been venerated in so many ways.

Changing times, contemporary problems, spiralling real estate prices, the paucity of getting restaurant staff, the unwillingness of the newer generation to take over the mantle from the older generation, and a host of other factors have combined to cause Irani café’s to go off Mumbai’s gastronomic map.

While the old timers may remember the glass topped wooden tables, unique Irani chairs, red chequered table cloths and of course, the food with wistful fondness, the café’s offer an easier on the wallet experience than so many others.

Even with food prices going through the roof, the Irani café is still more competitively priced than several other eating places and a good option for people, who find it hard or simply wasteful to spend that much on a cup of tea or coffee.

Though the ambience may not have been their forte, there is still some charm to the old-world style of the Iranis. Mumbai will surely miss this iconic Irani café.

The big fat glass bottles on the shelves, the cyclostyled menus and no-frills demeanour of the proprietor behind a huge desk had so much character, that in a world dominated by fake sentiment, hyperbole, exaggerated claims and hyped achievements, the Irani cafés’ simplicity is its biggest unique selling point.
With one more café going kaput, it is reminder to us that holding on to this slice of life is especially challenging for these Cafes are slipping away like the maska on the brun paav they dish out.

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