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They are the places time forgot. Mumbai's famous Irani restaurants. Little pockets of nostalgia dotting unlikely corners of the city, swathed in sepia, staring out as the world outside moves just a little faster every year. The Hindus considered it inauspicious to retail along the corners of buildings. For the Parsis, that detail could not have been more fortuitous.

Parsis have indeed sweetened the milk of India, as the myth goes. Fleeing Iran from religious persecution, they are said to have waited in the harbour off the coast of Gujarat until the Hindu king, worried that the migrating hoards would corrupt his subjects, sent a glass of milk out to them, signifying that the subcontinent was already full. The Iranis returned the milk after sweetening it with sugar, showing that their presence would be beneficial to the country, while promising not to integrate into the local populace by conversion or marriage. They have kept their word.

Irani restaurants are said to have originated with small groups of the new migrants meeting to exchange news of the old country and discuss future prospects. The locals soon acquired a taste for Bun-Maska and Chai though. And a thriving enterprise was born.

Text and photographs: Jewella C Miranda. Design: Uday Kuckian.


Earlier slide show: Mumbai's crowning glory

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