16.12.07

My B. MERWAN diary. .


My feet slowed down. My eyes went around. And everything for the next one hour happened in slow motion. It was as if I had walked through the doors of a time-machine. Straight into 1914.

It was a godforsaken overcast day in 2002. That was my second year in Bombay. Before that I had been writing for Gentleman magazine of the Indian Express newspaper. Through Gentleman I had known another writer/contributor and aspiring screenwriter, Rohit Gupta.

Rohit used to live in Grant Road in a rat infested rickety building in those days. And used to spend whole day at a place nearby that was his hangout joint and muse too. The place was B. Merwan. He said the name while we were walking to B. Merwan. The name gave me an impression that we were going to a persons house.

A few minutes later we entered B. Merwan.

My feet slowed down. My eyes went around. And everything for the next one hour happened in slow motion. It was as if I had walked through the doors of a time-machine. Straight into 1914 - the year B. Merwan was established. The feel. The ambience. I felt a sense of deja-vu. As if I was searching for a place like this all my life. As time went by I visited B. Merwan more and more, but alone. It was like falling in love with Rohit's beloved. So I had an affair with B. Merwan behind Rohit'a back. And B. Merwan loved me back with all that it had to offer. I sat there for hours - writing, thinking or just soaking in the place with my eyes.


For a long while it didn’t occur to me that there might be other Irani cafes around. There indeed were. In the years to come I ended up visiting a lot of them – Kyani, the late CafĂ© Johnson, Britannia, Regal Stores, Sassanian, Military, Oval, Leopold, Stadium, Lord Irwin, Brabourne, Mondegar, Universal. But B. Merwan remained my first love. Brabourne and Oval became close seconds.

On 3rd November 2005 armed with one handycam and two assistants I shot a short documentary on B.Merwan titled 'Brun.' On that day, while I was taking a break from the shoot Sourosh Nausheed Irani, one of the owners of B. Merwan told me this:

"I came here is 1984 from Iran. My grandfather and my father had opened this cafe in 1914. Till 1984 I was working in Iran - most of my youth days. I was there during Shah's time, then Khomeini's time. When the war broke out the family here got worried and called me back. Since then I am running this cafe with my elder cousin Bomi Irani.

We are the third generation running this cafe and fighting hard to keep the same old tradition going. The menu at the cafe has been same for 91 years while most of the other Irani cafes have given way to Chinese food or fast food etc. The chairs in this cafe are from Czechoslovakia and the marble top tables are from Italy. You don't get these at stores anymore.

We are trying very hard but we are growing old. We don't have a fourth generation to run this cafe. Both of us have daughters and it's not that we have anything against women running the place. It's just that after their marriage they have lives of their own."

Atul Sabharwal

IMAGES, top to bottom:
B. MERWAN, Grant Road, 2007
B.MERWAN - courtesy Atul Sabharwal
B.MERWAN signage - courtesy Atul Sabharwal
B.MERWAN, 2007

5 comments :

*****v!jaY n@iR...****** said...

for sure i would lov to visit dis place.... Man u r doin gr8 job!!!.....

maitrimanthan said...

Hello is the shot short documentary on B.Merwan, 'Brun' available for viewing?

Sharique Tharani said...

Nice...I enjoy b.merwan's cakes from my childhood ...is the andheri merwans and b.merwans one and the same...?

Anonymous said...

My school was next door - Our Own School. At least once a week, we would pick Mava Cakes and Mava Puffs from Merwan's when my mother picked me up after school.

I have very fond memories of waiting for warm cakes and puffs at the counter.

Of course, those were days, when I did not need to be conscious of my sugar and fat intake!

Hope to visit Merwan's and my old school on my next trip to India!

Anonymous said...

Our Papa used to visit this store a lot. We ate their famous mawa cakes. I also remember, they had another cake, which had sugar toppings. Dad passed away in 2008, since then we always wanted to visit places he visited. This was surely one of his favorite places. Because he was physically challenged he only told us that the cakes were from a store in Grant Road (opp train station). After he left us, we traveled his route to discover B. Merwans, not sure if it was for the mawa cake or just hoping to see a glimpse of him perhaps sipping a cup of chai while getting these cakes packed for us. The cakes surely bring back many of his memories. I starting looking up for B. Merwans online when I heard very recently that B. Merwans is closing. Thanks for the history about B. Merwans. This place is a piece of Mumbai's history and makes Mumbai! I hope I get the opportunity to experience B Merwans in Grant Road, on my next trip to India!!