17.8.16

Taking time out to walk through retroscapes and consume nostalgia. .


We are taking a little time out from Irani Chai, Mumbai to continue our research in different ways, part of which sees us walking through retroscapes and consuming nostalgia like we never have before, on three continents! We will see you again sometime in 2017, so do check-back from time to time!


We'll leave you for now with Darius Cooper's lovely piece Don’t Worry Darling, We Have a Legend and a History, Too from his wonderful anthology Beyond the Chameleon's Skill.  The upstairs 'family room' of the Bombay Irani is the setting for the poem; a space where for the cost of a couple of refreshments time could stop for a while and couples could retreat, albeit not completely.  The eyes and ears of the cafĂ© waiter were never too far away.

This city, fed
on rumours and insults,
and customarily
so indifferent to truth,
suddenly
becomes inquisitive
when
you fall in love.

But don't worry darling,
we have a legend
and a history too.

Cobblers wait
for the straps of her slippers
to break.  Then,
sly glances can be stitched
into leather.

Grasping the main bell
of the temple
we daily pass,
the devotees suddenly pause.
The idol is in front.
You, both, are behind.
To-day, for whom,
shall this bell
be rung?

You have looked at the sun enough.
It's time for privacy
on the first floor
of non-descript restaurants.
These do have names -
"A Star of" ...something or the other,
and since this is the first time,
for you, that's symbolic
enough.

The staircase
to the dingy first floor
is perilous,
but so is your love,
strangely assured
by a chair, a corner,
and an ancient marble-top table
with a crack
running down the center.

This strange earthquake
into which
your innocence
suddenly opens,
makes your foothold
all the more firmer
in climbing these stairs.

The ceiling is very low.
You are warned
about hurting your head.
But you disregard the sign.
After all
this is only
the first floor.

The smirk
on the waiter's oily face
has to be tolerated,
like the surfeit of sugar
in that badly served
cup of coffee -
its coarse cream
forming on the rim
of a difficult day
divided by
conversations,
crowds, and
rooms.

Time is short for awkwardness,
so you kiss,
waiting for her hair
to tumble out
of the rubber band.
It does,
and your face,
tenderly draped
behind her saree's border
will be carried
home soon,
and repeatedly kissed,
the saree folded
over a late evening hanger.

Two-thirty noon!
It's time to leave
your "star of" ...something
or the other.
And after you leave
the table is wiped clean,
and the chair,
put properly in place.
Only the crack
across the table remains
carrying traces
of your breadcrumbs
and orange bottle rims
miraculously missed
by the waiter's duster.

And who will come after you,
and what traces they will leave behind
in that crack,
it really does not matter.

Like us, my darling,
they have a legend
  and a history too.


- Image : King Edward Restaurant and Stores, Fort, Bombay, 1970s by Pablo Batholomew © Pablo Bartholomew

- Poem : Like Us My Darling, They Have a Legend and a History, Too Darius Cooper from Beyond the Chameleon's Skill, Poetrywala, Mumbai, 2011. © Darius Cooper.


15.6.16

Entrepreneurial spirit. .

A nice piece on Mumbai's Irani cafes by Michael Snyder accompanied by Hashim Badani's sterling images appears in this month's Virgin Australia Voyeur magazine.