Way back in the 1930s, Rashid Irani’s father came to India from Iran along with several other Zoroastrians. And in the early 1940s the enterprising Iranian set up a restaurant, the Brabourne at Dhobi Talao in south Bombay.
“Many of the Irani and Parsi restaurants were named after British governors,” recalls Rashid who is 72, but looks much, much younger. “In those days Irani restaurants were vastly different. They opened at 5am and closed after 10pm.”
And Irani restaurants served a wide range of products – from toothpaste and morning chai (tea) to newspapers, bread, beer… whatever the customer wanted at earthly and unearthly hours.
Rashid, whom I meet often at the Mumbai Press Club, has been reviewing English films for the Hindustan Times for years.
“What I miss most are my customers,” explains Rashid, who does not take liquor. “Some were eccentric, but friendly.” Eleven years ago Rashid, who is single, decided to shut down the restaurant and relax and of course write. He remembers many interesting individuals who were regulars at his restaurant.