THE OLD IRANI CAFÉS have almost disappeared. Their faded elegance welcomed all: rich businessmen, sweaty taxi-wallas and courting couples.
Students had breakfast, families dined, lawyers read their briefs and writers found their characters. Fans turned slowly. Bentwood chairs were reflected in stained mirrors, next to sepia family portraits.
Opened early last century by Zoroastrian immigrants from Iran, there were almost four hundred cafés at their peak in the 1960s. Now, fewer than thirty remain. These cafés broke down barriers by bringing people together over food and drink. They were the first places in Bombay where people of any culture, class or religion could take cool refuge from the street with a cup of chai, a simple snack or a hearty meal. People from all walks of life shared tables, rubbed shoulders and broke bread together.