May 18, 2010 | |

Chai & Bun Maska in Old Bombay


Kala Ghoda has been the cultural and literary epicentre of Mumbai since time immemorial. The presence of the Jehangir Art Gallery, David Sassoon Library, National Gallery of Modern Art, Elphinstone College, Max Mueller Bhavan and the historic Regal Cinema ensured that Kala Ghoda ceaselessly buzzed with intellectual repartees. It also ushered in the birth of cafés which blossomed in and around the periphery of Kala Ghoda and the Flora Fountain. These were the shelters of choice for poets, writers, philosophers and even freedom fighters. Bubbling with debates and solutions to life’s dilemmas, these cafés were also zones for recreation, where brilliant ideas were born over a cup of masala chai or bun maska or even some delicious kheema pav. Customers who would spend hours together without continually ordering would be seen instead as patrons.

• Wayside Inn: As luck would have it, the Wayside Inn was located exactly at the centre of Kala Ghoda. This ensured its patronage by eminent figures including Dr. Ambedkar, J.R.D. Tata and even Mohammad Ali Jinnah. From the more recent times, Poet Arun Kolatkar and actor Amol Palekar could be seen sipping and dunking here. Today the Wayside Inn has reinvented itself to keep up with the times and is now called Silk Route and specialises in Southeast Asian Food. What remains is a tiny stall selling little munchies like rolls, pattices and cold drinks.
• Café Britannia: Established in 1923, Britannia was frequented by authors, activists, scholars and ambassadors like Nani Palkhivala, Minoo Masani and Pramila Dandavate. However it was the berry pulao, made from specially ordered Iranian berries that drew the rich and poor, the famous and infamous to Café Britannia. Running strong today, the café has still managed to preserve its taste and its dignity.

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