In the middle of a Saturday afternoon one needs a little sustenance. And if you are not far from a Parsi Agiary, what better than to look for the nearest Parsi bakery? The Family and I walked into the cool interior of a venerable old bakery and sat down at one of the glass-topped tables with long menus inserted under the glass. These old places continue to have many classes of servers. One man wiped the table down, then another came and placed glasses of water on the table. Eventually the grand old man who takes the order came up to our table. Our tea and Badam Mawa cakes arrived soon enough.
Them that takes cakes
Which the Parsee-man bakes
Makes dreadful mistakes
How The Rhinoceros Got His Skin
I got up to look at the display cases of the day’s bakes. There seems to be a new emphasis on eggless cakes. It goes with the modernization of the furniture; the old round tables and battered Vienna chairs have been replaced by square tables and a different kind of spindly chair. The cracked cups and saucers have given up the ghost, and have been replaced. The melamine plate below the cakes was a new touch of grunge. The interesting mosaic floors and mirrored interiors have remained. In general these old institutions of Mumbai retain a charming air of decayed elegance from the end of the 19th century.
A few years ago the only customers at these bakeries were old regulars bickering constantly with the owner. The middle-aged Parsi owner, sat behind a fortified counter and would dismiss out of hand all accusations of the tea not being as good as the previous day’s, or the cakes having been baked a week ago. In those days I would be told very sternly not to take photos. Now the large notices forbidding people from combing their hair, reading newspapers, and discussing politics or horse racing have disappeared. The place was full of younger people, and no one objected when I took photos. Fortunately, the expertise in baking has been passed down the generations carefully.