B Merwan and Co

Cafe Merwan

For over a century now, Merwan’s (established in 1914) has been the single most recognisable landmark of Grant Road, serving meals literally from daybreak, catering to all social classes alike.

My first encounter with the bakery was about 15 years ago, when having just graduated from high school I’d spend considerable time exploring the city… simply because I could.

Unlike many of my friends, I hadn’t heard of B Merwan’s from my parents, but rather discovered it quite by chance myself. I suppose that made the quaint bakery even more endearing—because it was one of the first few memories of the city that I hadn’t inherited from them.

Since then, I’ve visited it at various stages of my life, as a student wide-eyed in awe of the world he’d suddenly been exposed to, as a young man nursing his broken heart, as a weary Mumbaikar simply wanting to escape an unforeseen shower.

My first continuous exposure to B Merwan’s was thanks to my German language teacher—Herr Vispi Petigara (he was a Parsi, but I have a sneaky suspicion he loved the sound of ‘Herr’ before his name). He lived not very far from the bakery and soon B Merwan’s became my favourite breakfast joint before I’d go to be slaughtered by Herr Petigara.

Like most things from the previous century, this one too drew me to it. I began finding excuses to visit it—on the way to work, on the way back from work, wrapping up an assignment quickly so I could take a quick detour—and each time it welcomed me with open arms.

It wasn’t difficult to fall in love with the place. In a fast-changing world, B Merwan’s offered a sense of comfort and solace with its familiarity.

Nothing seemed to have changed here—the Czechoslovakian chairs, the Italian marble-top tables, the flooring that had caved in at many places, the long line of clothes hanging over the cooking station (in open view of the customers but always out of bounds), the familiar faces of the servers, rarely ever smiling but working ever so efficiently, the unfamiliar faces of the customers with whom you had to share your table because the place was always full, the wooden ‘No smoking’ signboards, the century-old display cabinets and the menu that still listed soft drinks that had gone out of production years ago.

Even as the world around it had been changing so rapidly, B Merwan’s & Co continued to doggedly stick a thumb at Father Time by refusing to change.

Perhaps because of its location—it is situated smack outside Grant Road station (east)—B Merwan’s never really had a dearth of clients.

Sarosh (pictured at the cash counter) and Bomi Irani (pictured outside the cafe) are first cousins who have been running B Merwan’s in partnership today.

Their sister, Perin Anklesaria, is the third partner in the business but isn’t involved in the day-to-day running of the store.

They are up and about before sunrise and are at it till way past sundown, ensuring the business of the day is wrapped up and the cafe is ready to be opened the next morning.

B Merwan’s also has a little-known Bollywood connection. The Irani cousins are siblings of the actresses Honey and Daisy Irani. Farah Khan and Sajid Khan’s mother, Menaka Irani is Sarosh’s elder sister.

“The kids (Sajid and Farah and Farhan Akhtar) were very upset that we were shutting down,” Sarosh says.

“But look at us—I am 65; Bomi is 70-plus. We are both on medication and we cannot manage anymore.

“Our daughters are married and settled abroad. We are here from morning to night.

“When Farah and Farhan invited us to their birthday party, I couldn’t even go because I was here till 8.30.

“After we shut, perhaps we will go and stay with one of our daughters, perhaps we won’t. But at least we will have a life.”

UPDATE: B Merwan and Co did not shut down after all! Perhaps it was an elaborate April Fool’s joke or perhaps it wasn’t. Either way all its patrons are thrilled to see it open every morning.

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