Celebrating Our Iranian Brethren!

Navroze is special for us all, but especially for that thread of our community that believes in boisterous fun and loud living – our fabulous Irani brethren. Within them, we have the Yazdegardis, the Jamshidi, the Esfahani and many more. They truly are a breed (and bred) apart – with deep Aryan roots and rich Persian blood, endowing them a certain edge… with good height, sharp features and tanned buttery skin, working well to their advantage! They are a hardy bunch, an industrious lot, hardworking and smooth – just like the bun-maska and buttery biscuits they serve in their age-old bakeries and cafes.

Mumbai and Pune wake up to their shutters in the morning, looking forward to that kadak Irani Chai served all hours of the day. Meet and greet an Irani for the first time and you will either become a lifelong friend, or a deeply disliked foe. Friends are always embraced in a bear hug, akin to a tamed grizzly, while foes can be run into the ground with language and words that could make a sailor blush! But meet this branch of our brothers and you are drawn in with their charm and joy for living. That fire in their belly is hotter and fiery, than any curry served this side of the globe!

Their love for life and strange allure will draw you in faster than that waft of hot cakes and chicken puffs, that are more incredible than anything you’ve tasted before. Walk down the streets of Fort and an iconic landmark is Yazdani Bakery – Irani café or Persian style bakery in the heart of Mumbai. Founded in 1953 by the late Zend Meherwan Zend, an exemplary Irani baker. Their legendary products are handmade – including their multi-grain breads, apple-pies, biscuits and treats – all baked in diesel ovens.

Just like his father before him, Zyros Zend is someone who epitomizes this Iranian ethos and spirit. No visit to this bakery will be complete unless you hobnob with Zyros along with that brun-pav and maska. The Chai will be enjoyed that much more along with his chatter. His inimitable style pours sunshine and laughter in every sip of that tea!

They say the one common strain of all Irani Cafés is definitely the one about the moody, eccentric owners.  The ones who write ‘no talking to the cashier, no sitting for long, no touching the dog or cat’… whatever their peeve.  The complete antithesis of customer friendliness, but by and by, if one is a regular, you know how debunked these tales prove to be.

Our Iranian Zarthustris have a keen nose for business – from Merwan’s at Grant Road, to Sassanian at Metro, or my favourite Bastani that shut down years ago where the chicken crust patties were in a league of their own. Creative and accomplished, their gallas or cash machines are always full, much like their bakeries and restaurants. The meals served taste the same, mouth-watering and delicious, the menus never change, their places of business may need a do-over or a strip down renovation, but their patrons never fails to show up day-in and day-out!

Like the say, it’s in the blood, it’s all in their genes. A dear friend and childhood buddy of my dad’s had a flourishing ice-factory business, a cold storage used by large fish vendors and like, the business grew over his lifetime with the sweat and work he put in. But more than that, it was his uncanny business sense that fuelled it forward. Hard working and generous of heart, I think all the fish I ever ate in my childhood was thanks to our dear Bomi uncle. The pomprets – the size of nothing that’s available now; and the taste, oh! it lingers on even though it’s been decades, since!

Now his charming son Fred, (I still prefer to call him Faredoon), carries on his father’s legacy smoothly, like a ship sailing through calm waters. His older son, Rustom a veritable wizard with a business management degree from Cornell, started his enterprise Icelings, making (Perfect Ice), the safe, machine-made, completely filtered option, available now… so different from those large slabs of ice pulled by bullock cats in the days of yore, that were chipped off, broken and served at Parsi weddings, restaurants or at large gatherings. On his return from the US, his sharp mind and business acumen captured the ice market by leaps and bounds.

Truly, our Irani brethren have all the brilliance of mind and the drive to follow it through. Irani entrepreneurs just have the Midas Touch. The ideas never stop and their zest for a new creative endeavour, never ceases. The pulse and beat of all Iranian household is business – Wibs, Daily Breads, Paris Bakery, Kayani, Royal and so many more, all patronized far and wide, having become household names. They spread love and joy, and not to forget, our bellies and waist, but every bite leads you, just a little closer, to heaven’s delight!

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