Less than 3,000 steps from where I live, in Parsi Colony, Dadar East, is Koolar and Co. There, in the bustle of King’s Circle, Matunga, I often partake of the curiously named brun muska and Irani chai. Note the intrusive “r”. And I am developing a taste for the variations, especially the cheese brun, with honey. The bun is soft and warm, and in the slanting sunlight of the late afternoon, tea sometimes goes down smoother than a single malt. Koolar and Co. is an Irani café, one of a dying breed, clinging fiercely to a fading past, with checked tablecloth, vintage photographs, and voluble fourth or fifth generation owners behind the counters who accept only cash.
There is another in Dadar, off Hindu Colony, Café Colony, but not as famous as Koolar, established in 1932; or the older ones further south, Britannia and Co., for instance, off Ballard Pier, with its berry pulav; or Jimmy Boy at Fort with its raspberry soda; or Sassanian Boulangerie, near Marine Lines Station; or Yazdani.
You can sometimes glimpse Koolar at a cinema near you. I noticed it first in The Lunchbox. Sitting at Koolar, Irfan Khan weighs, with his eyes, his mysterious culinary benefactor, Nimrat Kaur, who has found a way to his heart through his stomach. I saw it more recently, in Rendagam, in a song scene where Kunchako Bobban and Aravind Swamy are enjoying, what else, a brun muska at Koolar. The other day, walking past Koolar, I saw it cordoned off by a film crew, cars honking like crows as they slowed and swirled around. A few days later when I went to Koolar, only one table was occupied. Akshay Kumar had come again to shoot; the fourth or fifth time he had been filmed at Koolar apparently. I suggested putting a listing of the films that had been shot there, next to the menu, perhaps with pictures of scenes from the movies? It might bring in more customers, situate it more squarely on the map.
The waiter had his lines rehearsed. He laughed and said, There wouldn’t be enough space on the walls for all of them. You are the real heroes and heroines, You make less of a fuss when you are here, and, more importantly, don’t wear so much make-up! I pondered that while I regarded, standing against a tree on the kerb outside, a tombstone. Framed between a couple of engraved roses was: “Cokino. My Rotweiller born 15.12.2000 Died 30.4.2001. At 10.30 am.” Below that was the legend: “WE ALL LOVE YOU.” Had any film caught that precise moment of passing?
Smokie and Julie
I have a couple of dogs. Smokie and Julie, both once strays. Smokie stays at home, is taken out for his walks twice a day, while Julie visits for lunch and dinner and sometimes stays for a siesta or the night. She loses one collar a week, sometimes more. When I ask her about it, she doesn’t say anything. Otherwise she talks nineteen to the dozen. For a full five minutes after entering the house she is a friendly tornado.
Julie goes wherever she finds affection. I worry about her collar sometimes. What if she is picked up for not wearing a collar, mistaken for a stray by the BMC? The worry grew bigger when the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court ruled recently that strays could only be fed at home, and for that they had to be adopted. Could more stringent action be afoot? Anybody visiting Mumbai would think that dogs are plentiful. Parsi Colony certainly gives that impression, but luckily for the dogs, there appears to be an almost similar number of caregivers who feed them in the open. Numbers are of course misleading, but the last census, in 2014, counted about a lakh strays in Mumbai, a conservative estimate. They neuter only 54 or so dogs a day, which is also on the lower side of optimum.
Meanwhile, every time Julie comes back without her collar, I keep wishing dog collars were cheaper and can’t help wondering who would keep robbing a dog of its collar?
Tailpiece: A friend, fed up with the number of phishing calls and other spam calls, decided to use the True Caller app. I asked him how it was going. He told me: “Pretty good. Last week I got a call from a Mumbai number that was identified as Randiyon ki Sardar Baai.” “Very filmi,” I responded, “Did you pick it up?” “Oi Maa,” he cried in alarm, “Are you crazy?”
V. Sudarshan is the author, lately, of Tuticorin, Adventures in Tamil Nadu’s Crime Capital, and Dead End: The Minister, the CBI and the Murder that Wasn’t.
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