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Culture, Spaces & People


The browns of the walls have grown pale and peel. The wooden drawers are the cash register. The lone chandelier, dusting peeling paintwork and ceiling fans that whirr above the chattering crowd with life-sized cutouts of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge smiling down at visitors from the dining room's slightly slanting balcony, amongst all this pageantry, Welcome to Britannia & Co in Ballard Estate, Mumbai. One of the many Iranian/Parsi cafes in Mumbai, it is one of the most revered space to learn the cultural extravaganza of Parsi community. This place is a phenomenon of cultural capital that has been exported from a foreign land, brought to this land by a settler community and yet it has ingrained itself in the rhizomatic layers of the city. These cafes, with their magnificently faded, time-capsule dining rooms and speciality dishes, are a gloriously eccentric part of the fabric of Mumbai. They are democratic and inclusive places, where people of all backgrounds, classes and sexes meet to indulge in conversations, cuisine and langauage that forms the crux of intangible cultural heritage of the city. 

While I sip my Irani chai(tea) with Maska-bun and wholesome Berry Pulao, I wonder how a smaller space like this has been a witness to mutilitudes of stories, emotions and cultural transactions over a century and has formed a cultural niche in the identity and imageability of the city. 

community cuisine culture people spaces

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