Click here to upgrade your browser...
Journal entry

Goodbye 2015. Hello 2016.

Back here in the Permit Room again.

Once again, dear reader, I’m back here. I am the weary, be-stubbled regular propping up one end of the bar in the Permit Room at the same time every year. I have a burra peg of something stiff at my elbow. If they’d let you smoke in here, I’d be making my way slowly through the pack. It’s been a long year. I feel depleted and consumed. Nothing left in the tank.

I think I’ve begun to make friends with 2015. Fifteen, you old bastard. You truly were the best of times and the worst of times. For myriad reasons, you brought with you twelve of the toughest, fullest months. Weeks that were hard, and days that could only be dealt with one at a time. And yet, sitting here on the threshold of one year and the next, sorting through the events in my head, I’m beginning to discern the lessons you were teaching.

We lost a family member this year. A life made unfairly, senselessly short, the grief hard. But we also experienced the smiling kindness and cheerfully unshakeable courage of someone dealing with unspeakable pain. The strength and resilience of children, the unyielding love of family. The echoes that she leaves behind sound like gentle laughter, they sound like a love of life. The twinkle in her eye somehow outlasts the tears in ours. It is humbling; cached within the intense sadness of passing, there are precious – and joyful – lessons on how to live.

Of course,’15 carried with it other less intense moods too, for which I’m grateful. In Dishoom’s world, you, dear patron, continued to allow us to look after you, leaving with your wallet slightly lighter and your stomach slightly heavier than when you arrived; and perhaps with your spirit a touch refreshed. You let us serve you in this way and we give you sincere, humble and heartfelt thanks; for this is our livelihood.

In ’15, we launched a fourth Dishoom, on Kingly Street. This time our imagination wandered into the 1960s; we became the handsome young Irani in London, returning to Bombay on hearing news of his father’s passing. The result was Dishoom Carnaby in which we explored Bombay of the period, so rich in its architectural and cultural detail. We sought out and made friends with the (actual, and lovely) people our handsome Irani would have known had he been a real person. Stalwarts such as Farrukh, Dolly, Padmini, Reynold, Nissim and, of course, the indomitable Asha became a part of our life. (Asha, by the way, is a living legend who can refer to Andy and Mick by their first names.)

We also discovered that when the music of the Beatles and the Stones snuck past the walls of conservative Bombay in the sixties, kids picked up their guitars and started calling themselves ‘Beat’ bands. At the same time British groups were exploring mystic exotic India and her musical (and chemical!) delights. We became interested (obsessed) with this scene and, consulting with our new friend Sidharth Bhatia and our old friend Rob Wood, we actually managed to release an album, Slip-Disc: Dishoom’s Bombay London Grooves. Our hearts were lifted when Mojo gave our album 4 stars, Uncut rated it 8/10 and the good people over at BBC radio kept talking about it and playing it. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts for lending your ears to listen to the result of our (mis)adventures!

Beyond the boundaries of Dishoom, though, the world had a slightly disturbing quality. We’ve previously written in these pages of our strong belief in the need to create shared spaces, to break down barriers, to celebrate difference rather than judge it. More than ever, though, it seems that the worst are full of passionate intensity and that the best lack conviction. The moronic and lethal prejudices of extremists (whether Daesh or Donald) provide the warlike drumbeat to which events seem bound to dance. Reasonable and kind voices are at risk of being drowned out by the intolerant din.

One thing that Daesh, Donald and their kind have in common is that they see the world as binary. Us and them. Black and white. They thrive on polarity and conflict. Daesh talks often about the ‘grey zone’. This grey zone is a place in which Muslims and non-Muslims co-exist peacefully. For Daesh it’s anathema.

I, for one, whole-heartedly want to live in the grey zone, where we all rub up against each other. It’s a messy shared space, to be sure, but it’s colourful and joyous. The way to fight extremism, or to react to the tragic nihilistic attacks in Paris (and elsewhere, for that matter) is not to shrink or dilute the grey zone, as Donald, Marine and others would have us do, but to celebrate it, defend it, and indeed to deepen it and expand it.

As you may have figured out, we work pretty hard to make Dishoom a first-class grey zone. Irani Cafés were quite possibly the original Bombay grey zones. We’re not able to fix things outside our walls but we can make sure that within our walls, the world is as it should be. In Dishoom, we really like serving food cooked in Parsi, Muslim, Hindu and Christian traditions, and we do it deliberately and self-consciously. We like celebrating Holi, Eid, Diwali and Christmas. We have a strong view that mixing it up is a Good Thing. There is truly no greater pleasure than in bringing people together to celebrate each other’s cultures. I can’t think of a single reason not to do this. In fact, I’d go further; in today’s political climate, we must all do this. I think we’d be barmy not to.

One of the best things we’ve ever done at Dishoom had its origins in June this year. A group of us were sitting around a table replete with food (which is, as you can imagine, not an uncommon event at Dishoom). We were discussing Ramadan. Our group was composed of Hindus, a less-than-conscientious Christian, a Muslim and an aspiring Buddhist. Most of us had known that charity was one of the foundations of Islam, but we learnt that the holy time of Ramadan is particularly associated with giving to those less fortunate than yourself. Our food-laden table was beautiful, but in that context it gave us pause for thought. We decided that our ‘zakat’ (or charity) for the month of Ramadan would be to feed two children in need for every meal we served. We put this into place and worked with the delightful people at Magic Breakfast and Akshaya Patra – and in the end we were able to donate funds for 160,000 meals to be fed to children who would otherwise go hungry.

A short time later, we were discussing Diwali and the Hindu new year, which is a very special time for us Hindus. Again, we discussed that we should surely be contributing to the wider world (our ever-replete table being a reliable reminder of our good fortune). Someone came up with the idea that we should, from Diwali, make our Ramadan ‘zakat’ a permanent feature of what we do at Dishoom. It just made sense. It’s surely a tragedy that in our world children still go hungry. So, from this Diwali, we pledged to feed a hungry child for each guest we serve at Dishoom.

I’m prouder of this than almost anything else that I’ve been involved in. So far this year, we’ve donated over a quarter of a million meals for children in India and in East London. As I think back to how we as a group were moved to do this, it feels right; Hindus, Christians, Muslims and others feeding needy children in the name of Islam for Ramadan and then making this a permanent part of Dishoom from the Hindu new year.

So ’15 you old bastard, my burra peg is almost drained dry. Writing your elegy is helping me to come to terms with your despair and your hope, your weeping and your laughter. I’ve blinked back a few tears, but I’m smiling.

I know beyond all doubt that our ’15 here at Dishoom was full to the brim with good people, without whom we’d be nothing at all. I’m proud to be part of this; to each and every person in the Dishoom team, I want to give the warmest, sincerest thank you that I am able to summon. To every one of our kind and gracious suppliers, I give deep thanks; it’s good to be working with you. We’re also utterly grateful for the bottomless and loving patience of our families. And in the end, it is you, kind and good patrons of our livelihood, who breathe life into our work and allow us to do what we do. Thank you and thank you again for coming to Dishoom, allowing us to serve you, and coming back for more.

Well, it’s time for me to go home to celebrate Christmas, like a good Hindu. This year, my four year old daughter is very interested in baby Jesus and has been asking me whether he’s like baby Krishna. I’m sure I’ll figure it out by the time I get home.

From all of us here at Dishoom, we wish you the best for Christmas and the New Year. And from the bottom of all our hearts, we wish you the very best for ’16. It probably won’t be an easy year, but we hope it’s a good year.

May Ganesh-ji give you the strength to deal with the tears and the openness to make the most of the joy.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Your email address won't be shown. All fields are required.

Kamalika Sen

Wonderful write-up! It's so good to know what team Dishoom has pledged to do for less-priviledged children. It would be extremely interesting to read the full story of the Irani who was called home. I'm sure you will write it well if you decide to finish it. What more to say! All the best and take care

Paul Brown

Dear Writer, whoever you may be,your strong words were delivered so gently,.....less really is more,' .....'tis a pity the folk you mentioned can't see what you see, feel what you feel...perhaps you should invite them to one of your food temples to teach them your ways..our ways. My wife and I have experienced their evil ways in Manchester,Paris and London and yet we continue to greet whoever we meet as a friend.With great anticipation of my visit on the 28th..I wish you a lovely Christmas...and good luck

Carol

What a thought provoking and beautifully written eulogy to 2015! Aside from the odd typo which makes the reading more endearing:-) i love Dishoom and even more now for what you have it stand for - sharing with everyone in every way. keep up the great work! Very best for 2016! Carol

Rekha

This is such a beautiful and touching message! What an excellent thing you have done by making a commitment to donate a meal for a meal: for every guest who dines with you, to provide a meal for a child who would otherwise not eat. Dishoom is amazing!!

Stephen kirk

This was so inspiring to read. We love coming to your restaurants and we believe that all enterprises incorporate the DNA of their founders. You are one of the few commercial enterprises we feel privileged to support. Good luck to you all in 2016 and onwards. Love, Stephen and Luiza xx

Denise Bovo-Fischer

Lovely thoughts and deeds expressed here. Thank you for sharing.

K N Moorthy

There is good reason why should I find your restaurant and enjoy a meal with my family during my next London visit. Wishing you and your team great success . Wish you happy a new prosperous 2016. My regards to Rekhaji and Rashmiji

Rory

Congratulations on a great year, and your achievements to date. I passionately agree with all the sentiments you express and as a supplier it's a privilege to work with such exemplary commitment - you're an inspiration!. Keep Blowing that Horn in 2016! xx

Salim khan

Proud to work in Dishoom - lovely write up 😊😊😊😊😊

sunita

Hope you continue to florish feed and rock Bombay Style. Wish you only the best! Sunita from Switzerland

David

Hi, I was wondering when booking will open for this year's Holi party? I've heard it is fantastic and the whole family want to attend.

Ginny

Hi David, If you sign up to our newsletter on the website then you'll be the first to hear our updates :-) We are in the midst of finalising plans right now! Best wishes, Ginny

Tanya parris

Hi there was just wondering if you did birthday vouchers I'd love to get one for my friend to your kings cross venue? Thank you

Ginny

Hi Tanya, We do indeed - just email us at hello@dishoom.com and we will be able to help you :-)

Kathy tylet

Brilliant

Andrew Pillier

I really enjoyed reading this and I for one very much happy to live in the grey zone.

Kate

What an eloquently written and beautiful message. I look forward to trying your venue. Warm wishes xo

Indi Fountain

Good to hear a reflection of ones own soul.i look fwd to experiencing your food one day.