It is a close and heavy monsoon night on Marine Lines. Despite the weather, there is a jostling of people outside the Bombay Roxy. Well-turned-out gentlemen and flirty-eyed women clad in Banarasi silk saris all crane to catch a glimpse of Bombay’s finest musicians. The heavy doors to the club swing open and closed. Hot jazz spills out into the street.
The club didn’t always have this pull or indeed its current reputation. It is housed within a former cinema. The previous owner’s savings had been frittered away on the floors of marble, panelling of Burmese teak and four large chandeliers. It had been a beautiful but bankrupting experiment in Art Deco extravagance.
Under new management, it is café by day and club by night. The fortunes of the Bombay Roxy have been turned around, and now it shines brightly where darkness once stood. Bombay society comes here, to see and be seen. Local hustlers try to get the better of American card-sharks. Wealthy men of industry eye up coquettish women in cholis that expose more of their midriffs than strictly considered decent. A moustachioed Maharaja with an accent polished at Harrow or Eton exchanges pleasantries with several glamorous ladies who have perfected the art of looking beautifully bored.
The building has become a hot-tempered, noisy beast in the city’s belly, roaring through the night until the sun rises.
The man behind this reinvention is the charismatic Cyrus Irani. His name was once synonymous with Bombay’s racketeers, with murky allegiances, and with police escorts to Arthur Road Jail. Now no longer a jailbird, Cyrus fully intends to put the Bombay underworld behind him. And his new venture, the Bombay Roxy, might just be his redemption.
[Enter CYRUS IRANI.]
These are the last few days, the dregs of 2019. It’s my habit to sit here in the Permit Room at this time. I am the be-stubbled and dishevelled regular, cherishing his precious drink at the end of the bar. Weary, I sit here pondering the year, attempting to figure out what it was trying to teach me. What wisdom can I glean from it?
I love to truly understand and appreciate the origins of a dish, and learn how communities have adapted a recipe over time to make that dish unique to them.
We have arrived at a very sad, but inevitable and clear choice. As of now, all Dishooms are now closed to diners.
BOMBAY, 1949. A sultry June evening. Lights glow golden. Candles flicker in the warm breeze that arrives gently through the large open windows of the café.