I have a lot of respect for Mumbai restaurateurs. Mostly because setting up an eatery here isn’t easy — getting permissions, greasing palms and keeping picky clients happy can be testing.
About three years ago, I was speaking to a certain restaurateur called Farhan Azmi. He was opening a new coffee shop in place of Yari Road’s unofficial casting spot, Barista. I knew he owned Koyla and Basilico, but I also knew he was a politician’s son. You would naturally assume that fixes a lot of his troubles, right? So did I. But after that 15-minute chat, his lineage mattered less. He was un-politician-like.
He seemed interested in enhancing the city’s entertainment options. He even spoke about some ambitious plans for Colaba. We’ve asked them (authorities) to tile the flooring in the lanes of Colaba so they resemble cobblestoned streets, he said. The aim is to convert this lane (where Koyla is located) into a tourist spot. I want to create a vibe, add some street furniture, a jukebox and encourage music fests.” It sounded great. As minuscule as the possibility of this ever happening was, the thought was positive.
Earlier this week, Farhan came in the line of fire due to some objectionable remarks made by his father, Samajwadi Party leader, Abu Azmi, in relation to the Delhi gang-rape case and the safety of women. He said, Women should not venture out with men who are not relatives… Such incidents happen due to influence of western culture (sic). He proved yet again that we do not really live in progressive times. Besides rakhis, pepper spray and a burqa, should we also carry along our fathers and brothers?
As expected, Farhan and his wife, film actor Ayesha Takia, were dragged into the debate to provide perspective. Then, in a rare occurrence, they both publicly disagreed with Abu Azmi’s stance, making what seemed like quite a brave move; or maybe a business decision.
Many would have been disappointed if he hadn’t detached himself. I, for one, would’ve been convinced that all that talk about giving the city a vibe was hogwash. But then a report quoted him saying, For the first time, I felt the person making those statements is not my dad… Whatever he said, it was politically wrong (sic). And that, even in Prakash Jha’s (director of Raajneeti and Satyagraha) onscreen world of scheming politicians, is well said. There is hope. Colaba just might get that jukebox.