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The Old Yazdani Bakery, Mumbai

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This is not a place that many of you snobs would approve of.

It’s a little dusty, with wan furniture and interior that has seen better days. Bread and pastries were transferred from trays to plates with bare hands. Plastic crockery had claw marks. Customers sat in old school booths and there were tungsten lights. Bakelite switches. Exhaust fans.  From the outside, it looked like another tattered shop that cowers by the narrow street of Mumbai. One of those that doesn’t seem to meet satisfactory levels for food hygiene.

But frankly, I don’t give two donuts about that.

In such divisive time, it is tempting to nuzzle up to the world we are used to, be surrounded by people who look like us and do what we do.

But this is India.

In Mumbai specifically, where the world’s most expensive 27-floor home (for a family of five…shame on you Ambani) has a bird-eye view of the second largest slum in Asia, I suggest you get down from your bejewelled elephant, change your Pound Sterling to Empathy Rupee and rub shoulders with the Bombay wallahs.

This is Yazdani Bakery – an old charming Irani bloke that has stood tall in Mumbai’s Fort area since a decade after the World War II. Everything in the shop is handmade, and they charge no service tax.

We went there for breakfast on a Thursday morning. It wasn’t very busy and we already knew what we wanted. Brun maska, baby. This Irani bread that is soft like a cloud, dotted with raisins, slathered hard with Amul butter.  And chai.

Also bread pudding. And mava cakes. And egg puffs. And note to self, join the Over-ordering Anonymous, if not start one already.

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Still…gutted we didn’t get our hands on the multi-grain loaf, apple pie and khari biscuit…

We lingered long enough to observe everyone who ate there that morning – foreigners, annoying foreigners who couldn’t stop taking pictures, locals, couples, regulars – but not long enough to stomach all the food.

The brun muska was great, but if there’s anything that warrants a Dumbo ride back to Yazdani, it’s the bread pudding.

Funny, as I am coming close to ending this post, it strikes me that my trip to India was somewhat, if not entirely, sanctimonious. Kind of hypocritical, you know, here I am preaching empathy, being defensive to friends who ridiculed my decision to travel to Mumbai, extolling decade-old family-run shop with walls that have yellowed over time… while throughout my trip I was marvelling at buffaloes on street, taking photos of saree-garbed women with hair bedraggled, basket on their heads like they were scenes out of National Geographic Traveller. I held onto my return ticket to London like a true irresponsible, self-loving holidaymaker. Zoo visitor. Shame.

It was easy because none of these problems are mine. And maybe it’s true that it is the dark side of human nature to feel better about ourselves when we see people suffer misfortune? So when I felt shitty about my life in London, I “escaped” to Mumbai so to feel more grateful for my soy smoothie bowl, Friday nights, wonderful job and 20 pairs of shoes?

OK, whatever. This post is getting dangerously deep and philosophical.

Let’s get out of here.

With love x

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