Occasionally, while his wife is away and living with one of their handsome sons, my friend Munna Mitha, organises a paya party. Only men are invited, his friends over several years, and he calls it a boys’ night out, though, besides the pays, and the scotch, there is not much of a night out about it. No mujras and no ladies popping out of cakes and other such decadent experiences that Mr. Pramod Navalkar is familiar with but does not approve of.
There was a boys’ night out last night. I will tell you about it. There were eight guests, which is the number his table can coommodate, with all the necessary china, the paya bowls, and the special plates to discard the bones in.
The mean average age of the boys was in the high 50s, if you do not include young Maneck Davar in the count, and whiel the thinking was in the high 50s, if you do not include young Maneck Davar in the count, and while the thinking was young, there were occasional doubts expressed whether they would be able to manage sitting (standing) in the middle of a boisterous crowd swinging or rapping or whatever it is they do with Michael Jackson.
Black & White flowed generously (Munna Mitha is nothing if not generous, and often over generous), while, in the kitchen, the payas, on dum since afternoon, were getting the final touches.
Everything was prepared at home, Mr. Mitha makes it a point to tell his guests. The Payas were bought in the morning at the Null Bazar meat market, his chauffeur Benny driving his cook Mary to the bazar. Null Bazar was the best place for paya. The brun and the naram pau came from City Bakery at Worli, where you got the best brun in town, and the rotis from Bhendi Bazar, from one of the bhatiyaras in the Bohri Mohalla, who look after the needs of the Nav Handi restaurants.
Before the payas, there was chicken, large chunks of fat broilers, expertly fried. I realised it was the aroma of the frying broilers that had accompained my last two scotches at the bar.
The payas were brought to the table in handis and we ladled them into our bowls. They were the Irani payas, soupy, only the very basic masalas, nothing else inside, just meat and sticky gravy. They had been cooked so thoroughtly that it was difficult to distinguish between the meat and the bone.
The biryani was like the paya, minimum of masala, the dominating taste of the rice, meat and roasted potatoes.
The ice-cram was also made at home, naturally, in old-fashioned sanchas, with the thick, creamy milk of Parsi Dairy Grade I. There was a kesar-pista and a malai, and everybody had to try both. In the morning, 5.30 a.m., Mr. Mitha would be going for his usual walk in the Pherozeshah Mehta Gardens, so he would be fine.
And, after the meal, there were neatly packed dabbas for the guests to take home to the wives who were not invited to the boys’ night out.