This must be the first Ramzan that I have not gone to the Minara Masjid lane to break the fast with our Muslim brothers. The place has become too crowded and too commercialised. A tiny saucer of bheja fry or Khiri-kaleja cost Rs. 65, more if you took more gulible. The lamba paus do not taste the same, the mini-kababs, I suspect, have barra meat in them, and though I have nothing against beef and eat it like I do not all other meats, is lamb. The place is also fifthy and getting filthier by the year, but this cannot be helped. Only in Singapore have they mastered the art of keeping roadside stalls clean…nowhere else.
But the main reason, I have stopped patronising it, and I must be honest, is the passing away of my friends, Imtiaz Kapadia. I had known the place before I had met him, but never so intimately. It was Kapadia who used to take me around from shop to shop, introduce me to the various shop and stall-keepers, order a vast variety of food, take me into the Manara Mosque, which, after all, is the centrepiece of the place.
We would have a hot, peppery soup, with bits of tongue and intestines floating in them, from handis put up along the rear wall of the mosque. The soup was prepared by Bade Mia, the same venerable gentleman, who, for a quarter century and more, has been running a prosperous little business grilling meals on the pavements of Tulloch Road, behind the Taj.
We would dine at India Hotel, but order fresh bread from the bakery next door. We would have ragda, garnished with talli, in a goldrimmed bowl. We would admire the meats spread out and strung in wheelbarrows, as later we would be admiring red handkerchieves and green plastic sandals spread out in wheelbarrows, for midnight shopping for the impending Idd.
And we would have sherbets from the Kashmiri Sherbetwalls, filled with slice of apples and pears, and flavoured with nutmeg and kesar.
And we would feast on pista and orange barfis and afatoons, and take home malpuas soggy with ghee and thick malai for breakfast next morning.
Imtiaz Kapadia used to run and advertisement agency "Ad World" and, though he was the least communal of men, a large number of his clients were devout Muslims. On Idd Day, he would persuade them all to advertise in the papers. One such Idd Day, there were 27 such advertisements through Ad Word in just one paper. That was a record for any ad. agency in the country. His god should have blessed him for that effort. Instead, by the following Idd he was dead.