After agriculture, the vocation that provides sustenance to a large number of people in rural India is the handicraft industry. Artisans who create beautiful handicrafts are found in each and every Indian state, with each art form being distinct and varied from the next. There is unfortunately, a huge gaping hole in the market between the artist and the consumer. Somewhere, a bridge is required so that the consumers have easier access to the products, and the artists are able to sell their wares effortlessly.
Disclaimer – This is not a review. It would not be fair to review places or things that are sentimentally close to your heart.
Being a Zoroastrian Irani, I feel proud of my community’s contribution towards evolving the cultural landscape of a city back then known as ‘Bombay’. Irani cafes or restaurants are what initiated the dining out concept in colonial Raj. Irani restaurants were among the first community spaces that threw open their doors to people of all caste, creed, religion and socio economic status alike, and served them copious amounts of chai with bun maska. You could be a British Army cadet, stock market babu, or a roadside vendor – an Irani restaurant would serve you equally and generously.
The journey of the Irani restaurant has been beautiful and colossal. What started off as a single Irani gentleman selling chai to office goers from his ‘sigdi’, which later culminated into restaurants that served Parsi dishes and bakery products in addition to the humble chai. And then there is SodaBottleOpenerWala (SBOW) which is attempting to redefine the Irani cafe experience, without altering the sanctity of what an Irani cafe should be. Modern yet quirky, idiosyncratic, and nostalgic – dining at SBOW, which has just launched at Bandra Kurla Complex (BKC), tugged at my heartstrings because it is a beautiful attempt at trying to preserve the dying legacy of Irani restaurants.
I have been wanting to write this letter since a while. But the fear of getting embroiled in controversy – which I seem to have a knack of doing so – kept me quiet. But experience has taught me one thing, for every ten people who support you and love what you do, there will be that one person who will try and pull you down. You’ve got to take in in your stride, learn from the criticism and walk on.
It seems to have become a fad to hate food bloggers, diss what they do on social media, and criticize their work in private. Some of the stuff out there deserves to be criticized, but some bloggers work hard to do what they do. This is a heartfelt letter, but in no way am I representing the community.
Dear haters/ trolls,
Anyone who writes for a living, or as a hobby, will tell you one thing…writing isn’t easy. For every good post that is churned out, there are hours spent staring at a blank screen not knowing what to put out there. Some of us work hard to generate content. For some of us writing may not come easy. But we try.
It is your decision to read what we post. Feel free to click on the red cross on the top right hand of your screen. Feel free not to click on the link that I post on social media to gain readership. I will write what I like, it is your choice to read it or not.
Yes, the food blogging situation has become dismal. But not all of us are free loaders. Not all of us are doing it for one free meal at a restaurant. For some blogging is their career. They make a living out of writing on their blog, or for other publications. For some of us, including me, blogging is simply a hobby. A hobby that thrills us to such an extent that we stay awake at night pondering over what to write next. And sadly for some of us, blogging has become a means of making a quick buck, attaining a fast road to fame. From the latter part of my community, a sincere heartfelt apology.
Yes the free meals are a perk that comes with being a food blogger. Similarly are free branded clothes, free beauty products, free gadgets, free travel. You get what I am hinting at.
Dear upcoming food bloggers,
For anyone who has just started to blog, I only ask one question, ‘why do you want to do this?’ If you are getting into this because you think it’s going to be an easy road to becoming a celeb on social media, or for free meals at restaurants that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford….then it saddens me. Write about food because it’s a passion. Reading about new cuisines, trying new dishes, experimenting in the kitchen is something that gives you a high!
Your blog is your identity. Please put up content that you’ll feel proud of. It is okay to make mistakes. Hell, even the best of bloggers have done that. It is okay to not know everything. If you did, you would be a judge on Masterchef Australia. But try and gain the maximum that you can. Read up recipes and cuisines on google. Travel and eat new dishes to understand world cuisine. If you cannot, the city of Mumbai has enough to offer. Experiment in the kitchen. Only when you cook, you will realize how difficult it is. It will make you humble, and think twice before criticizing a cook at a restaurant you go to review.
Please do not blackmail restaurants into giving you a free meal. Do not force them to pay you to publish a review. If they say no plus ones allowed, respect that. Write consistently, and write well. There will be a time invitations will flood your inbox, and you’ll have to refuse more invites than you accept.
Most importantly, let us support each other. Help each other to grow, cherish and learn.
Dear PR Professionals,
I honestly have no major grouse from you guys. I have met some wonderful folks, and made some lovely friends among the PR companies I have worked with. We must remember one thing though. Respect. We share a symbiotic relationship. We bloggers must respect you, but only if you’ll respect us back,
Do not address mails to me with the incorrect name. (I know there are a lot of Bawi bloggers, and the confusion tends to arise). Do not invite us for events with less than 24 hours notice. It makes me feel like I am a last minute filler in your guest list. Give us time to write a blogpost. Some of us are balancing multiple careers and we may require time.
I apologize on behalf of some members of my community who go back on their contract and do not adhere to the terms that were decided on. Not all of us are like that.
For any blogger, the greatest joy they can have is watching a post they have worked hard on gain mileage. Thank you guys for reading what we churn out and loving what we write. In case you don’t love what is written….tell us. Feedback – positive or negative – is what keeps us going. Appreciation or criticism, both help a person to learn.
If some of our posts are promoted, or via invite it is our duty to inform you so that you are not misguided. Your trust and readership is very important to us. We are, because you are.
Lastly, this letter comes from the heart. In no way was it meant to offend anyone. Blogging has given me so much. It provided me direction and passion at a time when I was down in the dumps. The joy and elation when people know you as ‘Branded Bawi’, and not as ‘Zenia Irani’ cannot be described. By writing this open letter, I am only trying to give back.
I woke up to sad news and a heavy heart yesterday. The front page of the Times of India covered the news that the iconic Parsi Dairy Farm may shutter soon. I narrated my memories with this Parsi dairy establishment over lunch with the colleagues. I tweeted vociferously over the probable closure of the place that provided one of my favorite childhood treats. I enraged over the closure of many such heritage spaces in the city, because we ourselves don’t have the time or inclination to visit them anymore. I ended the day with a phone conversation with Bee, moaning over how my children would never understand the joy of eating a Mawa Ni Boi from Parsi Dairy farm on Navroze.
I lost my paternal grandfather a year ago. It was a difficult time. Even though we did not stay with my grandparents, I was particularly fond of him. We spent extended summer holidays with my grandparents at their home in Dahanu, during which I got to understand him closely and love him even more. There are so many memories that I have of him. The way he used to call me ‘Madam’, his nickname for me. His love for wrist watches and how he used to observe everyone’s hands to see what watch they wearing. That old, white ambassador car with curtains on the windows that used to drive him to and fro.
I could go on and on. I am writing this post to share with you’ll what a wonderful man he was. I learnt a lot from him – big things and small. But here are three pointers that he taught me, which I’m keeping with me for life. And so should you.