This famous café-bakery has been frequented for the past century by Mumbaikars, who come every day at 8 a.m. for freshly baked mawa cakes. This is the story of two young Mumbai photographers, Raj Lalwani and Kashish Parpiani, who decided to capture the soul of Merwan’s before its doors shut for good.
Opened in 1914 on Grand Road by an Iranian family who had fled famine in their own country, Merwan’s became one of the most famous Iranian cafés in Mumbai. In the 1950s, there were still 350 left in the city. Today barely a dozen remain. Patronized by the Iranian diaspora and native Mumbaikars alike, these cafés, which also once served as grocery and drugstores, are where the Indian intelligentsia has long met for discussion.
“When we learned that Merwan’s was closing, we decided to document the final days of this legendary place,” says Lalwani. “We created a Facebook page, Tales from Merwan’s, in order to create a visual memory of the last days of this iconic Mumbai café.”
While most of the photographs were taken by Lalwani and Parpiani, other Mumbai photographers like Chirodeep Chaudhuri, Ketaki Sheth and Prashant Godbole were invited to participate.
The story of Merwan’s is the story of Mumbai. The city is changing, extending further north. Towers and housing projects are sprouting up, along with commercial centers for a growing middle class. The marble tables, large mirrors and bistro chairs belong to another time, one that is suspended in the photographs of these two young photographers, both aware of the changes their city is undergoing.