There are few things in life that I had taken for granted. They were present since my childhood. So I assumed they always will be. Like Sachin Tendulkar playing for India, tastiest Wada Pav next to Apna Bazar in Andheri (W), passenger refusing auto rickshaws, Super Mario and Ideal Railway Irani Restaurant just outside Andheri (W) station.
This restaurant was my favourite. You could get the best Kheema Pav, Irani Chai and Bun Maska over here. I could never get the same taste anywhere else. Even the prices were quite low. Where on earth would you get a Chicken Tandoori Leg piece for less than forty bucks? Whenever I went to Andheri station (which is getting less now) I made a point to enjoy food over there.
You had self service over here. The waiters and the owner were rude. Once I remember a customer asking the owner what meat you have. He replied rudely, "Murgi ka hai, bakre ka hai aur baell ka hai. Tumko kya chahiye."
Once a family came there and sat on a table. They probably had come there for the first time so were expecting a waiter to come and take orders. They waited for a long time. All this while the owner and his men were watching them but none of them even had the courtesy to tell them that this is a self service restaurant. Atlast I told them that.
In many restaurants people complete a whole business meeting over a cup of tea. Youngsters spend hours in coffee shops over a few cups of ridiculously over priced coffee & tea products. They are more than welcome to do so. But not in this restaurant. If they saw someone spending even a minute more after finishing their food, one of the workers would keep a small sign on the table, "No sitting long" and walk away with a straight face. That person would definitely leave immediately.
I train salespeople of many corporates on the importance of customer service in today's era. Customer is the king. He has many options. Respect the customer. Go the extra mile for him. And many more customer centric philosophy.
This restaurant was throwing these well researched practices out of the window and still had nearly all the chairs occupied most of the time. One reason was that the food over here was tasty, less priced and unique. A few months back me and a colleague of mine spent nearly an hour to find a parking space only to have that magical taste on our tongues.
The unpainted walls, old furniture and dirty clothes wearing waiters were in fact a good change against well maintained restaurants. Most of the patrons were from middle or lower middle class. I had seen many lower middle class families sharing a chicken piece amongst four of them with relish. Where else would they get such a tasty chicken for such a low price. They would not even dare enter KFC after looking at the shining glass walls.
One of the most touching moments I went through was when I went there for the last time, I saw a group of ten deaf boys and girls. Watching them enjoy food and talk with their sign language brought a smile to my face.
The world was so good inside that Irani Restaurant.
I was in Delhi for an office project for a month. After coming back I headed to my favourite eating place, but it was closed. There were boards of McDonalds and I saw renovation work going on inside. This can't happen. Probably McDonalds just wants to put their hoardings for advertisement because they have one franchisee just twenty metres from there. This restaurant had just started Mutton Kheema for non beef eaters so it must have long term plans.
I asked a shopkeeper and he confirmed my fears. There will be a Mcdonalds coming up in place of the Irani restaurant. I still don't understand why McD wants to start a restaurant just bang opposite to an existing one. Probably they can't handle the rush and need some more space. But why my favourite restaurant, why not somewhere else. Will those poor people come and eat in McDonalds. The owner must have made good money but would McDonalds employ those rude waiters. They were working there for decades.
Another heritage of our city ends and no one is bothered.
Will I hear college dropouts telling customer, "One McKheema Pao, One McBun Maska and one McIrani Chai. Would you like to have some fries with it."
RIP Ideal Railway Restaurant