It isn’t easy to imagine nowadays that Iran became once India’s neighbour. The Partition of India and the formation of the State of Pakistan in 1947 separated the two geographically. But the Indian subcontinent and Persian Empire (these days’ Iran) have had political, economic and social ties for almost millennia. Bombay’s Iranians are a logo of that smooth border of the past.
The Iranian network, made of Zoroastrians, and Muslim Shias (about 2,500 in variety today, have been a recognizable a part of Mumbai because the late 19th century for the Irani cafés-cum-provision stores they set up. There have been approximately 350 then, most of them being Zoroastrian-run; about 15% have been run via Shias. (Today there are best 35 left.)
Their popularity among Bombay’s migrant labour and the working classes led to their mushrooming literally on every road corner. Hindu traders considered nook premises inauspicious and let them out cheap to the Irun, the term by which the local people cited the proprietors sitting on the coins till.
They, but, were now not the earliest immigrants from Iran. The earliest Iranian community to settle in Bombay had been the Muslim Shia traders from Shiraz, Bushire, and Isfahan, who arrived within the town someday inside the early 1/2 of the 19th century, having been worried inside the Persian Gulf alternate over generations. (This will be the problem of Part II of this collection on Mumbai’s Indo-Iran history.) Bombay had begun its dizzying upward thrust as the most port town in the East. Developments in manufacturing, banking, and financial markets were to make it the monetary capital of India by the 1870s.
The later immigrants, each Zoroastrian and Shia, came from the drought-hit provinces of Yazd and Kerman and determined a brand new livelihood in Bombay through the cafes they set up. The main towns on this arid area of southern Iran – Yazd, Jaffarabad, Khairabad – have been once oasis settlements that had been a part of the caravan community of the southern Silk Route. Its citizens were basically horticulturists, and those areas had been recognized for the fruit they produced (especially the mythical Taft pomegranates), artisanal items, such as silk embroidery, and their Qahva-Kanas or espresso homes.
Why did they move into the tea keep enterprise? “Because Iran itself has Qahva-Kanas which used to supply opium for smoking, coffee, and black tea; so the Yazidis had some records of making ready tea. The concept of Qahva-Kanas advanced into the Irani cafes and eating places in Bombay,” says Sayed Safar Ali Husaini, owner of Lucky Restaurant in Bandra and a frontrunner of the Yazdi Shia community inside the metropolis.
Yet, the first Irani café proprietor changed into a Zoroastrian, Khodadad Oshtori,  who opened his tea save in Dhobi Talao inside the early nineteenth century. This points to an early Irani Zoroastrian presence in the city – previous to the first huge wave of immigrants from Yazd and Kerman, wherein successive droughts – starting with the Great Famine in Iran (1870-72) – destroyed arable land and impelled their flight.
Referring to the one’s desperate instances, Dr Mansoor Showghi Yezdi, a documentary movie-maker whose award-winning movie, Café Irani Chai, documents this history, says, “My grandfather, Haji Mohammed Showghi Yezdi, become a strapping 16-yr-vintage when he got here strolling all the way from his village Khairabad in Yazd. He walked – due to the fact he didn’t have an unmarried pie in his pocket, much like the institution of human beings he becomes with.” This group commenced breaking apart as they advanced on their adventure via the subcontinent, with some staying back in Quetta, Karachi, and Lahore, before achieving Bombay, Poona. In the end, Hyderabad, wherein Irani eating places are focused even these days.
The Iranis have been drawn through the prospects of a higher life in British India, especially Bombay and Poona, wherein Iranian Zoroastrians had already settled. “I actually have encountered many circulars dated to round 1895, stating that the Iranis are welcome in British India because of the good relations among Britain and Persia,” says Deepak Rao, writer of Mumbai Police: a hundred and fifty years. “All of them had to record yearly to the Registration of Foreigners (Asiatic) branch of the Bombay CID to increase their life – this becomes a well-known practice which they gladly fulfilled.”
There was also a geopolitical component to this. The Iranis had been fleeing destitution in their personal native land: British India was an alternative due to what’s called the ‘Great Game’ in West Asia, with the Russian and British Empires competing for spheres of impact in a susceptible Qajar Persia. 
The massive inflow of Iranians into Bombay and the outlet of Irani tea shops and eating places in the overdue nineteenth and early 20th centuries modified the way citizens ate, socialized and shopped: small gadgets, consisting of toiletries, over the counter medicines, detergent, and other knick-knacks, were all to be had here.
Chai, Brun-Maska, and Mughlai cuisine.
More than family provisions, Irani restaurants are nice recognized for his or her characteristic, no-frills atmosphere and menu. The conventional restaurants have reflected walls (called ‘closed-circuit TVs’ by using their owners!), European bentwood chairs, marble-topped tables, and chequered flooring. The fare is restricted, but enjoyable: for instance, bread – crusty Brun, sweet buns or gentle pao, served buttered, with milky, sweet tea.