Bombayana is a term coined by Mumbai writer Altaf Tyrewala, known for Mumbai Noir and No God in Sight. The term refers to the outpouring of grief that follows the announcement of closures of venues known to have existed in "old Bombay" or recall a time when Bombay was a city of modesty and charm, when Irani Cafes were frequented, when poets hung out at Wayside Inn, when artists, lawyers and professionals of all stripes had tea at Cafe Samovar. It could also be a concept or city that existed only in the minds of the people who were around at that time.
For many of my social media contacts, a part of the world came crashing down in January 2014. B Merwan & Co, an Irani café and bakery in Grant Road, had announced its closure. Merwan! Was! Closing! Suddenly, everyone was reminiscing about the bumaskas, masala omelettes, mava cakes and other comfort foods they had imbibed at Merwan. Few among my contacts had been to the bakery in recent times, but that was quickly set right. Never in its 100-year history would Merwan have witnessed such a conglomeration of gizmo-wielding, moneyed hipsters on its premises. The paeans to it were soppy and predictable. Business at the bakery spiked, as golden-hearted, teary-eyed scavengers of Bombayana trooped in to enjoy what they believed were the last delights to be had within Merwan’s old-school confines.
...Like “booksing”, a form of profuse bibliophilia that conceals a deep disregard for the actual act of reading, Bombayana, too, could be a profuse hankering for all things old and sacred about this city without the genuine desire to stem the tsunami of change and redevelopment sweeping through Mumbai.
At some point in its past, Mumbai must have been a metropolis of that sort — a place for humble experiments and manageable risks that most often than not paid off. But in recent decades the city’s myth has grown larger than its lived reality, its taste for modesty has soured. Blame it on shrinking resources, coalition politics, corruption, greed, overpopulation, real estate prices, dubious governance, or security threats — many reasons, one outcome: The systematic reshaping of Mumbai from a welcoming, open-source, commons-blessed metropolitan wonder-land into an increasingly foreboding, stricture-ridden island replete with no-go zones accessible only to the blessed few.
No entry for auto-rickshaws at the international airport’s departure area. No loitering around Gateway of India after 10 p.m. No photography allowed at monuments. No 1 bedroom flats for under 1 crore. Even if a Rhythm House tried to reinvent itself as a live music space, it would first have to surmount the random and petty-minded enforcement of some arcane pre-colonial law, some Protection of Commercial Establishment Act (or whatever) from 1927 (or whenever) prohibiting public performances on retail premises.