It was my youngest niece's birthday. The celebratory lunch was at a restaurant in Powai. I have always had a problem going to this far flung suburb of Mumbai. I have traveled there when I was working and the first of the offices were moving to Powai. We, in hotel sales, full of our uppity attitude, were scandalised to the core of our crepe sarees and block heels. Powai was where IIT and Powai lake was. This was our knowledge of Powai. Hiranandani building flats there never mattered to someone living in a hostel. I never ever dreamt of buying my own house. A house, a foreign holiday or an SUV or a high end watch were never in my purview of things. I do not think the word SUV was prevalent in those days. I only knew Jeep and Gypsy. Jeep was a police vehicle for me. Gypsy was made by Maruti, the coolest automobile car manufacturer, during my teens. A Gypsy ride was 'the' thing to happen in life. The foreign cars which people owned were bought from some crooked agents or second hand. Those days,there were no foreign car showrooms in Mumbai. I get scared when I write of my childhood years and wonder how the young people think of me. Do I sound ancient to them? My child has a perpetual question for me which triggers me no end and that is: "Aap ke zamaane mein yeh hota thaa?". It means 'Did it happen in your time?'.
Powai is quiet, green, leafy and well planned suburb. It has beautiful large buildings, green lawns, public parks, shops and restaurants. When I could not complain for its beauty, I could easily complain about how long it takes for one to commute to Powai. In reality, I was jealous of the large beautiful spacious houses with green lawns and my unaffordability to buy a flat there. The only time I visited Powai was during the Durga Puja. Saw it at night, all lit up and lots of people. Kept saying Powai is far from everywhere. It is in the middle of nowhere. The railway stations are so far and so are the Eastern and Western Express highways. The traffic to reach an exit point in Powai is crazy. So what if it is a self contained suburb, no one can work and live in the same area in Mumbai. On a few rare occasions, I have been to Powai to meet a friend or have a meal and the food was sad. Now I was clear that the Vastu of the Powai restaurants is all wrong, so even the pizza from a chain of pizzerias does not taste good in Powai. Who is stopping me from making my bias stronger against Powai?
All this was in my mind, till I reached Mirchi and Mime. I was bowled over from the moment our car turned in that lane. Beautiful Feng Shui, energy and vibe in the lane. My favourite store Fab India also located there. The staff standing outside had a tree for a canopy. No aggressive valet rushing to park your car. I could hear birds chirping and feel the cool breeze from the Powai lake. The staff who serve the food have speech and hearing disability. The Manager Lionel, explained the concept of the restaurant. Mirchi and Mime does not make a big deal of hiring these people. It is their largesse to provide employment to the deaf and the mute and they are committed to enabling them to earn a living. We were taught the signs to call a waiter, order our food and how to say Thank you. Tariq was serving food to us. He introduced himself in sign language. Our experience of the staff was heart warming and service was impeccable. The soups, salads and the starters were delicious and had a unique twist to the taste and the serving style. The waiters did it with such elan. The food came with a plastic name tag which the waiter kept next to us. The vegetarian items had a green one and the non vegetarian items had a red one. The open kitchen was fascinating and the entire experience was of seamless service. We did not have to call Lionel even once as at no point was there a hitch in communicating with the waiters. They were trained so well and such amazing people. The food was fresh. The decor was open and spacious and yet traditional. They have not tried to give this rustic look as in most restaurants and lounges in Mumbai with the distressed furniture, cycle tyres on the half cemented walls with bricks showing. The Indian food restaurant has Indian decor without going total Rajasthani. That seems to be the problem with so many food places. Indian decor means guilded mirrors or mud on the walls and ethnic cloth patches as wall decor. The architect has kept the lines clean, the seating has a lot of privacy. You cannot eavedrop on other guests conversation, even if you are finished reading all your whatsapp messages.
With Christmas around the corner, everyone is posting invites for a charity gala or asking for old clothes for an orphanage or an old age home. What 'Mirchi and Mime' has done to these boys and their families is not just for this season. Most charity homes in Mumbai have a uniform for the children and a fixed set of comfortable clothes for the old. Our Mumbai fancy party/ casual wear is not used for the inmates. I have been to orphanages where they said, we do not need so much milk powder, toys and baby clothes. We live in a city of excesses. People shop a lot, hoard a lot and do give away too. But I would rather go and eat at 'Mirchi and Mime'. Providing employment and bringing up their self confidence, letting them feel self worth, transforming so many families, is simply awesome. Writing a cheque, buying a few groceries and daily needs and giving away old clothes, is easy. I am sure that is needed for the society too. But what the owners of 'Mirchi and Mime' have done is commendable. Take a bow, Guys, along with your super powered Team!