Picture this. It’s somewhere in early 20th century Bombay, and your stomach growls with hunger. The smells of sweet buns, classic berry pulao, chicken dhansak and caramel custard become as overpowering as the midday heat, so you decide to trace the aroma, which leads you to a side street Irani café. As you walk in, huge glass mirrors hang on the walls, and politicians and philosophers alike sit on wooden tables with marble tops, clinking glass jars as they noisily converse over a plate of Osmania biscuits and chai. These cafés – beacons for both solitude and socialising – were a focal part of Bombay’s civic culture for hundreds of years. Yet, they are nearing extinction; in the 1950s, there were 350 Irani cafés and today, a mere 25 remain.