To the Iranis, Anna's chai stall is one of Dahanu's most prized possessions. Each morning, after making a round of their chickoo farms, the Iranis gather here for tea, coffee, or Pepsi. Cigarette smoke gives the place a sinister haze, like fog in a cemetery. The crowds have dwindled now at Anna's because some of its regular customers have passed away, but I still remember the raucous laughter, the jokes, the political diatribes, and the conversations in different tongues that made Anna's a brothel of languages. A line from the novel: "All languages knew each other well, were familiar with the twists and turns of each other's bodies, and were not afraid to inhale the pungent smell of each other's underarms."
It was wonderful to see the Iranis arrive on motorbikes each morning -- on Kawasakis, Hondas, Yamahas, BMWs (and a couple of sorry mopeds) -- and line up outside this tiny chai place; giant men with thick forearms and handlebar moustaches sipping tea from tiny glasses. Forget Starbucks. I'm opening a series of Anna franchises in Canada. The Iranis will be part of the decor, like the girls at Hooters. Except that the Iranis are hairy and have handlebar moustaches. But why discriminate?