Pune: Vohuman Cafe’s ‘Bawaji’ passes away

“If someone asked for a special chai, he would say take the regular one, it tastes better. Even though the price for the special one was double,” said Rupesh Junawane, a regular at the cafe.


“Salman (Khan) bhi change diya mereko. Tu kidhar se aayi? (Even Salman Khan paid me in change. Who are you?),” is how author Priyanka Menon said she would be told off by her beloved ‘Vohuman uncle’, if at all she dared to pay him with a higher denomination note. Social media sites were flooded with such anecdotes on Tuesday as news spread of the demise of 73-year-old Hormaz Irani, founder of the popular Vohuman Cafe on Dhole Patil Road. Irani, who was suffering from liver cirrhosis, died of complications on Monday night.

Survived by his wife Sanober and son Sarosh, ‘Bawaji’ — as he was fondly called — had visited the cafe even on his last day. “Not only did he go to the cafe but he drank his cola too. The doctor had asked him to go off cold drinks and salt, among other things. But he was defiant, in fact he had resisted going to the hospital too on Monday,” said Sarosh, a chartered accountant.

On Tuesday morning, Sarosh ensured that his father’s body was taken to his beloved cafe, one last time. While the cafe would remain closed until Thursday, Sarosh said he would ensure it never closes its doors.

Meanwhile, the cafe’s regulars say that Vohuman Cafe would never be the same. Prachit Kadam, a Dubai-based operations manager, said, “I am Sarosh’s classmate, I have been going to Vohuman since school days. It is a tradition now. I was in Pune last Friday when I went to Vohuman and asked for uncle who wasn’t there. I will miss his humour.”

Tales of his quick wit are far too many. “If I had to say something about Vohuman Uncle, all I’ll have are inappropriate jokes, or like he had called them ‘non-veg jokes’. But yes, whenever I’ve gone there with friends, especially guys with long hair, he used to ask, ‘Tereko lambe baal wala pasand hain kya?’ (Do you have a thing for long-haired guys?),” recalls Menon.

Calling him the “human” in Vohuman, Anirudhha Patil, founder of Pune Eatouts, said, “Be it his jokes on Salman Khan or his popular flirting, he had not aged till his last breath.”

Another regular, Chandrakant Redican said he had the coarsest mouth and the purest heart. “I have long hair. He used to say that no one would know if I am a girl or guy,” he said.

Recalling the smiley faces he drew smileys in the zeros on the bill, another regular Rohit Thomas said, “They always made us smile. Once he forgot and when I told him, he said, ‘Nahi dala toh paisa nahi dega kya? (Won’t you pay if I don’t draw a smiley?)”

Rupesh Junawane, who visits the cafe at least thrice a week, said Irani wasn’t business-minded. “If someone asked for a special chai, he would say take the regular one, it tastes better. Even though the price for the special one was double. If someone asked Irani if bun maska would stay fresh in parcel till they reached home, Uncle would say that you go to Lonavla and return and it would still be fresh. The cafe was his pride,” he said.

Published on The Indian Express

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