If we are dishing out gifts this festive season, then Hashim Badani wishes for these bakeries to remain.

In this photo essay, photographer and visual storyteller Hashim Badani documents the festive traditions of bakeries past. 

Christmas in Bombay is many things.

To me, it is the star that still goes up at Christ Church Lane in Byculla. It is the lit bylanes of Bandra (both these places are now home). But I suppose it all eventually boils (bakes?) down to food. (And not just the Christmas menus of American Express Bakery.) 

For me, the defining memory of Christmas in Bombay will always be how so many corner bakeries in the city would throw open their ovens for the neighbourhood, so that the community could come in to bake their own cakes. 

For a few weeks, aunties and uncles came down into the “No Admission” parts of the bakery, with their batters and moulds, as well as a coloured piece of paper, or a coin, to put atop the cake so it wouldn’t be mistaken for someone’s else’s. They jostled for space with the bakery employees, because the daily bread and other goodies still had to be churned out.

The one closest to my home was on Clare Road. It was called Hichkok Bakery, shut in the early 2000s. Over the years since several others disappeared. There is great joy and sense of community in these spaces. I don’t know how many remain today. This wasn’t just a Christmas affair. This was repeated during Diwali with the baking of naankhatais and other biscuits.

If we are dishing out gifts this festive season, then I wish for these bakeries to remain.

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