Long, long ago, somewhere in the magical land of Baghdad, there lived a Jewish family. The family lived peacefully in the city that had one basked in the glory of Haroun-al-Rashid, and was later torn apart by a group of people who somehow valued petroleum a tad more than people are supposed to.
Anyway, this is not a story about Baghdad. This is a story about the family, rich and ripe in heritage. One day, the Man of the family, Israel Mordecai, decided to leave the sun-baked roads and the blazing deserts for good. Like all successful men, he had both the vision and the focus to succeed.
When he reached this destination - the new country, Israel Mordecai thought of starting a new business of his own. He thought and thought, and finally decided to start a baker's and confectioner's in the heart of the city.
Like all businesses, the shop did not do too well to begin with. However, since the British still ruled the country, and since the city was still the capital of the country, there were a lot of British residents in the city. This meant that there was a boom in the sales during Christmas, Easter, and other occasions.
When Israel Mordecai passed away, he passed the baton to his son, who, in turn, passed it on to his eldest son, Solomon. Solomon and his brother David took over the shop, and by sheer quality, warded off the stiff competition of the British and the local bakeries and confectioneries to achieve the number one slot.
Solomon and David soon became synonymous to the words 'bakery' and 'confectionery' in the city. Soon, the shop no. F-20, from where the brothers operated, became the talk of the town; their sales stretched beyond the limited bounds of Christmas and Easter, and their products were easily the most popular ones in town.
Years passed. The brothers mingled well with the Jewish community of the city, and with their prospering business, emerged among the elites of the community. After the country finally attained its independence, the British left the city in scores. The sales did not go down, though. Solomon and David had achieved iconic status in the city by then, and people- Indians - swore by their plum cakes, macaroons, and lemon tarts, and even the occasional baklava.
The jewel in the crown, though, was the walnut brownie. Wrapped in a thin paper-packet, the brownie was one-of-its-kind in the city. Businessmen, filmstars, sportspeople, politicians, office executives, clerks, students - virtually everyone in the city flocked to F-20 for the walnut brownies of Solomon and David.
Then, one day, Solomon passed away. With their younger brother Isaac now based in Israel, the helm passed on to David. He carried on the good work by their family single-handedly, and trained the younger members of the family in the business. He did not let the crown slip: if anything, he kept on adding more laurels to it.
David felt satisfied with his achievement. He was the happiest when the children came to his shop with their parents. The awed, wide-eyed lot gaped at the displays for an eternity. They had only read about shops made of cakes, candies, and cookies in their European fairy-tale books. They had dreamed of them since they had read about them. And now, they could see it in real, the only difference being that there was no witch anywhere. The sheer joy on their faces was the best award possible, thought David.
Times changed, though. Brownies began to be served in restaurants, often as sizzlers, smeared with hot chocolate sauce. Inexpensive cafes that had sprung up all over the city allowed the customers to sit and talk over coffee and savouries for hours, and it changed a lot of concepts.
Even the city changed its name. And character, to boot.
The price tag of products did not depend on quality alone: packaging and marketing became as important as the quality, and David's business began to suffer. He was still a favourite, though. But now, he had been up against a concept that had been alien to him for decades: competition.
He did not want to change his shop, though. He retained the grandeur of the Raj. He still retained his ancient wooden furniture - as well as the wooden cash-box that has possibly outlived a century. He did not open up franchises all over the city the way his competitors did. He did not even want to air-condition his shop. He sold quality and dreams, and refused to make his products or shop look pretty to increase sales.
With time, David's body could not support his willingness to persist with his shop. The monarch handed over his crown to a member of the fifth generation, Elias. He did not relinquish his other responsibilities, though, heading two synagogues, two schools, multiple charitable institutions, and virtually every Jewish organisation in the city.
David Elias Nahoum passed away a bachelor yesterday, virtually unnoticed. He took a substantial part of my youth with him as he left. I guess that house of candies and cakes has left us forever as well.