Thursday, 12 February 2009

The Indian Coffee House

Bucking the trend [as the dictionary describes it as -to oppose directly and stubbornly; go against] has always been an eyebrow raiser. Be it a hefty hike in your paycheck when the world goes into recession or a stock hitting a 52 week high when the BSE is making its 52 week low.

Well for me, it’s neither of them. I should be glad if my paycheck stays as it is and as far as my stock portfolio is concerned, the scripts are on a race as to which one reaches zero first.

But life is not only about the sleekest cars or the latest gizmos. There is much to life than this. Some people find solace in gardening while some find it in going for a long drive early in the morning. I have a hobby of reading or writing and over the years have discovered a perfect place where I can laze along for hours and still not get bogged down at all. Coincidently this place happens to be in the heart of the city yet its so untouched by the latest in architecture and cost. Well, lets zero in – it’s the Indian Coffee House at MG Road, Bangalore.

I do not exactly remember when I started visiting the place but once visited I got hooked to it. Though it happens to be in THE place [MG Road], but yet it still maintains the old touch which we value. The way to the first floor of the Coffee House happens to be along a small short lane near the front entrance. This time when I visited it, the place had a feel of an old building; the walls, the stairs and the aroma from the kitchen. How much I loved that place.

The first floor is preferable because its less crowded and if you’re lucky you get the window seat. I have been lucky always. The MG Road promenade when it was there used to send cool breeze early in the morning while you savor the hot coffee along with your favorite novel. This was life for me: away from the chaos of the traffic, earlier in the morning when most of the city is sleeping, while I gain on life and live more.

The walls still have the age old advertisements of the Indian Coffee House. The food is good, the service remarkable. The reason why I loved it all the more is the staff is extremely courteous and understand the needs of a book lover. I have always been accepted with my long hours either reading or writing or at times casually chatting with the staff there. There have been times when I have spent more than a couple of hours having probably just a couple of cups of coffee and was not at all disturbed by the staff.

This time around when I went I had a reason; it was a visit to honour the Indian Coffee House. Yes, you must have also read it, the ICH, MG Road is closing down for good.

Though the promenade is gone, the cool early morning breeze has not, but yes the greenery outside is a thing of the past. Strange as it may sound, I was ushered into my favourite place by the same old ICH staff who has served millions in the decades past. The smile on the face of the old man has not changed, but the hair has changed its hue. The patience with which they carry out their business is still intact. Over the years the furniture has grown old, the uniforms stained, but yet the breakfast maintains its excellent standards. The masala dosa is the best in town, the omlette thin and the coffee masha-allah.

I have visited ICH innumerable number of times, sometimes with friends most of the times alone. And I have loved it more and more. Writing one of my blogs or probably my diaries and sipping coffee or at times just starting out of the window looking at nothing in particular and enjoying the cool early morning breeze… my time has been good in ICH.

What makes this “tribute” visit of mine last weekend all the more nostalgic is the fact that the same old man was there to welcome me, like he had when I first came in there. The smile was still there, I do not know whether he recognized me. Unlike the place, the crowd comes in all ages. I have seen old couples to college going crowd frequent the place. Many of them, like me, do not need the menu card to decide on what to order.

Peeking into the ICH while walking along the MG Road I have seen uncles huddled around a table and having discussions ranging from politics to cricket and consider the ICH as theirs. Yes it is theirs. It has stood there for decades and has grown old with them.
It has weathered the storms just as they have.
It has held meetings right from the time of our independence.
It has been the place when a friend needed a friend.
It has been the place where young couples visit just to hold hands, look each other in the eyes and say sweet nothings.
It has been the place where problems were resolved.
It has also been the place where elderly couples have had a quite time together and relived their past.

It has also been the place where young bulls have had stock discussions. Me and Bhav to be precise.

And now, like all good things in life, its closing down. When I came to know about it I was not sad. I was at peace. I knew I was losing a place so comfortable. I knew there would be no other place like the ICH. I knew that the smiling face of the old man would not be there any more. The long hours of hanging out with a book with continuous supply of coffee would be history. The promenade along MG Road is gone. Now it’s the ICH.

What is the price we pay for development? Ask me, I have lost something irreplaceable. I will always miss the Indian Coffee House at MG Road. Our days are limited, lets give the ICH a grand closure.

While walking out, I said a small thank you to the staff and well, what I then came to know, I could not believe.
Probably, someone has heard our cries.

Probably, the ICH may [and it’s a big may]…