Indian Coffee House
Yesterday I went to MG Road to watch a movie, but reached there at the wrong time, as always. So I Just roamed around, went to Higginbothoms, bought the book Ka by Roberto Calasso, translated from Italian by Tim Parks. The book boasts of reviews saying that it is "The very best book about Hindu Mythology that anyone has ever written" and "No contemporary Indian writer would be able to match such erudition and originality as Calasso displays...." and so on. Fortunately, they are not saying that the book is greater than Indian mythology itself.
Later I went to Indian Coffee House and had my brunch, came back home and watched a movie Mazhavil Kavati.
It was around five years ago that first time I visited Indian Coffee House in MG Road. I was surprised to see the inside of the restaurant then. With its blue and red painted walls, old photographs and advertisements of Coffee Board, old tables and chairs, fans etc., it looked like an odd man out of the other shops in MG Road, which are generally posh looking.
The small tables and chairs are kept like an arrangement made of playing cards. If one person sitting at one end of a row in the hall moves his chair a little bit, it initiates a wave that reflects in the other end of the row very soon. In between this, the waiters move around with "Catch me if you can" attitude. They always look angry or sad. They wear a kind of uniform taken from the period of Rajas, but only thing is that it is rarely washed. The uniform and their shoes are really pathetic - they are torn all over and have marks of charcoal in almost every inch of it. Why is it that they have to appear like this always? Is it because they cant afford to have a clean and decent dress?
At one corner of the hall, there is the wash basin. A small piece of paper with the word "Hand Wash" written on it is pasted above the basin. It even has a downward arrow mark on it to direct customers to the basin. From that place we can have a peep into the kitchen of the restaurant which wont be very impressive. One day I learned a lesson that we should not drink plain water from Indian Coffee House. I asked for water, and was casually tracing the waiter's path. I saw him taking the half filled glass of water from some other table which some other customer had left, he filled it and gave it to me. It is not that I am expecting all other hotels to be very much different; but at least the unclean habits would remain behind the doors in most of the hotels.
Still, I go to Indian Coffee House very often and take Masala Dosa and coffee from there. Coffee tastes very different, somewhat like a herbal medicine. Probably that is the real taste of coffee. Masala Dosa is very homely - it is not very oily and we don't have to wash our hands with soap after eating it.
Probably Indian Coffee House is a miniature of the big Indian Government Establishment: Rules and instructions that are never really intended to be taken seriously, underpaid employees who are least interested in their duty, customers belonging to a myriad of cultures. There is the saffron clad bearded person looking like straight from medieval ages. There is the girl with flowing shampooed hair chattering nonstop, dressed up in skimpy outfit, representing the latest MTV culture, along with her boyfriend sitting gleefully in front of her, picking up the pearls falling from her mouth. There are the software engineers like me, who live in their own cocoons. There are the retired people, who sit in ICH for long time, reading a newspaper. And there is the brown and white photograph of the young girl displayed in front of the cashier's desk, which has a note saying: "Indian Coffee: The secret behind my charming smile!".