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   One of the things that were there in old Bombay and which are not there now is the Coffee House. Sometimes, I acutely feel the absence. (April 15, 1994)

Old-timers like Feroze Marazban, Adi Nari Confectioner and Ramesh Sattawalla will know about it and remember it fondly. But the later generation will have no clue. For its benefit, I will give some details.The India Coffee House, which was the main coffee house, was situated in a large cavern of a place next to the Chicago Radio Building at Kala Ghoda. The place is now occupied by one of the public sector banks. I think it is the Bank of India, though it could be the Bank of Baroda, it makes no difference, they are all the same, over-staffed and under serviced. The India Coffee House had excellent service: waiters in white turbans, looking like Raj servants, scores of tables and cane chairs scattered around, steaming coffee pots, with wadas and cashew nuts, being taken around, a lot of talk, no music, high ceiling fans, no air-conditioning.

Everybody knew everybody: waiters knew customers, customers knew other customers. Mainly there were advertising people, automobile salesmen, insurance agents, but very few journalists or artists, they could not afford coffee.

Though it was not necessary to drink the coffee, you could merely go and sit there and try and do a business deal. I think more cars were bought and sold at the coffee house than in the automobile showrooms on Sandhurst Bridge. It was a place where you made appointments to meet. The flush of pubs that have opened recently, should have taken over this task from the old coffee house. They have not. First of all, the music is too loud and overbearing to discuss business in or even drink seriously.There were two more coffee shops in Churchgate Street (the Akbarally Street), where the Raymonds Store is now, and the place next to it. These were run by Iranis, and, besides coffee, served breakfasts and also light meals. They were sold to Volga and Bistro, two quite decent and even fancy restaurants.

But you know how it is, in that particular neighbourhood no restaurant has succeeded. Though the new Manglorean ones, with their seafood specialties, have suddenly started doing well.Volga was sold to a bank, and Bistro to Raymonds. I do not know anything about the bank but Raymonds, according to me, is the best and most complete men's apparel store in town. When I buy clothes, I buy them there.Round the corner, on the main Flora Fountain frontage, was, till recently Pyrkes, a large and accommodating restaurant that more or less took over from the coffee house. That also has been sold to a bank - Saraswat Cooperative Bank. If you ask me, these days there are more banks to put money in than restaurants and coffee shops sot spend money in.

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