It’s like losing a loved one. It’s like losing a chance to relive a beautiful memory. There will be no once more. No once again too. Reading Mumbai Mirror’s lead story on ‘Cafe Samovar closing down’ filled my heart with a sense of desolation and sadness.
Years ago, when I was planning for a trip to Mumbai, my former boss Ranjona Banerjee wrote on a piece of paper a ‘list of must visits.’ And Cafe Samovar was one of them. It was love first sight. Every time I visited Mumbai, I visited Cafe Samovar. Sometimes when time was a big constraint, I just had a look at it from a distance. It felt like home. Even on my first visit. It can’t be more endearing than this.
In April, 2012, I was in Mumbai to spend some time with my close friends who were visiting India from Melbourne. Apart from our love, affection for each other, nothing worked well in this trip. Mumbai painfully hot, sweaty. People on the streets sapped me of my energy. As if this was not enough, I had some horrible experiences with a person I thought I was close to. We were desperate to get out of Mumbai after two listless days. It was a trip I would like to erase from my memory.
But something saved me. Haruki Murakami and a mug of beer at Samovar soothed my soul on that cruel April day. As I soaked in my solitude on that hot, sweaty afternoon in India’s dream-chasers’ city, I drew a sense of peace and tranquility from Cafe Samovar.
Even as this beautiful Cafe Samovar gets ready to say goodbye this March to its lovers, friends, well-wishers and admirers after being with them for 50 years, I can see the ugly, brutal face of modernization all around us. And it’s going to erase everything tender, beautiful, elegant and minimalist from our landscape. What are we becoming as a city, people and nation? Will there be only masculine brutality all around us?
p.s: Even in the midst of loss, I feel happy today for two reasons: I managed to click these pictures of Cafe Samovar that afternoon. And I bought a beautiful coffee-table book on Cafe Samovar. A friend of mine thought I was crazy to waste my money by buying this book on a ‘cafe.’ But to understand love, you need to have it in you to love. Without calculations.