A cafe called memoirs   Leave a comment

Memories manifest a road longer than the road itself

For the second time in a week I ventured to the Southern part of Bombay, albeit this time the trip was for official purposes and I was certainly not amused when it got rescheduled right after crossing the famous Worli sea link. There was no turning back, not on this stretch at least. Like a phase of life we need to cross even when we wish did not have to, I needed to cross the sea link though for the lack of a “U” turn. There was just no turning back at this moment in time. And just as life gives us opportunities to take a turn, to make a choice I had my opportunity a little later. It was time to decide if I wanted to go through with what was dished out to me or to change route. I decided to see what was in store for me. I was not going to take the next available “U” turn and be grumpy about how a waste of drive these 20 kilometers were, I was going to use this as an opportunity to explore and experience one of my favorite cafes in South Bombay. This café held and boxed in so many memories. They were countless trips I had made to this place, with a varied set of friends often, giving me varied memories. Just the mention of Mondys brings a smile to my face. A smile that comes from the countless memories that played like a flashback reel in my mind. Secretly I knew another reason for this extended journey was contributed to one of my favorite musicians Karsh Kale playing at the Asiatic steps in the evening. These two things kept me going the extra mile, literally. Though he was scheduled for playing late in the evening I knew my café would keep me company until that time. Like a light in times of adversity

To my mind the idea of adventuring like this was embedded in my sub conscious four days back when I visited this very cafe with a friend after spending a long tiring day capturing the essence of the Kala Ghoda festival. Over some chilled beer I noticed a very pretty girl who looked like she was stopping back from work, she sat there all by herself having beer and chicken occasionally , stepping out for a smoke. It looked like she was giving herself a much wanted break from the crazy corporate life most of us live. We all need that break. How many of us actually took it? I know I certainly don’t almost as certainly as that many do as well. What caught my attention was her confidence in being by herself and more importantly content about it for she definitely did not seem to miss company. I guess that was the time the idea cemented and created space in my head. And I wondered what it would be like to be in a place especially like this, buzzing with people and watching the world go by. Less did I know that I had sowed the seeds of this idea to come to reality in a matter of just four days

I decided to do something I had only hoped for and spoken about so long but never implemented. The decision to drive to south Bombay and spend the day with just myself seemed intriguing scary and pretty at the same time. This had been just wishful thinking for such a long time and no concrete plan to action it. But we sow the seed of our actions today in thoughts of yesterday

With my wishful idea in mind I drove further down and headed all the way to Café Mondegar, which by the day serves chai and pao. Strategically placed in the midst of street shopping comprising of goods which defined authentic Bombay and ranged from clothes to jewelry to bags to Kolhapuri chappals to books and antique items, to name a few. As a result it was a certain stop for tourists. Mondys which is usually buzzing and has a long wait queue in the evening now had a choice of tables to pick from. So I picked, the only table near the long window that was overlooking the street. But then I was told it was reserved for Baba. I smilingly asked “Who is Baba?” I got a good naturedly response “the owner”. I laughed and took the next best table which was right next to it. So I had three fourths of the view. And that was enough. After all it was not my first or last trip to the place, so I was familiar with the view

And just like that I settled in and looked out the window I could see the colorful street with loads of pretty jewelry hanging from dust and rusted coated chains. Soon there would be women across all age groups and across cultures bargaining and haggling over them. This was a sight so familiar and experienced. These jewels that hung on the streets had a different appeal to them when one saw them on the necks teamed with fancy branded clothes shoes and bags. Or even just a casual kurti. I was not aware of a woman who did not own at least one piece from this street. I personally owned quite a few accessories from all the trips here

The tables were filling up and as always with the most inconsistent crowd of people gathered, the jukebox continued to play songs which were almost the same collection of songs I had heard since my first visit here about two decades back. I point to songs but in reality nothing about this place had changed. The ambiance, the décor, the paintings on the wall were all the same, but maintained never the less. I guess people visiting did not change much either. After all I was coming here for as long as I can remember

As I moved my attention away from the window and scuffled through the menu and after much contemplation ordered the chai and toast (I did not have courage to order a beer so early in the morning, for fear of being judged I guess) wondering and planning in my head how I wanted to spend the day today. But I was at a loss. I did not know what I wanted to accomplish. And when one does not know what they want to accomplish, how does one plan for something like that. Play it by the ear I decided. Do as I wish without having to consult and for now this is where I was

I got comfortable and came my all time companion- A book

As my chai arrived I was cozier with feet plonked up and eyes glued to the book a soft familiar music played on in the background. And just like that some time passed by peacefully like a river flowing on a calm morning

I sporadically sipped my chai and looked out the window again. The predicted women visitors were trying on the pieces while deciding which they fancied the most. I could remember all the times that I had done the same so often, haggling on the price and always feeling cheated. That’s the byproduct of haggling

There were no targeted thoughts coming to my mind, I sat taking in the scene from outside. People walked by. Cars taxis buses trucks honked to make their presence felt. And just like that life moved on in so many ways. I was sitting here stationary and life still moved. And so many times in a non stationary manner

People went about their lives as this Saturday morning crept towards the afternoon. And just like that my attention went to the vacant table that still awaited Baba while the other tables were amidst some interesting conversations. And may I dare say some very interesting food too.  And some tables with beer. Then why had I ordered something so platitudinous I wondered. Sigh

I have time. In that moment my attention moved to feel the experience and not the event. Like the music drifting in the background I drifted somewhere in my past. From the septillion times I visited this place sporadically with different set of friends sharing a chat and some laughter over some beers, juice or chicken, unknowingly creating memories for a future that is called today. Reminiscing about the days gone by where the worry in life was attendance and scores in an exam paper and not career or life. Words like judging did not exist in the dictionary we had built in our heads. I am certain we like all college kids, were a boisterous lot too. And this cafe had seen much of that. It was like a little magic box that held septillion memories carved beautifully in the reams of our minds along journey of our life for life

Those were the days when we never wondered what others were thinking of us. Life was simple uncomplicated and pretty in almost all the ways. It gave us the hope to dream and our dreams coming true. Though we all have dreams until we breathe, the dissimilarity being lesser time to fulfill those dreams

With all this in my mind I realized that for once even though I sat all by myself I was at ease and disconcerned with opinions being formed by people around, or may be that just a concoction of our own minds

As these multiple thoughts were drifting through my mind I saw a group of college students much like how I used to be here and it made me wonder about today. Had I ever anticipated that sitting here on a day like this looking back at such small occurrences of my life and understanding it with a whole different meaning. It would be difficult to say what I would think of this experience in future, but as of now I was content with myself and what life had to offer to me

And this I mean in a metaphorical manner. I guess life took its turns and landed me here. Today this is my Memphis and that’s how I got to Memphis

P.S. I still did not see the mysteries Baba. I am certain there will be another time for that


Posted February 25, 2016 by nidhi khanna in Uncategorized

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