Breaking News
Melange

A Boy we met in a Coffee House at Connaught Place

NOSTALGIA:

Bhaskar Phukan

A chain of coffee Houses existed all over the country by the brand name, Indian Coffee House, during the early seventies and a number of them were doing brisk business in various parts of Delhi. There were three in the Delhi University Campus alone. With pure original grounded coffee and original tasting South Indian items like Dosa, Vada, Idli and also Omelette with toast at very affordable rates, these eateries were best suited for the pockets of students who had very little purchasing power.
As for me, the Rs 200 I received from home had to cover my mess dues that used to take more than half or the amount and I had to make do with the remaining amount to meet my pocket expenses and also the cost of required stationery items and unavoidable expenses, like bus fares and snacks in between meals at the mess.
My close friend Haren Buragohain (Harry) had a great fascination for the famous and fashionable shopping areas in New Delhi called Connaught Place or Connaught Circus, very conveniently referred to as CP. Purchasing anything from the fashionable shops located in this area was out of question for us and most of the restaurants in the area were beyond our affordable limit.
After a long bus ride from Maurice Nagar in the University, now known as north Campus, and after an aimless and direction-less stroll around circular passages around CP, our destination as usual was the Indian Coffee House near the Central Park because it was the only place that suited our purse. The park and the Coffee House, however, are no longer in existence. The park has given way to present Palika Bazaar and the sprawling area covered by the Coffee House has been replaced with a mammoth high-rise structure.
This Indian Coffee House located in the most central location of New Delhi attracted all cross sections of people. Office goers usually had their mid-day tiffin along with a cup of coffee; tourists too made it a point to visit the place, considering its convenient location, superior food quality and reasonable price. Not surprisingly, the Coffee House was also a regular meeting place of student leaders, politicians, artists, theatre persons and sportspersons alike.
It was during our visits to the Coffee House that we had the opportunity of being in a crowd that comprised many famous persons; some we had the occasion and opportunity of getting introduced to and had the opportunity to interact with while sharing a table with them.
Harry, my friend, was feeling a little rich on that particular day with the receipt of an additional money order from his uncle on the occasion of his birthday and he was generous enough to treat me to a film show in one of the expensive theatres in CP. I remember the film too. It was Patton – the film made on the life of the legendary Army General from the United States Army, George Smith Patton. It was late afternoon when the film show ended and CP was still quite bright under the Delhi summer sun. Feeling little grubby, we headed straight for the Coffee House at CP to have a Dosa and Coffee each. The place was crowded but with Harry around, a person who could befriend a stranger in a matter of moments, we managed to pull up two vacant chairs and joined a group in a table with their permission. In the meantime, the persons we were sharing the table with left after paying the bill and two youngsters almost of our age joined us with our permission.
One of the two newcomers who joined us looked like the one whom we had seen playing for Bombay University as an opening batsman and who had scored 212 runs to snatch victory for his team from Osmania University Hyderabad in the finals of the Duleep Trophy – a match that we had watched in the Delhi University Cricket ground a few days earlier. To make sure, I asked him if I was correct in recognizing him and correct I was!
This young Marathi boy, Sunil Manohar Gavaskar, was a student of Bombay University, who till then played for his State in the Ranji Trophy. He was inducted into the Indian Cricket team two years later and the remaining part of his story is as glorious for the cricketer as it is for history of Indian cricket.

About the author

Ankur Kalita