Old coffee, new charm
The iconic Bangalore coffee house returns amid mixed reactions
The attendants usher curious onlookers with a smile and confirm that this is indeed the same Indian Coffee House (ICH) that closed on 5 April on MG Road, Bangalore.
Back again: Indian Coffe House reopened to a full house. Hemant Mishra / Mint
The Bangalore institution has now reopened on the ground floor of Church Street’s Brigade Gardens (the same building that houses the Mint office, so you know where I’m spending all my time).
The new ICH, with its brightly painted walls and large windows, is dramatically different from the 52-year-old outlet, previously housed in a 70-year-old building.
But not everything has changed. The menu’s the same and so are the old waiters in their white and red uniforms and matching turbans. The posters of old Coffee Board advertisements still adorn the walls.
After the MG Road outlet shut down, the workers, who are part of the Indian Coffee Workers’ Cooperative Society, decided to open shop on Avenue Road (where they used to have an outlet). But they knew an Avenue Road outlet, located around 4km away, might not attract even the most loyal customers. “We had several people asking us if we could find space in the same locality,” says K.U. Nagaraj, 43, who has been working as a cashier for the ICH for 19 years.
It was this sentiment that prompted them to pick Church Street, barely half a kilometre from their original location.
The new space is much smaller and has just 16 tables, while the earlier one had 30 tables spread over two floors. “We are also paying a rent of over Rs1 lakh whereas we used to pay just Rs13,000 for the old space. We hope that business does well,” says Nagaraj.
At MG Road, there was ample space and charcoal ovens were used for cooking. “Now we have limited kitchen space, so we’ve had to switch to LPG stoves and that will surely change the taste of the food,” says B.V. Ramachandra, who has worked as a waiter at ICH for 27 years. “But we are trying our best to make sure that everything else remains the same,” he adds.
Some die-hards, of course, say it will never be the same.
Prof. Raghupathy, who heads the department of economics at VV Puram College of Arts and Commerce, Bangalore, has been visiting the coffee house for 30 years. “Over the years it has been the only affordable place in this area. I used to sip coffee, eat bread and omelette and look at the promenade on the other side of MG Road.” But the elegance of the ICH, he says, went away once the promenade made way for Metro rail construction. “I will come here (to the new place) because it’s affordable and centrally located,” says Raghupathy.
Even though the new venue lacks that old world charm, ICH was full on Day 1 (24 May). “It’s just so convenient and affordable. They have the best scrambled eggs on toast priced at Rs28. Why would I not come here?” asks Madhur Kamat, who works at an IT firm down the road. At present, masala dosa is priced at Rs29, vegetable cutlet is Rs16 and a cup of coffee, Rs9—ICH plans to revise prices from Sunday.
The branch at Avenue Road will open soon too, but for now ICH will function from 8.30am-8.30 pm on all days at Church Street.
— Pavitra Jayaraman
A new tackle
A talented and spirited group is preparing to take Indian women’s rugby international
Loud cheers, groans, sweat and blood are not uncommon in rugby. But when women play the game, there’s another element too.
At a recent game in Mumbai, tears of frustration over not making it to the international arena mingled with tears of joy for teammates who did make the cut. But there were no tears of pain when the girls—aged 14-23—walked out of the brutal arena. Only hopeful smiles, and pride at having been part of India’s first national rugby competition for women.
Teamwork: Pune 2 battles it out with Jungle Crows (in green).
The atmosphere at the all-India women’s seven-a-side tournament, held at the Bombay Gymkhana last week, was electric. The tournament featured teams from seven states, including Orissa, Maharashtra, Kerala and Jammu and Kashmir. On 24 May, the final match was played between Pune 2 and Jungle Crows (an NGO team from Kolkata) with Nasir Hussain, captain of the men’s national rugby team, as referee. On show was a heady combination of youth, talent and adrenalin. The Pune team emerged the winner.
For the Indian Rugby Football Union, popularly known as Rugby India, it’s a proud moment. “We had only three days to train them, and look how well they’re doing,” says Aga Hussain, vice-president, Rugby India. “It’s a liberation of women.”
Khushnaz Jogi, 14, of Pune 2, all sweat and tears after consoling a friend who couldn’t play on the day her team won the final because of an injury, told us she learnt rugby in half an hour after being introduced to the game in school recently.
Greg Davey, development manager, Rugby India, is stunned and excited at the ease with which the girls took to the game.
Rugby is one of the fastest growing team sports in India and it was only natural for Rugby India to bring in women. “They are like sponges, and stunning athletes,” Davey says. He hopes women’s rugby will soon become a Commonwealth Games sport.
The girls in the competing teams have been members of various other sports teams, such as those of badminton, kho kho and football, and most started training for rugby only a few weeks ago. But their confidence levels are high. “Rugby means do or die, so why should we be afraid of getting hurt? Hum marenge thodi (It’s not going to kill us),” says 15-year-old Sajda Yussuf from Srinagar.
The Jammu and Kashmir team’s practice suffered because of the recent general election. The team didn’t win any match, but Yussuf and her teammates are determined to win it the next time. For now, they’ll visit EsselWorld and go back home.
The most anticipated moment in the tournament came when the names of the 24 girls chosen for the first shortlist for a national squad were announced.
Quite a few members of the winning Pune team were on that first list and the Pune coach, Shurut Khare, was ecstatic. His short victory speech made a fierce point: “Anyone who has the guts to enter a rugby field is a champion.”
Twelve of the 24 players have been shortlisted for the first India team. The India squad is competing in the Asian women’s seven-a-side tournament, being played Saturday and Sunday in Pattaya, Thailand. This will be the first international exposure in rugby for these girls.
— Rachana Nakra