Today, after some meetings in CP, I went in search of a restaurant I had have heard about — the Indian Coffee House. After asking directions a handful of times and a few reckless street crossings, I found myself in front of a big, municipal looking building called Mohan Singh Place and went inside. It was dark and drab, with a few stores in the hallways. I went up two flights of stairs and found myself facing a sign for the “Coffee Home”.
Upon entering the restaurant, I decided it might be nice to eat outside (as much as I am currently obsessed with this place, the inside is a little drab and depressing), and found myself sitting at a table in the middle of a huge rooftop, looking at the cheapest menu I have seen since many years — and that’s saying a lot.
Between ordering and when our food came, I was approached by a girl who looked to be around the same age as of mine, asking if she could talk — thus I met my new friend Sneha, a film student who is making a documentary about the Indian Coffee House. She told me a lot about what makes it so interesting: it is one of the few places in Delhi where people can come, sit and just hang out, I can attest that this is true — it is supremely hard to find a place where you can study or socialize without feeling pressured to buy more coffee or feeling the weight of people staring at you for loitering at a table for too long. She called it “a place for misfits”. In all the years it has been open, it has been a gathering place for the less-mainstream members of societies — it is particularly notorious for being the site where several anti-government actions have been planned. Even its existence is something of an anomaly. Originally opened by the Indian Coffee Board and in 1950 they decided to shut it down. Rather than let it fade into dust, the workers of the coffee board started a movement that resulted in the board allowing these workers to continue to own and operate the coffee houses, which were open in several locations around India at the time. Today, all of the coffee houses around India are run as co-operative societies.
The food was great, made even better by the fact that I paid just a little for a full lunch and two coffees. Just hanging out there and talking for a while was great too — I even watched a monkey stalking around the rooftop for a while. Unfortunately for our new friend, he found the juice on their table particularly enticing — when he found that he couldn’t sip out of the cups, though, he proceeded to spill them and lap the juice up off of the table. They couldn’t even rescue their notebooks, documentary supplies etc. off of the table, as the monkey glared viciously at them when they tried to approach.
Drinking cup number one:
Spilling cup number two:
All in all, a fantastic find and definitely worth a revisit (or 20) over the course of time.