Wednesday, June 15, 2011

My Coffee House, everybody's Coffee House - The ICH

Till the age of 20 I have loitered in and around the little town of Trivandrum. It is a charming town with beautiful beaches, a wonderful railway station, a bunch of engineering and medical colleges, a not too terrible International Airport, some really good schools and a lot of small way side eateries which is a food lovers delight. But I should warn you that there is no subway where you can spend a lazy afternoon or a mac donalds to take your kid out for a quick snack. Subways, Pizza Huts, Mac Donalds were all a new phenomenon for me once I reached Hyderabad. But there is something very unique to Kerala which I believe is something every malayali is proud of – The Indian Coffee House.

They are spread across the length and breadth of this land. After very long, today I had the fortune of going to an Indian Coffee House. In a fast moving world where I can’t even be sure if a two way road in the morning is one way by evening it filled me with a weird nostalgia and delight how the ICH (Indian Coffee House) hasn’t changed a bit. The chairs were still the same, the uniform of the waiters were still the same white and they still wear the Nehru caps, even the curtain drapes were the same.

For those who don’t know the ICH, let me give you a small description of the place. Each Coffee House looks different, but it does give the feel of a place which has an intellectual air about it with many a guy sitting in a corner stroking his beard and having a Malayalam weekly in his hand. The tables are plain with no fancy mats on them or fancy glasses atop to please the aesthetic. The walls have their special dishes plastered on them which I don’t think has changed ever since inception of the ICH. Anytime of the day, the place is lively with discussion and chatter. One can see crowd of all strata, be it the coolie or the white kutra clad politician or the young college goer, they are all there having their chai and talking.

If all these people are there, you can imagine what the pricing could be. It is damn cheap. Where else can you find a cold coffee for 15 bucks? A masala dosa for 12 bucks? I don’t think that’s quite common, and mind you…its damn tasty, don’t think its some cheap stuff. Ever heard of something called the mutton omelette? That’s their speciality, a well cooked yellow omelette draped around mince fried mutton which can give any non vegetarian a palatal orgasm, and again – damn cheap. A decent tasty meal wouldn’t cost you more than 20 bucks. Ah…ICH, the poor man’s Taj.

True, in my early youth I did not know who Ronald Mac Donald was or what was the latest addition to a Pizza Corner Menu card, but I can say I have had the fortune of having a chai, spending time with a select few friends and munching on the wonderful mutton omelette of The Indian Coffee House. This I believe is an experience no High funda eat street can give you. For me, the ICH holds a very special and fond memory too, during the days when I used to freelance for the Hindu Metro Plus, I did the interview of one of the top college bands in Kerala during those times in a corner of the ICH sipping chai and discussing Heavy Metal. During my Uni-Y days (The university wing of the YMCA) after a heated debate on topics ranging from politics to porn, we would all go to the ICH to have our tummy fill.

There are some things unique to a place, The Indian Coffee House is one experience. You have to be there to know it. Felt good to see that structure still up and alive catering to the common man. Hats off…