Loosened ties, torn pockets, dirty shirt and withered coat would be the best way to describe my daily school live in Allahabad city. A student of class ninth, the age was perfect when you start tasting a bit of freedom from home. More than the hormonal change, little facial hair and sudden change of voice, what made me grow was a company of friends which taught me a lot of things to cherish.
Prayagraj, which I still love to call Allahabad as it brings me back to the lanes I’ve walked, is a city Sangam and Kumbh Mela. Apart from all the religious places, the city also holds a history of the era of freedom struggle against the mighty British Empire. With a lot of buildings inspired by the Victorian era, Allahabad smells both like, a sophisticated cup of coffee and a playful pyala of chai.
Now as I talk about coffee and tea, mixing it with my misadventures as a guy growing up have been stitched together as short stories I love telling people. Like every other kid, school times have been the best years of my little life. The chemistry lab romance, frequent punishments and school bunk. Bunking school isn’t a good idea but when I think about it now as a grown up, I think I lived a colourful life.
Bunk stories are always associated with Addas (hangout spots) and two of my favourite ones would be the Indian coffee house and a small tea and samosa shop behind Samrat Hotel. Both have contrasting differences but are situated at the same place, Mahatma Gandhi Road, Civil Lines.
Indian coffee house has stood the test of time since the British era, serving frothy filter coffee to its customers. It is one of the 400 coffee shops under this chain. Established in the 60s, the Indian coffee house in Allahabad has entertained poets like Firaq Gorakhpuria and Harivansh Rai Bachchan including many more. Politicians like Lal Bahadur Shastri and Nehru Ji have also been a part of this community. Indian Coffee house was a place which the Indians would consider going and do what Goras Sahibs (British officers) would do, enjoy the locally brewed coffee and debate on intellectual topics for the benefit of this country.
In my era though, we would sit around the tables of this historic place and discuss what we had to do in our futures and debate about current topics while sipping on our favorite cup of joe. The uniformed butlers and the quick service is an add on to this intellectual adda.
Talking about the menu, Indian coffee house is famous for its south Indian filter coffee and Butter masala dosa which simply melts in your mouth. The famous potato cutlet and cold ice-cream cold coffee is another must have.
Shifting the focus from an intellectual hangout to a more disarranged chaos of happiness would be a small little samosa shop behind the Hotel Samrat near the Indian coffee house. I still don’t remember the name of the place but one would somehow find himself there when you enter the civil lines market. A shop tucked in a corner serves delicious samosas but I would rather prefer chola samosa. Hot, mouth warming piece off delight broken into pieces with masala chola(chickpea curry) on top with tamarind and mint chutney takes ones breath away. Unlike the Indian coffee house, this place is where you would sit and chatter about your school life dramas and crushes, heartbreaks and love affairs while toking on a cigarette. Many like me did try their first Marlboro at this little place, trying to walk straight after a puff.
So I leave it up to you to decide whether go for a cup of coffee, really good dosa with mindful discussions or a Kulhad chai some samosas and the bro code. Both are worth it.