Tuesday, September 22, 2009


                                     ( INDIA COFFEE HOUSE, SRINAGAR )

 The  India Coffee House in Srinagar is closed.  Not that coffee is not sold in Srinagar, never do I mean so. We have an ultra-modern coffee outlet near Hotel Broadway exactly in the shops where Sita Travels had their office. Known as Coffea Arabica, this outlet is a destination for a variety of popular middle eastern dishes . This is a wonderful restaurant selling continental dishes more particularly those from the middle east and a variety of hot and cold coffee to its clientele. College students, businessmen, tourists, professionals, government officials, and children from well to do families keep visiting this restaurant. During my posting in Srinagar,  I would also go to this place to sip the excellent coffee or enjoy my favourite Felafel.
 India  Coffee House on Residency Road, Srinagar just opposite to Sri Chand Chinar Temple ( Sri Chand Ji  was a saint and son of  Guru Nanak Dev Ji  )was always crowded with writers, poets, painters, actors, artists, musicians, politicians, journalists, college teachers, strugglers and men from other social groups. So many persons would chat, smoke and sip cheap but excellently brewed coffee served  by smilingly and  ever-busy waiters. You could also order a Dosa or Wada or Idli to relish in between; all within your budget. You could also buy coffee seeds. The staff from south India was humble and agile. Service was prompt. Mr M. L.  Channa, the manager was also friendly and a  local person from Srinagar city. 

 Here in this coffee house, did Ali Mohd lone conceive  plots for some of his popular radio plays sipping coffee in the company of his friends and fellow writers. The noted writer Akhtar Mohi ud Din, Prof Sattar Ahmed Shahid, Prof. Surrinder Tikoo, actor Trilok Dass ,
actor Omkar Aima ( whenever in Kashmir ),  artist G. R. Santosh ( whenever in Kashmir ), Shafi Shaida ( poet politician ), Abdul Majeed Baba ( businessman ), Zaffar Meraj ( journalist ),  Waheed Raina ( industrialist and political activist ), Shamim Ahmed Shamim ( journalist and   MP  ), Mohammad Syed Malik ( journalist, whenever in Kashmir ), Mr Bhardwaj ( journalist  Hindustan Times  ), Capt. S K Tikoo, artist  Bansi Parimu, Mr Bhaskar ( UNI ), Mr Sunder Dev Sanyal ( dancer ) and many more known persons would sit together for gossip or serious discussion  over a cup of hot coffee.

Capt. S K Tikoo, a regular visitor to the  Srinagar Coffee House  told me this :-

" M F Husain was always looking for his friend and fellow artist  Bansi Parimu as and when he entered India Coffee House, Residency Road,  Srinagar. He  would be seen  around Coffee House as and when he visited Srinagar during summers.  ." Array Captain,   Bansi nahin aaya abhi"  or " O Captain! hasn't Bansi come yet ? ". This is how we started our conversation inside the  India Coffee  House, Srinagar. He had many issues to talk to Bansi Parimu. He disliked sitting in the hall. He disliked sitting In any gossip Mehfil. May be for  the cigarette smoke or noise. Can't say the reason but he disliked it. He would pull me out from a gathering inside and say, ‘ Captain balcony pe chalte hain. Neeche ka nazaara bhi dekhenge. Tum se baat karne mein maza aata hai. Bahut ho gayi art aur culture ki baat ‘ or  ‘ Come captain , let us go to the balcony . Let us look to the road below .    I enjoy talking to you . Enough of these discussions on art and culture now .’  And he would ask so many questions and seek  replies. One day,  he suddenly told me, " captain zara paper lao ”. I went inside and brought a cigarette wrapper. He didn't like and asked for paper. I went to Mr Chana , the manager and he gave me a letterhead of the  India Coffee House.  I went to  Husain  but he said, " No, no yeh nahin bhai ”.   Then I tore the portion that had India Coffee House written on it and went back to him. He was waiting and said, ‘Okay, okay’. He then signed on it  in Urdu, Hindi and English and put date and place . ‘Yeh sanbhaalo’.I thanked him for the unique gift. I lost that precious gift in the blaze and destruction to my  Srinagar house by some  miscreants ."

Dr Farroq Abdullah once dropped in smilingly with friends and looking to someone seated in the central table in the hall cried,  ‘ How are you roll number 7 ?’ The man was his college friend Mr Bira from Rainawari. Mr Bira worked for Sita Travels and lived in Jogilanker area.

 M K Raina , a well known  theatre personality ( whenever in Kashmir ) and the restless Safdar Hashmi did also frequent this coffee house. Incidentally, Safdar was teaching English in Kashmir university for some time probably in 1978 and he was known to me through my friend Tej Dhar ( son of Prof. A. N. Dhar  ). He would also come to the bank and sit for some time with us. Safdar was singular in his beliefs and behaviour. He smoked nonstop, wore heavy spectacles, put on a long Kurta over jeans or bell bottoms. He read Camus, Kafka and Faiz and directed some plays at  Tagore Hall, Srinagar; One being ‘Woyzek’ wherein Prof Raman’s family ( English Department, Kashmir University ) also acted. Aloke Aima, son of Onkar Aima and nephew of Mohan Lal Aima played the lead character in this play. Alas, this bubbling Safdar died in trade union violence  in NCR,  Delhi during the performance his  Play 'Halla Bol' later .

 I have been visiting this coffee house since our college days. During those days, quite often, I would see Pervaiz Qureshi, the dashingly cricketer standing at the balcony of the coffee house and looking at the hustle and bustle of the Residency Road below. Alas ! this young man died in a tragic road accident near the Zero bridge in Srinagar  while driving his new motor bicycle. Pervaiz was a heartthrob of many girls from women’s college ,Srinagar at that time.

Where is our coffee house? Pity! at the moment converted to shop selling readymade garment and all other household goods.

 ( Avtar Mota....  Srinagar 2009 )



  1. Are you sure you are not confusing Pervaiz Qureshi. I know one Mr. Qureshi who used to be Captain of Kashmir Cricket team and lives in Jammu now.

  2. I am Sure .Must be some other person whom you know..


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