Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Breakfast at Koshy's

The atmosphere is the same, mostly the easy negligence of old money. Silver sugar bowls flung casually together with cheap steel ashtrays that even truck-stops would disdain now that they drive Volvos rather than Ashok Leyland lorries. Some tables have neat tablecloths, others are weird Formica. The coffee pots are polished to perfection, the coffee cups are indifferent china. The coffee as always is the best I've ever had.

The same waiters as well, looking exactly the same though years have passed, and consistently of the old school – they do not ask how you're doing, whether you'd like the specials or if you're enjoying the food, they just give you what you need quietly, courteously and without fuss.

The mince on toast – in fact, the whole eccentric menu – is wonderfully unchanged. The legend on their napkins says that their business is food but Koshy's is and has always been a hub, a facilitator. Decades of serving artists, journalists, theatre groups, writers, new love, break-ups, teachers, students and angst-ridden Marxist believers have accustomed the staff to all sorts of special requests. So when I asked a busboy if he would buy me a pen and notepad from the newsstand across the street, he didn't even blink. It may be the only restaurant in the world where the smoking section is larger than the non-smoking. It's certainly the only one I've seen where the swank part has a notice on the door saying "Use of laptops prohibited here".

I got a coveted window table by dint of watching it like a hawk from an inferior one close by and leaping like a salmon as soon as it was vacated. I was actually surprised when someone left. They tended to squat for weeks.

As usual it was full of familiar faces but none of them resolved into names. I know that my brother or friend would have recognised and been recognised by at least half the lunch clientele. They would have had to make a sort of victory lap before they got to their table, if they ever did. Momentarily I had the old familiar feeling of being just a spectator on the sidelines of Bangalore's interesting life. But then I noted with the pettiest pride and pleasure that while I am still the girl in the corner with a book, I am no longer invisible. People turn to look. Certain male people were clearly wondering what life was like for the sort of guys who could go up and talk to a girl just like that. Age is a wonderful thing. Or maybe it was the grey contact lenses. Whatever. I'll take all the help I can get.

Finally the thing about Koshy's is that the first time I came here I was a toddler who needed the high chair stacked in the corner. I have vague memories from the monkey years of my brother and I ruining my parents' leisurely Sunday mornings here, of scrambled eggs and sausages, appam and stew. Neither they nor Koshy's have changed since. The bad paintings though have been replaced by framed photographs of old Bangalore, which I guess is in keeping with the prevailing mood among old Bangaloreans. Koshy's today is a fall-out shelter in a time when very little is left of the city we grew up in, and the rest belongs to America.

Breakfast at Tiffany's, Deep Blue Something, Album: Home, 1994

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

.. brings in a great deal of nostalgia at this end of the world too.. not sure if you already planned to, but, would you be able to post some photographs of what remains of Bangalore and it's old getaways like Koshy's?

Anonymous said...

bangalore is such a hellhole

on that at least we can all agree!

Extra No1 said...

Wow! it brings me warmth to know such simplicity still exists. Good luck to them and you before America takes over all.

Ajay said...

I always thought Koshy's was over rated by the arty farty types.

Sue said...

Koshy's is Koshy's. It isn't rated.... :D

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