Don't you love those addas in front of college and office, right next to the cigarette and bidi-walla? Those endless conversations and milky, sweet, not too hot coffee? I love the whole picture that you get to frame before you. The tea/coffee cup, plastic/paper, friends/colleagues around you, the wafting sharp scent of a Kings mild or whatever other brands of cigarettes there are, the little bottles of cheap sweets kept in a row, then the pan leaves, the gutka packets, the conversations. Isn't it lovely to have an adda to yourself, for the shopkeeper to recognise you and throw in his bit into the conversation, to give you a little personalised coffee with lesser sugar and more decoction?
Those college days and the dingy canteen and endless cups of coffee over which we discussed the way we would change the world... I almost break out into giggles, thinking of how naive we all were. Life does make you wiser, whether you like to or not. And more practical. And dull. There was an adda then. Back in those Express days, when there were still some vestiges of hope that we could change a few people, we had those addas, the dingy canteen again. And by-two coffee, endless of those.
Over a year now, wiser, older, the adda, albeit a newer one, remains. In a little corner when you turn to the Rest House Crescent Road, a little cubicle. I do not quite remember which of us discovered it. The owner waves at me every time I pass by, talking in English, Kannada and Hindi, in turns. He makes the best sulaiman chai, strong and very sweet. And some masala chai, heaven for a sore throat. There is the normal tea too. And some delicious biscuits and something called a dil-pasand, a crispy thing with sweet coconut stuffing.
Friends and I balance the chai and pieces of snacks and sit below the awning of a shop nearby. Behind is the glossy perfumes and make up and lotions in bottles, all shapes and sizes. We all seem wiser, at least the innocence of life is gone. We are all out there to survive alone. The conversations mirror it too, about travelling, movies, books, wanting to do "something", and then walking up to the routine after all that.
Those are to me the best moments, a few minutes of bonding; friendships are built, a little bit of life is built, everyday, around those favourite addas. And then again, routine disrupts it all. On another rainy day, the absolute need for these snatches of life come gushing in with the evening breeze, with tiny wisps of the monsoon rain. A song. Yet another memory.
Edit: A friend, Soumya, reminded me of Gulabi-akka who used to have a little tea shop bang opposite my university bus stand. I never went there. The guys from the boys hostel always hung around there. Gulabi-akka was very famous and her many stories I have heard. I had almost forgotten about her. Thanks Soumya!