“What on earth could be more luxurious than a sofa, a book and a cup of coffee?” These words from a novelist, Anthony Trollope, hold true even today in the world of fast-paced technology-savvy individuals. Coffee is not just another beverage; it is a nice conversation starter, a good rejuvenator and a great mood uplifter.
Coffee shops do not just serve good coffee, they are places for intellectual discussions on everything under the sun ranging from politics to economy, social issues to the latest fashion trends. Well, that explains the mushrooming of a number of coffee shop chains across the city. One such dynamic place, the first of its kinds in Lucknow happens to be the Indian Coffee House in Hazratganj, Lucknow. The place has served coffee to many generations in the yesteryears and played host to a number of stimulating, soulful discussions on burning topics through decades.
The place is old and significant enough to be called the heritage hang-out place of Hazratganj. It has been the favourite spot of the commoners as well as Lucknow’s literati since the time of its inception.The Indian Coffee House has always enjoyed the attention of many celebrities.Though it can be said to be trailing in the battle of stiff competition from the multinational coffee chains, it still holds a place in the hearts of true Lucknowites owing to the popularity of the cafeteria being frequented by the intellectual elite of the town. In fact, the place is known to have been a regular hangout of the stalwarts in Politics and Journalism more than the common man.
Indian Coffee House – History
The luxury of a peaceful place for healthy discussions over a cup of coffee was provided by the Indian Coffee House for the first time in the year 1938 in Lucknow. The place was an instant hit with the intellectuals, poets, writers, social-activists, journalists, artists, trade-union leaders, political kingpins, professors, doctors and of course the common people who felt elated to become a part of such a gathering. It was the preferred place for holding important discussions and debates, over several rounds of coffee. The topics for the conversations ranged from politics to the social vices and what all can be done to improve the situation of the state or just simple amiable talk.
There are several stories associated with the Coffee House that make the place all the more interesting. It is said that in the year 1984, the then U.S Ambassador to India, Mr Harry Barnes visited the Coffee House and he reached the place by a rickshaw where as his official car followed him behind.
Another such story as told by old timers is that of the former UP Chief Minister Vir Bahadur Singh, who was also a regular visitor to the Indian Coffee House. It is said that he used to visit the place to know more about the common man and his problems, though this goodwill gesture was seen as ‘stooping down from protocol’ in those times.
Legend has it that the former Indian Prime Minister, Late Chandra Shekhar, used to visit the Indian Coffee House so much so that he had a fixed table there.
The Esteemed Visitors
The Indian Coffee House is believed to have been visited by renowned personalities such as Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru, Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia, Feroze Gandhi, Atal Behari Vajpayee, Acharya Narendra Dev, Vir Bahadur Singh, Amrit Lal Nagar, Bhagwati Charan Verma, Majaz Lakhnawi, and many other intellectuals from different fields. The place, however, is looking for a new lease of life as the changing times and spree of development in Hazratganj has hit the popularity of the place.
Lucknow has always been looked at as a city where culture, traditions and tehzeeb still prevail. Reinstating the spirit of the Coffee House now rests with the Lucknowites who must try to support the cause of reviving the place once again with the same vigour. The Coffee House has given Hazratganj and Lucknow a reason to be known as a place where the intellectuals and wannabe intellectuals got together to discuss the matters of social importance. Now, it is time for the people of Lucknow to ensure that the legacy continues and the Coffee House is revived to regain its lost glory.
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