PRITHVI CAFE, MUMBAI
You’ve finally been able to come to Mumbai and you know you’re gonna pay your religious visit to Prithvi. If the day permits, you might even drop by the chic and artsy street markets. It’s pouring outside, but that’s not out of the ordinary when in Mumbai. After struggling for 10 minutes, thanks to your umbrella for being your shield; a rickshawala agrees to take you to Juhu. You get down outside Janki Kutir society, pay your rickshawala and walk the rest of the way in. Until about five minutes ago, the traffic of Mumbai was giving you a headache and now as you walk in, the noise is slowly fading away. A right turn and you can see people smoking their sutta right at the entry, you walk into the foyer. To your right, you can see a vacant spot in between a couple on either side, a few quick strides and you get the spot on the granite platform. Of course, you wanna go order your favorite kadak cutting chai and bun maska but you also don’t wanna lose the spot. Looking over the half wall which divides and also connects the foyer with the cafe, you spot a vacant seat around the tree. Convincing yourself, you finally go to the counter and place your order while keeping an eye on your spot. Needless to say, when you receive your tea in a glass of cutting chai, you know this save your spot game was totally worth it.
The steam teasing your nose as you take a sip of the hot liquid in your hand. Finally sitting in peace, you look around enjoying your bun maska. You are lost in the beautiful pendant lights hung from the steel sections when you hear a loud laugh. You turn around and suddenly you notice how beautiful this is. Families laughing while plate after plate of mouth-watering food arrives at their table, a young couple is sitting right opposite you; completely lost in each other’s conversations while sharing an ice tea, on the table to your left is a group of friends who can’t stop cracking jokes on one another; they seem to have met after a long time. Coming to Prithvi isn’t just about the food or its surprisingly not so expensive rate. It’s about the feeling that the air at Prithvi is filled with happy and welcoming vibes, it’s about spotting people from all backgrounds while enjoying the same masala Thumbs up as you, it’s about noticing people dressed in their finest and also in cartoon printed payjamas, it’s about being surrounded by a crowd and yet feeling nothing short of calmness and peace. Prithvi isn’t just a place, it’s a feeling.
2. GANGTOK, SIKKIM
Set within the eastern Himalayas is a city that has my heart. Not just because there are no words that can describe its beguiling effect on a human but also because of all the people I met there. When I decided to spend four months of my life in Gangtok, I didn’t quite believe the phrase; “only when you get lost, can you find yourself” as much as I do now. But well, what is life if not something that changes its definition every moment. A seven-hour drive along a spiral road to reach the city where you can wake up every day to the view of the Kangchenjunga. A city that sleeps at 8 but asserts that you keep dreaming even before that. I don’t know at what point in my life did God decide to knock some brains into me which caused me to go to Gangtok, but I’ve never been more thankful for my stars. Every day, for four months I brushed my teeth to the view of clouds rising above a mountain valley. The climate was cold, but people so warm.
We were a bunch of students staying together in a two-bedroom kitchen and fifteen minutes away from our house in another two-bedroom apartment, stayed some other students. With time and with the memories we made, I grew to adore and love these human beings. There were mornings when the first sip of coffee in my warm blanket was accompanied by a soothing voice and thin fingers playing their magic on the guitar strings in the next room. Then there were those mornings when I’d be rushing and the smell of fresh doughnuts from the bakery down the street would slow me down. Even if I spent more than half the day in Infront of my laptop screen, the freshly made momos from the small home café by the side of the road; would freshen up my mood. It was a ritual to visit the Baker’s café every Sunday, lest you won’t be giving the week the end it deserves. From seeing new faces in the sharing cabs every day to getting greeted by the shopkeeper down the street by my name, every evening that I spent at M.G. Marg sipping the tea from Agarwal’s that kept me warmer than the layers of sweaters I wore, every conversation I had sitting on the bench out in cold with my teeth chattering together, every night I looked up at the clear sky with shining stars; only made me happier. Happy to be amongst people, fresh air, trees, and mountains.
3. CANDIES, MUMBAI
Hidden away, in the “queen of suburbs” is a beautiful Portuguese-styled Villa. You have some extra work on hand with an approaching deadline and you can’t think of a more nostalgic place to work on your laptop peacefully. Away from the blank walls of the office, you desperately want to remove your heels and put your feet up.
Pushing through the glass door tucked in between, you enter candies. It’s evening and obviously, the salad has vanished. But the free onion rings next to the billing counter compensate for that. You carry your chicken sandwich and coffee in a tray as you climb the steps, crossing the adorable gift store and all the fully occupied tables. With each step that you take, it feels like you’re walking back in time. The steel furniture so chilly, yet so warm. Those tiny colorful pieces blending together to create what we know as mosaic art. The old leafy trees making the air so fresh that you feel young. The warm and cozy feeling from the reflection of the vintage ceiling lamps on the pastel-colored walls. And I doubt I need to mention the mysterious niches and corners which you discover every time you visit. You find a vacant table chair in the corridor laid with floral tiles and are amazed at how candies manage to accommodate anyone who wishes to experience its magic. The place somehow has some hidden furniture, which pops up if and when needed. Just like the room of requirement in Harry potter.
What are cafes anyway, if not the tiny pieces that make up the city? Candies are one place where you can have heartful laughter with your friends and also an intense discussion about where life is taking you. You can wear your best clothes or just joggers but never feel out of place. It’s almost as if, the place is covered by a shield that keeps any negativity out. From the friendly staff to the smiling strangers you bump into, candies are one of a kind; Irreplaceable.