Cafe Samovar to shut down this month
And now after 50 glorious years, is bidding adieu, downing its shutters, shutting shop, saying goodbye. And in an age of fast food, ephemeral relationships and franchise coffee it will be the end of an era.
An era of grace, hospitality and good wholesome food, when a young Usha Khanna, back from a stint in France where her husband the documentary film maker Rajbans Khanna had been awarded the prestigious Palm D’Or at Cannes, and where she’d fallen in love with Left Bank Parisian café culture had vowed to start a little artsy café of her own in Mumbai.
Her maternal uncle the legendary actor Balraj Sahni had bequeathed it a name reminiscent of the family’s years in Kashmir, where the Samovar had been the central focus of their daily warmth and with two tables and a few chairs, Samovar very soon had charmed its way in to the hearts of the intellectuals artists and students and office goers of Mumbai.
“The “Café Samovar” holds fond memories for all us struggling artists and creative people, not only from Mumbai but other parts of the country also, who came to Mumbai to achieve and become successful and who frequented this Café. This place served as a refuge and comfort to us all, a get-away from the harsh reality and stress of our day-to-day struggle." said actress Jaya Bachchan.
“This little Café/Restaurant has served on occasion as a theatre for dramatic performances, a meeting place for busy executives and equally for young lovers and students. It has been an oasis for several generations of youth sometimes dreaming, but always struggling to make their mark in the city. I cannot think of Kala Ghoda without Samovar. It has as permanent a place in Kala Ghoda as the Gateway of India in Mumbai.” said filmmaker Shyam Benegal.
“I never expected Samovar to become such an institution,” said the feisty octogenarian Usha Khanna. “When I started it was to fill a lacunae in the city: where would artists meet their patrons? Where would poets sit and write without being disturbed? Where would young homesick executives get their ‘home food’? Where would young students go on a date they could afford? I am happy to see that it has gone from strength to strength and been recognized across the world. It’s been fifty glorious years and it’s time to say good-bye now. “
“We tried hard to stay on, and even went to the Supreme Court for this” said social worker, and leading city personality Devieka Bhojwani, Khanna’s elder daughter. “But we finally decided that 50 years was a great time to go with grace and dignity.”
And so, Samovar will down its shutters on Mar 31. And Khanna and her daughters are planning a farewell befitting of this great city institution.