You know one of those places your friends keep talking about? One of those famous places where everyone seems to have a good time? One of those places you always wanted to go but never could? One of those places you thought existed in Dadar but in fact was actually located in Juhu? Okay, I could not be more obvious. Yes, I am talking bout Prithvi Cafe.
I can be the most oblivious person on the planet. I can sometimes be as ignorant as the rock you see lying on the ground. I give the phrase ‘living under a rock’ a whole new meaning. So it was no surprise when I realized that in spite of being born and brought up in Mumbai, I had never visited Prithvi. My junior college was in Parle. My degree college in Andheri. And yet, I never visited Prithvi. I am a book lover, an artist and a freelancer. Yet, I never visited Prithvi. I am a foodie and drool over coffees and all stuff Irani. Yet, I never visited Prithvi. Before yesterday.
I, along with two of my friends set out to finally visit this place everyone keeps on mentioning. Co-incidentally, none of them had been there too. We had some trouble locating the place, as there is no specific turn to Prithvi but you need to enter a gate and walk around. On first sight, what you notice is the Prithvi theatre and the flock of people gathered to attend one of the events held there. As you pass clear of them, you get to see the Cafe in all its glory. The place was already packed by the time we reached. We had to wait a bit for the table, but I did not mind since my mind was occupied with observing the simple yet beautiful decorations they had. Light bulbs arranged in a spiral fashion above every table, hanging pot plants and the crimson and yellow tapestries. It looked perfect.
We had good food, good conversations and it was turning out to be one of those nice evenings out. But this was a special one, and this is why. In the middle of one of our talks, we suddenly noticed that an old man had made the area under the Banyan tree his residence. He sat there, flute in his hand. Long, white beard and a majestic personality. He had plugged in his tablet and connected it to the speakers, from which a rhythmic taal progression was being played. With his background set, he now picked up his flute and started playing. He played so melodiously, it was an incredible feeling. For a while, all three of us were silent and just listened to the soft music being played. As I looked around, many people were doing the same. While some seemed oblivious, I could not take my eyes off him. However, after a while with some difficulty, we resumed our conversation, occasionally looking at his side and smiling with awe.
I had made up of my mind to go over and talk to him. I did not know what would I say, but I had to tell him that he was amazing! My friend too had the same thing on her mind. When it felt that the time was right (since he would be in a trance like situation and we did not want to disturb), we walked over to him. I sat right beside him under the Banyan tree while my friend occupied the spot next to me.
Up close, I noticed an intensity in him that was almost radiant. Though shy, I mustered up the courage to tell him that he played beautifully! He murmured a short thanks, I had seen many people stop by and tell him that. I asked him if he was playing some Raag and his eyes lightened up on that question. He told me he was trying to play Raag Madhumati. I requested him if he could play Malhar for me. He said he was not trained, but he picked up stuff as he played. And just as he finished saying that sentence, he started playing a few notes of Malhar right there and then. He asked me to sing along, and I hummed slowly, shy of so many people being around. He also showed me the software he used for the taals. I asked him if he was a regular here. And he answered that he comes to Prithvi and plays almost every evening. “There are many things people will tell you, but the truth is, I just like this place!” he said, motioning to the view he got from sitting under the tree which was situated at the center of the cafe. I looked up and nodded in agreement. Truly, a beautiful sight. The sun had set, and the lights were on and rays of light danced and sparkled out of the bulbs, and made the place look vibrant, more than ever. He got back to playing his flute and I just let myself breathe in the moment to my fill. As I got up to walk back to our table, I told him what a pleasure it was to meet him and that I expected to see him the next time I visited. He gave a kind smile and shrugged modestly. His name is Suhas Joshi. (Prithvi regulars would know him, he was also featured in Mumbai Mirror)
A thousand thoughts ushered in as we came back to the table and rejoined our friend. To sum it up, that is a dialogue I am not going to forget anytime soon. 🙂
Coming back to the place, you could just hop in, sit anywhere and start reading a book. And they wouldn’t mind. Grab one thing to eat and you can make the place your own paradise. This is the kind of culture they want to imbibe and it surely is a good one. Places like this one, inspire and make you think. They encourage free spirit and lively discussions. Sounds good, ha? You bet!
We started out towards the exit when we spotted the bookshop round the corner. A mandatory check in was made. We checked out the books, quite an impressive collection. I wanted to buy one, as a memento of the time I had spent here, but could not find the book I was looking for. The guy who attended us was also very helpful like all the staff we had encountered so far. Finally, we came out of the place with a bag full of memories and with a renewed plan of coming back again, soon.
Prithvi walo, you have gained a lifetime visitor. 🙂