Ashok Marg, Hazratganj
The Indian Coffee House opened for business on 10 February 1945. It was set up as the Lucknow outlet of the Indian Coffee Workers Cooperative Society. Very soon, freedom fighters, politicians, artists, writers, poets, scientists… all who understood the importance of deep conversation, but mostly lacking deep pockets… made it their own. Filter coffee and snacks, waiters in white turbans and the lively ambience would make the first timer aware that the conversations would be much hotter than the coffee! There were designated spaces where different groups would assemble. Member of the State Assembly a short distance away would begin their debates here before the house convened, or continue them after hours. Elsewhere, litterateurs and poets of the stature of Amritlal Nagar, Yashpal or Majaaz would be critiquing new writings in prose and poetry. Everyone was free to join any conversation. The clientele ranged from thousands of Lucknow dwellers to politicians of the stature of a Jawaharlal Nehru or Atal Bihari Vajpeyee. Leading journalists made it their extension office. Artistes patronized it after finishing their recordings at All India Radio. The coffee house embodied the essence of the literary, cultural and political scene of the new Lucknow. This changed with the times. After 1992, international alternatives to filter coffee began to be served in Lucknow. Young people tended to prefer these novelties. Conversations moved from tete-a-tete to social media. The buzz around the coffee house has diminished today, but strong coffee, dosas, cutlets and yes, conversation is available at very reasonable rates. Aruna Singh has been managing the coffee house as Secretary since 2010.