For the past 30 years of my life each time I visited Brigade Road in Bangalore, I never missed an opportunity to stop by at the Kohinoor Hotel. Today I visited this place with a sense of sorrow knowing fully well that it would be my last cup of Sulaimani Chai (lemon tea).
The 57 year old landmark Kohinoor Hotel at the foot of Brigade Road will close today following an order of the Karnataka High Court which ruled in favour of the landlord who had been seeking more rent. The owner of the hotel and the landlord have been entangled in a legal battle over the increase of rent. The owners had clearly stated that they cannot afford the Brigade road type of rent that is being expected by the landlord.
Chandra Babu from Thrissur my favourite waiter at the place looked lost for the first time. He has been with the hotel since the past 3 decades and was always a bundle of energy. Today he tells me in Malayalam that he would go to his home town and if they manage to open up another place elsewhere he will return. But then again it would never be the same.
Rehman, the cashier is 67 years old today. He came to Bangalore when he was 13 and joined Kohinoor. I had seven rupees in my pocket and I reached Bangalore from Mannapuram with that much money. I started working here as a cleaner and gradually I was elevated to the post of cashier after almost 4 decades. Kohinoor has been very famous for his Sulaimani chai. However when we started off we earned a name with our samosas. It was very famous and people in large numbers would come here to eat it. Each samosa would cost 10 paise and by afternoon we would sell out everything. The biriyani too was extremely famous and along with that came the sulaimani chai. The biryani was priced at 60 paise and the chai would cost 10 paise.
Like every other Bangalorean I would miss Kohinoor dearly. You take one stroll down Brigade road and would end up spending a minimum of Rs 500 on food for one person. Well that was not the case with Kohnioor. A biryani at Rs 60 and a sulaimani at Rs 10 meant that I had the best meal at Rs 70. The other specialities would include a bheja fry, Kerala chicken curry and the very oily but heavenly kababs.
Customers, particulary the regulars are aghast with the news of Kohinoor shutting down. It does have the greatest ambience and would look a bit shady to a first timer. But then come afternoon and crowds from every walk of life would be seated having their meal. Sathish who visists Kohinoor every week says that he will miss this place a lot. Brigade road is not Brigade road without a Kohinoor, he says. The old clock on the wall, the hot chai, the spicy biriyani, fans as old as me and that massive mirror on the wall will be truly missed, he says.
Will there be another Kohinoor somewhere around the place? That none are able to tell. The rents are too high around this place. But we are constantly looking out around Church Street which is adjacent to Brigade Road, Rehman says. But then nothing is clear as of now. We have no plans of appealing to the Supreme Court either. Let us see what fate has in store, but as of now it is curtains to Kohinoor Hotel, Brigade Road.