I grew up in India and left what I called my home when I was twenty two years old. I visit every few years. My recent visit was February this year. I designed all the furniture in that home. I learned to drive while I lived there, found my first girlfriend and went through my engineering days in that home. The surrounding hills were home to heavy storms during Monsoon which is my favorite season of the year. The smog of time has covered everything now. There is a patina on the home and there is a patina on my personality from being away for seven years. I could not call it home anymore. The furniture that I designed had been reshaped and redesigned to cater to my brother’s life and my aging parents. The nearest hill-top is a twenty minute climb away. It used to be my usual perch of solitude. It was different this time. The zen I once found there was gone. The streets knew I did not belong. They rushed along hurriedly while I watched. I know from the February visit that home is where Laya is, home is the floor where my simple futon sits and home is where my bicycle resides. Home is where my heart is.
I visited my cousin and his family in 2009 for Thanksgiving. His son was two years old and already understood English, Bengali and German. Mathis is a smart cookie and he liked classical music. After dinner, it would be my turn to engage him while his parents earned a well deserved break. I would open up my laptop and play Chip N’ Dale cartoons on youtube. Mathis would eventually get bored and demand that I play Flamenco music. I would and this made Mathis happy. Mathis, in an effort to show his love, wanted to hug all things tangible and intangible. When playing classical music through their stereo system, Mathis would want to hug the music. We would point to the speakers but that was not what he wanted. He wanted to hug the music, not the sound and he could not find it. This made him sad. We would hug him back instead.
Five Points Coffee and Spice was a unique place. It was a place that did not attract all people. It was a place that did not demand you to comply with it. It was a blank canvas. You painted it to what you wanted it to be. It did not paint it for you. It did not tell you what to wear, who to speak to and when to leave. Furniture made its way into the shop magically. Chairs mismatched tables and no one cared. It provided a venue and it provided coffee. It let you bring the culture and the conversation. It was a place to make connections or find solitude. It was a milieu of different and often contrasting communities and it enabled you to melt with these communities if you so desired. In some unexplainable way, the coffee shop made it OK for people to be who they wanted to be within its four walls. The coffee shop has ceased to exist as of yesterday.
I discovered the coffee shop a little over two years ago. I made innumerable friends through it. We connected on facebook too but the real interactions happened at the shop. I have spent as much time alone and in a corner reading or contemplating as I have till 3 AM with a large group. I was able to find the zen that I could no longer bring to the hill-top in India. This was home and a part of my heart lived within its walls. I am deeply saddened from losing this venue. It is not my place to say why this business closed down. Running ones own business is difficult in today’s economy. Managing it on a shoe-string budget is no cake. The economy could have been better, the management could have been more timely, the air-conditioning could have continued working, the building could have been newer, the plumbing better. All these things could have happened, should have happened but did not happen. We can point fingers till eternity but can not ignore the immediate damage to Alva who is affected by it the most. After all, what was a second home to us was his first home.
A bunch of us are now sort-of homeless. We waited till past midnight last night outside the shop, we signed our names on the wall with chalk. The shop left a mark on us, in the minds of the young and the old. We hugged each other one last time with hopes of holding on to the the world inside the shop like Mathis tried hugging the music. We consoled each other when it is we who needed consoling. We are zombies thirsty for the culture and venue that we formed around the shop, the culture and venue that is gone. We are like children and our crayons are taken away. We are to find a new second home. We are forced to find a new hill-top and hope our zen follows us there. Well past midnight, we sat in the shop, silent and somber not knowing what our silence would achieve. We felt aimless and hopeless.
We finally left when nothing was left to be said and nowhere was left to be photographed.
“Don’t be sad because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” — Dr. Seuss