Raasta Cafe


The yokes of colonialism have still not left the hearts and consciousness of our people. As a consequence, the rising Indian middle class is quick to dismiss its roots and the practices associated with it. No more do we live the way our parents did, or their parents did. As a result, there is a discrepancy in who we want to be versus who we are. We don’t eat, work, or live like our ancestors did anymore. The idea that our ancient sciences were fiction and superstitions with little truth to them is a belief that a large part of the urban middle class firmly believes.

The People’s Club was founded by a few young students with the intention of creating a group where people could get together and talk about things that were relevant to them. The event was conducted on 18th August, propagating a vision to create a judgement-free space that would allow words and beliefs to come out freely. In a world where we are constantly scrutinised for our ideologies, where ignorance is looked down upon, this was a welcome change. The idea to create a platform that would allow young, budding minds to discuss, disagree, and de-stigmatise controversial topics through words seemed like a beautiful idea.

Ekta, one of the founders, recited a personal anecdote about why she chose to start the People’s Club. Her father went to go back to his roots, including Yoga and lifestyle changes after a health complication. The sheer amount of improvement he went through, led her to think long and hard about the significance of our cultural practices and the scientific accuracy of the same.

Last Friday, on a warm afternoon, as I walked into the sunny Raasta café, I saw a score of college students seated around a table introducing themselves while talking about the one thing that connected them to their roots.  As people talked about the sambhar that reminds them of home and the lullabies that took them back to their childhood, I couldn’t help but notice how it comforted others. The knowledge that there were other people who missed certain aspects of their culture, which they could not connect with in the sprawling metropolitan cities that they now lived in,  seemed comforting to most.

The moderator Prithvi Mahabeshwara and the experts Arushi Ralli and Manu Singh felicitated the flow of discussion and ensured that the conversation remained fruitful.  Everything, ranging from a reference to the accurate distance of the Earth and the Sun in the line “Yuga Sahastra Yojan par Bhanu” in the Hanuman Chalisa to the science behind the idea of eating before the sunset, was extensively talked about. The logic behind eating using ones hands during meals, eating on banana leaves, avoiding alloy metals to cook, drinking water from earthen vessels were all discussed in detail. Spices were a strong enough incentive some five centuries ago, for some European men to venture out and sail on lone ships across dangerous seas to find our mysterious homeland. This fact in and of itself is enough to describes how renowned, famed, and ahead of their time our cultural practices were.

What made the People’s Club so special is the fact that they chose to think in a way that most people don’t. Most of us have collectively written-off our cultural heritage as superstition and blind-faith. We classify eating on banana leaves in the same group as believing in Sati or following the caste system. In our desire to rid ourselves of the undesirable aspects of our past, we have thrown off something extremely precious. Out of fear of seeming naïve and gullible, we have aggressively been shedding off what remains of our cultural past.  But perhaps everything comes back to a full circle. Those who were once mesmerized enough to pursue a golden land laden with spices, have once again set out to embrace its cultural practices; be it in the form of yoga and dhyan or in the search of spirituality and peace. It is time we do the same. It is essential we reclaim what is a cultural gift from our ancestors to us. Perhaps then, we wouldn’t feel so lost in these concrete jungles that we have built around ourselves.


Image Credits: People’s Club Facebook Page

Kinjal Pandey
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