In the first week of every month, the Sattva editorial team meets at seven thirty in the morning to discuss the month's issue. The idea of the meeting is to finalize the theme for the month and make a list of individuals and organizations to be covered as part of the issue. And the venue is always the same - Airlines Hotel, Lavelle Road.
It takes me exactly fifteen minutes to get from my house (at Airport road) to Airlines hotel (I wonder why they call it that) - fifteen blissful minutes of no signals, no traffic and no blaring horns. The hotel has all the idiosyncrasies of an edifice that has been there and seen that. Ancient tables with porcelain tops, waiters dressed in white doing you a favour by taking your orders, unused rickety artifacts (like dilapidated swings and motor cars) that remind the old timers what the place had once been, gardens and corners that are painted in disuse and delicious coffee and tea served in huge glasses (none of your cups and saucers).
And the smell of puke! You try in vain to find that one table which can take you away from that smell. You indulge in conversations with extra zeal just to take your mind off the stench lest you should add to that invisible but omnipresent human discharge. But like those giant birds
once sang of another hotel
, as much as you try, "you can never leave"
The place is huge. Apart from the actual restaurant, there is an open area outside (where we meet) with more than twenty tables. There is also a hotel which I have never seen anyone use, one that exactly looks like guest houses next to old bus stands that are worn and out. But you know, when you see them, that there was a time when they were sought after. In addition, there is a bookshop, a corner house, a nice spacious parking lot, a juice shop, a play area and lots of muddy free space.
Once a Sattva colleague told me that the place was much bigger than what it is today. The play area, she told me, was huge and a lot of parents used to meet in the evenings to spend time with friends while the children entertained themselves to no end in the play area. Soon, the hi-risers arrived and the part of the area was sold off to them. And I guess, since then the families have stopped coming.
But there is something about that place - like the fact that, that is the first restaurant in this part of Bangalore to open in the mornings, where you can sit and talk and enjoy your coffee - that makes it a haven for those like us to meet in the mornings. All around us, I have seen people talking about workshops to be organized, reunions that have to be planned, trips that that have to be scheduled and many times, memories that have to be caught up with.
In my first few months as the editor, I put a lot of effort for these meetings. I scoured the net and came up with a list of early leads and contacts. I just didn't want to go unprepared for the meeting and was being my own paranoid self. But there are times when I go there with an empty hand and watch the issue evolve in front of my eyes - purely by the magic of six degrees of separation
It is amazing how many contacts you can come up with when five people meet together to discuss an issue. No amount of google search is going to give you, for example, a contact of a guy who sold oranges all his life just so that he could build a school in his village. What will you search for to get such a contact? And there are always mothers of friends, some workshop you attended, someone you read about - where a name comes with a story, an experience and a recommendation.
Like this bit about Airlines hotel - Google knows Airlines hotel
as an unstarred government approved hotel. It doesn't tell me that the hotel's the first place you can get delicious coffee and that kids used to play there a decade ago. But my Sattva colleague can and that makes the story more intimate, a story you want to tell.