The Palaces of Memory | This work is a journey across India through the Indian Coffee House, a national network of cafes owned by their workers. Within the walls of these cheap cafes, the very idea of a modern India was born and brought to life. The Indian Coffee Houses are also central to my experiences and work in India over the last two decades. When I first came to India, the Coffee House in New Delhi – an almost secret place atop a Brutalist 1970's shopping centre on a corner of Connaught Place – was a refuge for me. It provided a respite from the noise and movement of a difficult but fascinating city and it made me very welcome. The Coffee Houses are what Bengali's call an 'adda' - a talking shop - similar to the Ahwas of Cairo or the tea shops of the East. For me, the Coffee Houses became a distant echo of those long disappeared greasy-spoon cafes of the London of my childhood in the 1970s. Those smoke-filled, post-war, Formica pavilions simultaneously full of defeat and hope. These were the places where rock 'n' roll and revolution had been plotted but also where working class families might also come for a simple treat. Today, the Coffee Houses serve as a nostalgic aide-mémoire to a whole generation of Indians that remember them as political meeting places. Artists like Satyajit Ray and Manna Dey sat in the Coffee House in Kolkata. They remain inextricably linked to the Post-Indepence settlement and are the last gasp of the Nehruvian moment that is fading fast in today's India.
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Finalist Best Photography Book. Pictures of the Year (POYi) 2015