As a last-ditch effort to save Cafe Samovar, BJP spokesperson Shaina NC along with Devieka Bhojwani and Malavika Sangghvi, daughters of Cafe Samovar’s owner Usha R Khanna, met Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday.
During the meeting, Shaina said the cafe was a landmark destination and should be viewed as part of the city’s cultural heritage. A copy of ‘The Making of Samovar’, a coffee-table book about the cafe, was also presented to the CM.
“We can’t view Samovar as a restaurant. It is synonymous with Mumbai and Mumbaikars. The cafe is intrinsic to the city’s culture,” she said.
The family that runs the cafe appealed to the government to look into the matter and allocate space for the cafe within the Jehangir Art Gallery premises or in the vicinity.
“Since, the land was leased by the government to Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya and the Jehangir Art Gallery, we requested them to relocate us to either on the ground between the museum and the gallery or the terrace above the cafe,” said Bhojwani.
The trio also met Revenue and Agriculture Minister Eknath Khadse with their request. Khadse agreed that the cafe has done great service to the people of Mumbai and said the family needed to find out who was the owner of the land.
The Jehangir Art Gallery, where the cafe is situated, has been trying to displace the cafe for more than three decades to make more space for artists. After fighting a battle that started in 1970s, the cafe bagged an extension of five years in 2010, which ends on March 31.
Ever since the news of its imminent closure spread, regulars and old-timers have been thronging the eatery to soak in its atmosphere one last time.
The cafe has also seen an outpouring of solidarity from all quarters, including celebrities such as Jaya Bachchan, Shabana Azmi, Javed Akhtar, Jackie Shroff and Kabir Bedi, among others. “We never expected such an emotional response from people. However, we will have to comply with the court orders and pull the shutters down on March 31,” said Bhojwani.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra’s Cultural Affairs Minister Vinod Tawde said in the Legislative Council on Monday that Cafe Samovar was indeed an important landmark in Mumbai’s history and culture.
Replying to Congress MLC Sanjay Dutt’s request seeking the Maharashtra government’s intervention in keeping Cafe Samovar alive, Tawde agreed the cafe should be saved from having to permanently down its shutters due to land-related issues.
“If necessary, we will try to appoint an arbitrator in the case. We will try our best to solve this problem,” Tawde said.