An Inspirational Evening at Indian Coffee House

Love was in the air since Valentine's week was being celebrated all across the globe. So, was I in the same mode. Afterall it is the most celebrated week to express love and affection. Indian Coffee House at Connaught Place was an offbeat location chosen but now as I recall, I was destined to witness a life-changing event of my life which shook my innermost-self.

It was our luck that after ten minutes of waiting, we got the table next to the window with a pleasant evening view. I had not thought at that time that I would not look outside even for a split second during that visit. However, after getting settled, waiter offered us a glass of water and we ordered ICH's Special Coffee & Butter toast.

Just then I glanced across the hall at an old man who managed to get a lone seat and kept his violin case instead of settling down himself. A minute later, he had already taken it out and was cleaning its surface & bow. By that time, our food was served and I was engrossed into the aroma of Coffee.

Melody emerging across the hall caught my attention and I was mesmerized by it, carried away to a different world, connected with the music produced by tender touch of bow on strings even without any basic knowledge of the notes. Joyfully saturated with the music, I had completely lost track of my whereabouts, friend, food and time when my cellphone buzz brought me back to the moment. Realization has dawned upon me that for the very first time I was in a musical spell. 

"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” - Plato
Over and above the music, I was getting inspired by the Man playing it. I had entered into the "Realization" mode. I had realized the paradox that I will share later in the story. But before that, my mind was flooded with plethora of questions and their probable answers I could think of, one of which was:

Why was he performing during autumn of his life?
    • He was still enjoying playing violin as a passion.
      • His keen interest in his passion at that age meant that there is no age restriction to one's passion. I had always been sulking that I had not develop a passion during schooldays so I did not have one to follow. A lot of us put such reasons for our inactive life. Many friends had tried proving me wrong earlier, but this was a self-realization.
    • He was trying to earn daily bread for family and himself.
      • I had always been criticizing my jobs for paying me less as I was unable to spend lavishly like many others who are in highly paying jobs. Hardly had I ever thought of the fact that there were hundreds of thousands of people who would be ready to take that job even for half of the emolument. There are many who are not able to manage daily food for their family and luxuries are beyond their imagination. 
    • He was in dire need of money for treatment of a family member or himself.
      • When it comes to fighting against disease/s, one tries to do whatever possible against all the odd to save loved one. Sometimes, such situations can be avoided by following a healthy lifestyle which was pending on my part for quite a long. We are never thankful to God for a normal life without major issues, but start to complaint as soon as some problem comes up. 
The paradox that I had realized were the withered features underlying the enthusiastic face. I felt a connection with a complete stranger. Even without interacting I was determined to help him in any way possible or viable for me. There was a flame ignited deep inside me urging me to bring about even a minuscule change and bring a smile to his face. Yet, I was hesitant to stand out and approach him due to dilemma I faced:
"I do not have much currency bills in my wallet or even in bank account (Probable downside of serving in a Government Job in India) to do a charity to his cause and giving him any small amount means I am demeaning his art & effort. Further, he seems to hold his character to struggle against adversity rather than expecting a generous charity." 

After carefully placing Violin next to its case on the table, he took out a couple of small packets and proceeded to the tables placed farthest from mine. Humbly accepting the praises from patrons, he showed the packet. From that far I could not hear him but was sure that he was offering it to them, moving from table to table. Though unhappy for no one was accepting his offerings, he wasn't pitching so hard for it. He must be proud of the content of that packet. Intrigued by the content of packet, inspired by his aura and even more was my determination to help him that was driving me to stand up from my seat. Contrary to my nature, I was nervous when I realized he had almost reached our table. The packet he had to offer was a Compact Disc.
He- "Hello Friends, did you enjoy the music?"
Me- "Hello Sir. Yes, we did enjoy it. It was wonderful and melodious."
He- "Do you want to buy this CD with collection of 24 tracks that I have recorded?"
Me- "Yeah sure Sir. Definitely."
He- "This is for just ₹120/-."
Me- "Not an issue Sir. I am taking it."
He- "Do listen to this collection positively. This is my personal recording. You can find this collection on internet also. My name is Swapan Sett."
Me- "Definitely Sir. I will.
He- "This is my life. Don't throw it. This is my life."

Then he moved to next table. He was brimming with passion and he was confident of his art and himself. Next, my google search of "Swapan Sett" returned me several links about him. That day, my eternal and unbreakable bond with caffeine was left broken as my coffee went cold unattended. Reading through several links (, youtube, ndtv), my eyes welled up with tears and my heart with compassion & struggle. No one would have ever fathomed his struggle just by knowing him superficially. The enthusiasm on his face was deceptive, hiding all the pain his family has been through.

After sharing with my friend all the details that I read about him and his determination to help his wife fight against cancer, I wanted to have another conversation with him. 

Me- "Hello Sir. It was nice meeting you."
He- "God bless you!"
Me- "I just read some stories covering you on internet."
He- "Life moves on. Everything is part of life."
Me- "I read about your wife. How is she now?"
(There was a momentary silence.)
He- "She is doing good. Enjoy your time."

I retreated back to my seat He then walked slowly to his seat across the hall and ordered a coffee. He packed the violin into its case. After sipping in coffee and paying his bill, he picked up the case and walked out of the restaurant. That half an hour gave me an altogether different perspective about life, passion, struggle, affection, optimism. I was wondering how my observation brought about such a phenomenal shift in my own belief system. We presume old age or post retirement age as the time to relax and chill out, but situation or self-determination can make a person do wonders even at that age.

Life is so ironic. It takes sadness to know happiness, noise to appreciate silence, and absence to value presence.
My perspective of living life and handling bliss and sorrows had completely evolved since that day. There are plethora to changes that an individual can make in own life to make it happier. The incident is still fresh in my memory as I recollect memories of that day and will continue to be as it was rare when a complete stranger motivated me in such a short time-span. It was predestined. The only regret that I carry with me is that I forgot to click a photograph with him as a souvenir!!!!


  1. once during my ride in a cab (air conditioned) from x place to y i felt anxious , tensed and fearfull abt my present and wat lies beyond when suddenly d cab stoped at a traffic signal, thr beside d road ws a family, cooking thr lunch , in that bright sunny day, laughing, enjoying d moment, as if they had no complains of wat god had to offer to them, defying all odds, giggling n cheerfully fedding thr tummies... N then thr ws me hving d luxury one wud desire in that sunny afternoon bt still being sad n feeling helpless to say d least!! That day lyf taught me to be thankful fr d way it is .....

  2. Hi,

    Thank man for this post.
    I just wanna say that uncle Swapan is a real warrior.
    I have no words. Just .....

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  4. Hey mann! This one was really awesome

    The fact is We don’t meet people by accident, they are meant to cross our path for a reason

    And everyone gives us a lesson