The human penchant to escape reality does show its face in nonconforming ways. Escapism most probably is what makes the artist in us make an appearance in cafes. Sitting for long hours while observing ilk of our own kind does act as a panacea and when that is experienced in cafes in unknown towns and cities, it make travelling much more surreal as the disconnected traveller pores, observes and learns new customs.
When wandering around the streets of Guwahati, I indulged in my reverie in one of the most serendipitously located cafes. It really is a delightful joint-in-the-wall but when it is right across the flowing waters of the Brahmaputra River, you give it all the attention just like you would give a feline animal your unwavering eye when it pops up suddenly during a safari.
The Brahmaputra is the 29th longest river on this rock. Twenty-nine is a long way away from the greatness of a numero uno or its whereabouts but the Brahmaputra is much more mysterious than the number it represents.
Originating in the freezing arid lands of Tibet in the Manasarovar lake, one of the most venerated lakes for Buddhists and Hindus and only overtaken in reverence by another mammoth neighbour, Mount Kailash, the Yarlung Tsangpo starts as a trickle before it twists and turns towards eastern Tibet.
In the early 19th century, it was unknown if the Tsangpo and the Brahmaputra were the one and the same river. It was the work of explorers like Nain Singh Rawat who was sent into China dressed as a Tibetan monk and Kinthup who furtively sneaked into Tibet to drop numbered logs into the Tsangpo so that they could be tracked in the Brahmaputra, that made the British in India understand much more about the river.
At the extreme eastern corner of the Himalayas where Tibet, India and Myanmar converge, the Tsangpo meets a colossal barrier in the Namche Barwa (25,531 feet), the last great sentinel in an area which is revered by Buddhists. There is a belief that if Shangri La actually exists, then this would the place. The reality though is slightly different with the Chinese authorities building a huge dam in this area but that doesn’t take away anything from the remoteness of the Tsangpo Gorge.
Around the Namche Barwa and Gyala Peri, the Tsangpo flows northward and then flows south creating The Great Bend. The river loses an incredulous height in this area and in the process creates one of the greatest gorges that still has been unexplored by the world.
As the river enters India in the state of Arunachal Pradesh, with great ferocity created by its rapid descent, the twist in the tale continues with the great river now turning west in the state of Assam. These states face the wrath of the river during the rains with the flood waters inundating huge tracts of land and forests including the UNESCO listed Kaziranga Park.
It is on this great river, Café Riverrun is located. In the quite under-acknowledged town of Guwahati where the great river loses much of its youth to become a much more placid river, lies M.G Road adjacent to the waters, home to some nice waterfront properties all the way to the Governor’s house. In the middle of this road, on a small mezzanine, lies the café.
The cafe is practically built around a tree and five tables somehow fit in the space. The menu is simple, the coffee served in gargantuan sized cups is good and the conversation can be brilliant. There are large windows with a view of the river on all sides. The months from November to May is the best time to visit the cafe while other months will require artificial air conditioning to keep away the heat and the humidity which the café lacks. There is greenery everywhere, while the odd country boat floats around in the river.
And do not expect a chic café. There are minute remnants of food on the floor and invisible dust does somehow waft through the windows to land on surfaces and there is a general air of casualness bordering on mild apathy. But looks can deceive. The service is upto the mark, the food is decent and while there might be other more popular cafes like The Corner Café, The 11th Avenue Bistro and Café Coffee Day, in a town wherein flows a river of sinewy strength, this café is undoubtedly a place of languorous dreams.
WiFi – No
Airconditioning – No. Can be hot and sticky from May to September.
Credit Cards – Yes
Coffee – Good
Pricing – On the higher side but most probably you are paying for the view
Menu – Limited
Location – Google Maps
Disclaimer – I do not live in Guwahati so my views may be slightly different.