The scars of Leopold.

It seemed to be business as usual. The business of selling cheap drinks and delicious snacks to one and all in Colaba causeway. And few can do it better than Leopold Cafe, the iconic restaurant and bar in Bombay that throngs with foreigners, office folk, rock and roll teenagers and anyone else who chooses to walk in. I walked right in.

The street oustide Leopold Cafe.

The street oustide Leopold Cafe.

On the 26th of November two young terrorists opened fire on the laid back folk. It was a Wednesday and the place was packed with people taking a mid week respite. When I approached the infamous café I had expected doors or some other form of restriction but was greeted by a man standing next to the streets who sort of smiled and welcomed people in.

In keeping with normality and tradition, I ordered a beer. I looked around in a surreal stupor trying to imagine and visualize the awful panic and stench of terror that must have enveloped Leopold. All I could do was stare and sip. The high ceiling allows a second floor, which is darker, dingier and manages to pack a lot of people who are more than happy to get a seat. I thought of all those people the night of the 26th around 9:30 pm and the person who must have sat on the same seat as me.


I came back to Leopold a second time. And I found myself slipping into the same morbid thoughts amid the din of chattering and clinking of glasses. There was some great art on the walls. One graphic canvas had anti terror slogans, blood, the Gateway of India and other symbols of the attack in November. I started taking pictures of the place around me, maybe as a way of dealing with my being in this space.


There was a helpful man who seemed to work there and it turned out, he was the owner. Farhang Jehani’s father started the Leopold Cafe in 1871 and after his death his son took over. “The attack seemed to last for a few minutes,” he said. After those few minutes he spoke about carrying bodies out of his establishment and staying with his brave staff to wash blood trails off the floors and deal with the police.

Farhang Jehani

Farhang Jehani

At one point he told me he wants to show me something so I followed him to another section of the restaurant. He started shifting furniture around and exposed a part of the black granite floor that had a large crater in it. “This is where the hand grenade fell”, he said. I took a picture, trying to comprehend what the hole in the floor really meant. I recently read about grenades. The United States Army Field manual says, “the effective kill zone has a five meter radius, while the casualty-inducing radius is approximately fifteen meters.” I calculated that I was sitting less than 2 meters from the grenade spot and the streets outside was about 8 meters away.



Farhang had a lot to tell me but a whole lot more to show. He revealed bullet holes in brick walls, shattered glass windows, punctured wooden walls and a hole which looked like it was straight out of the movie ‘Terminator.’ Visuals of the bad cop getting large bullet holes in his body and the molten metal flowing and filling it up filled my mind. The thick metal door that was the way up to the second floor had a two inch scar that had not healed that fast.

As I received the guided tour of the battlefield, I realized that Farhang was showing me these scars like a proud disabled army general shows his medals of bravery. He proudly told me he was not going to fix the walls and floor. Leopold had endured a lot. Leopold had seen much horrors and he was not going to let the World forget but memorialize his beloved family heirloom and stand tall in defiance.

I know many people who have raised their glasses to celebrate many moments in Leopold. Please go ahead and share some of those moments right here. Because in my mind, just as we raise a toast to loved ones, Leopold and it’s scars will always be a memorial and celebration for those who lived life to the fullest.



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2 Responses to “The scars of Leopold.”

  1. 1
    Anjali Ramachandran Says:

    I like the way you’ve narrated the whole thing – I remember going to Leopolds about 4 years ago and I was awestruck by the aura of the place. I couldn’t believe what happened in November and am glad the place is going strong. Good job on the project Vandana!

  2. 2
    admin Says:

    Thanks for your comment Anjali.
    Yes, I find Leopold Cafe to be like Mezz (for Delhiites a long time back) or some other local haunt. Everyone has a neighborhood bar or pub they like to visit and chill in. I think Leopold is all that not just for Mumbaikars but to visitors from around the World.

    It’s scary to think of how the people who master mind terrorist attacks choose their targets and victims.

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