From an old article in the Hindu's archives, Ranjit Hoskote's Revolution in the cafe
...a forum for discussion and leisure, despite such stern Irani restaurant injunctions as 'No Discussion' and 'Do Not Linger'. In the cafe, people could meet as free-floating, free-thinking individuals, rather than as envoys of the social groups to which they happened to belong.
By emphasising the voluntary nature of these human associations, the cafe became a symbol of freedom and liberalism: like its forerunners in Paris and Vienna, the cafe in Bombay began to act as a site, over the 1930s and 1940s, for the formation and circulation of new ideas and opinions in a new public sphere.
In later generations, the coffee house would serve as a place where writers and film-makers, painters and critics could meet, share their thoughts, read to each other: in the films of the 1950s and 1960s, the cafe bulks large as a recurrent motif and locale, as the site of fantasy and romance, but also as the place where the marginalised poet or the optimistic dreamer finds solace from the cynicism and cruelty of the big city