Coffee that was so hard to refuse

Old Montreal

I was in Montreal to attend an international meeting on Ecocities. I arrived a day early as I was keen to listen to the Jazz played at Modavie

Modavie is one of the famous bistros in old Montreal. I will highly recommend.

Seven nights a week, local bands take the stage at Modavie. Modavie’s spirited setting encompasses two intimate floors and sets the scene for a night of great tunes, top dining and generous pastis toasting. The bistro’s wine menu hits just the right notes.



I booked a table as close to the performing area of the artists. There was a jazz music in the evening to be played by one of the “vintage artists” originally coming from Chicago.


(jazz/adult contemporary singer Sara Latendresse performing at Modavie . Photo Credit: Photo © Clint Lewis)

When I arrived at the Modavie, few guests were around and most tables were not occupied. But soon people started pouring in. I asked for a glass of Brut blanc de blancs – a standard stuff.

As I was sipping wine and reading the flyer that was placed on the table about the artist, someone with a sophisticated cloud of fragrance passed by me. That took my attention. Wow what a choice of perfume, I thought.

It was an elegant woman, perhaps in the age group of 40-45, who had taken a seat on the table adjoining me.   And she was alone – like me. She was beautiful with blonde hair and blue eyes.

The lady asked for the wine menu and after some discussion with the bar tender, asked for Michel Jodoin – a sparkling wine. “Oh Better choice” I said to myself.

The jazz performance began. The sound of the strings on the box guitar was great and so were the voices of the two singers (the singer duo was father and daughter I learnt later). The choice of the jazz numbers was amazing too. It unfolded memories.

In the short break that followed, we connected to each other with our eyes. I raised my thumb to express my appreciation to the music being played and the lady responded to me with a warm smile.  The twinkle in her eyes seemed to say “ I totally agree”.

The second cycle began and the artist (father), asked for requests. I wrote down my request for Autumn Leaves by Tal Farlow. I always like listening to this great number.


(Wikipedia- Talmage Holt Farlow (June 7, 1921 – July 25, 1998) was an American jazz guitarist. Nicknamed the “Octopus” for his extremely large hands which spread over the fretboard as if they were tentacles, he is considered one of the all-time great jazz guitarists. Where other similar players of his day combined rhythmic chords with linear melodies, Farlow preferred placing single notes together in clusters, varying between harmonically enriched tones based on a startling new technique. Playing Tal’s Jazz is therefore not easy…)

Many sent suggestions. The lady next to my table sent a chit too. The Artist was skimming through all the requests to decide what can they play and in what sequence.

After he completed his “inspection” of all the chits, he spoke into the mike- and said softly. “All very inspiring and challenging requests – in this limited time let me see what we can do”. He then paused.

But I see something very interesting here. I have received two requests for the same song. This is a song of Tal Farlow. A brilliant request. Haven’t played Tal for quite a while but would love to. May I ask however for a show up of the two Tal fans in the audience? I am just curious”

I raised my hand. And I was astonished and pleasantly surprised to see the lady next to my table was the second person. She waived out and seemed to like Tal’s music just like me!

“Oh, you two are sitting alone on separate tables but seem to share a similar taste!!  Why don’t you take the same table and you may enjoy my rendering of Tal Farlow better together” That was quite an outrageous suggestion – I thought

And before I could think more, the lady got up and took chair next to me on my table. “May I?” she said

I said “of course” and adjusted my chair so that she was comfortable. The cloud of that extraordinary perfume got now closer to me.

We listened to the Autumn Leaves together. The Artists were doing pretty well and it was an enjoyable experience. We clapped longer than others after the performance.

After the close, we ordered for Coffee and got into conversations. She (Kenza) came originally from Egypt with Egyptian mother and a French father. Kenza was now a Canadian citizen and lived in Calgary. We spoke about other works of Tal and discussed about other Jazz Guitar performers.

It was another stroke of coincidence that Kenza had come to Montreal to attend the same Ecocity conference that I was attending. “What a small world”, she exclaimed. We decided to catch up the next day in the conference.

The next day was busy. The conference had around 800 participants and several parallel sessions. In one of the parallel sessions, I bumped into Kenza. She was so noticeable in the crowd. “Where were you during lunch she said? I was looking for some company!”. Well it will cost you a coffee. I said. That’s my fee.”

Done – Kenza said.

(Many who know me, are aware that this is my style of saying – you are most welcome – or it’s on the house or don’t worry or bother – I will be glad to help)

Kenza said in an excited tone “By the way, today is a great performance at the Modavie. It’s a solo by Greg Clayton (Greg was nominated for the 2008 Canadian national jazz awards in the Acoustic Band of the Year category). Should we book the table?”

I said don’t worry I will. And I booked the best table possible.

We met at the Modavie that evening. This time I ordered the sparkling wine of Kenza’s choice. The bar tender smiled, especially seeing us sitting together on the same table.

Greg Clayton was amazing and we both had great conversations. I learnt that Kenza, an urban planner of international experience, was recently divorced, and was feeling lost and empty. I could sense that music was the best bet for her to get back to life– she played piano.

We skipped coffee this time and left Modavie by 10 pm. My hotel was in walking distance, little ahead of the apartment hotel that Kenza stayed. “Don’t stay in the swanky hotels when in old part of Montreal, the apartment I stay is a building of 1904! You will live in the history” Kenza said. We started walking. The perfume was still strong in the air and in some sense intoxicating but with sophistication.

Old Montreal

When we reached below Kenza’s apartment, she said

“Well Prasad, I am taking flight back to Calgary tomorrow morning. Won’t see you at the conference tomorrow. Really enjoyed meeting with you and the conversations. Don’t you think, Tal Farlow perhaps played Autumn Leaves just for us to connect?”

And then at the main entrance door, she paused and said and so softly “I know I owe you a coffee Prasad. Would you like to come up to my apartment now and have a cup of coffee with me? We could talk”

I did now know what to say.

I looked into her eyes. Her eyes – blue and innocent, longing for conversations and searching for a continued friendship.

But I also sensed the feebleness of my mind. I felt unsure. It was a moment of decision. And I said

“Kenza, its real late now. Time now to sleep and you have an early morning flight. I think this time I will let go my coffee. There is always a next time.”

I adjusted her long coat as the wind was chilly. I said good bye.

I stayed on the street till I saw the light in her apartment was switched off

And the next time never came. My coffee is still pending with Kenza.

(Cover photo of Old Montreal Street taken from



  1. Dear Sir, Its amazing that being a scientist, you write so well. I like your blog post and always look forward to newer post. Best Regards,Ravi ————————————————-RAVI KALANTRIMobile: +91 9586 299988 

  2. Sir, the writer in you is truly blossoming with each blog……this one had the perfect emotional setting at the pretext of an Ecocity event !…..

    Perhaps you should consider writing an emotional action thriller, on the backdrop of some of the challenges in the environmental field…(your version of ‘Erin Brockovich’).. perhaps one of the best ways to sensitive and awaken the community on this subject, as against the numerous conference events we partake in vain.

    Sadly, I could not find ‘Autumn Leaves’ by Tal Farlow on the iTunes, though I did find its versions by Nat King Cole and Eric Clapton……very nice indeed!

    BTW, I strongly recommend the Apple Music Membership…..a music lover like you will find it to be a treasure cove…

  3. Dear Dr. Prassad,

    It has been too long since we last communicated and I hope you are doing great. I really miss you and I love your blog.

    Hope we can keep in touch, talking to you brings back very good memories from SEAM II.

    All the best,
    Nelly Guindy
    +2010 10003431

    1. Dear Nelly

      So good to reconnect with you!! I always remember you.

      Indeed, SEAM-II days were magical.. full of fun and warmth . We worked like a family.

      One day I plan to write a blog on my missions to Cairo, that will certainly mention you, the Cairo Opera and the Cairo Jazz Club.

      Will call you up one of the days.

      Hope to see you soon – in Cairo, in Mumbai or elsewhere!



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