Cheers & Goodbye
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Cheers & Goodbye

June 22, 2024

The last true ‘restaurateur’ of Mysuru, Ponoo Muthanna, affectionately known to many Mysureans in their late 20s, 30s and 40s as Ponoo Uncle, passed away yesterday.

Ponoo was the beloved proprietor of the Pelican Pub, a watering hole he transformed into a sanctuary like no other in Mysuru, back when it was still Mysore.

Pelican Pub was the place where we met old friends, made new ones, laughed until our sides hurt, cried over broken hearts, fell in love and cheered our favourite sports teams to victory. For many, it was the place where we had our ‘first drink.’

In a town where pubs could be intimidating, Pelican was a haven. It was the safest pub in Mysuru, where even single women could enjoy a beer and read a book without the fear of drunks behaving badly.

It was a melting pot where the well-heeled and the not-so-well-heeled mingled, treating each other with the same respect. ‘Class’ didn’t matter here; all that mattered was that you had class — in how you behaved, that is.

This unique atmosphere existed because of Ponoo’s watchful eyes. He was kind, witty, charming, decent and immensely respected. Clad in his all-white attire, he would personally visit each table and ask, “Is everything okay?” He did this even if you’d been a regular for decades.

If everything was not okay and he noticed you were in a sombre mood, Ponoo had a knack for offering words of wisdom without ever being preachy. If you were a regular, he might order you a mug of beer and suggest a book, usually something by Osho, to soothe your soul.

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If you were on a date and hoping for romance, he’d crack a few mischievous jokes, playing the perfect elderly wingman.

If you were happy, he’d simply leave you to your exuberance with a smile and a, “I’m glad you’re living in the moment.”

Many joked that Ponoo Uncle was like a proton, always in a positive state of mind because he was a lifelong bachelor. But it wasn’t that. He was a lifelong practitioner of ‘living in the now.’

Long before words of affirmation became an Instagram trend, Ponoo filled Pelican Pub with affirmations and smart Alec jokes. One table sign read: “Between yesterday’s mistakes and tomorrow’s hope, there is a fantastic opportunity called Today — Live it, Love it! This day is yours.”

Ponoo Uncle at the Pelican Pub.

I visited Ponoo’s office twice in my life. Once as a young college student and again recently. The backdrop has remained the same — a poster of Osho Rajneesh with the quote: “Celebrate life. Sitting, speaking, smoking, drinking, dining, dancing, whatever you do, do it with awareness and in joy.”

Interestingly, Ponoo served one of the best draught beers in town but never touched alcohol himself! But he taught us, unknowingly, how to pace our drinking.

We’d stand to greet him out of respect when he visited our table but knowing he might come back again later to check if everything was still okay, we paced ourselves. We didn’t want to end up too drunk to greet him properly or to slur our words — no one wanted to embarrass themselves in front of him.

Despite his many virtues, Ponoo  had one tiny flaw — he was soft-spoken, literally. We often strained our necks to hear him, and some older men stood up more to catch his words than out of sheer respect.

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Over the years, Pelican Pub became Mysuru’s reunion centre. During the holiday season, Mysureans from around the globe would flock to the pub, rekindling old friendships and making new memories.

Last year, during a conversation about the perils of old age and death, Ponoo said, “It is not death that a man should fear, but rather fear the regret of having not lived.”

Ponoo  lived. He lived on his terms and to the fullest. His graceful presence and handsome smile will be dearly missed by all his patrons at Pelican Pub.

On behalf of thousands of Mysureans from across the world, who have laughed, loved, cried and cheered at Pelican, thank you Ponoo Uncle.

May you continue to make the Gods smile with your grace and the Angels laugh with your naughty wit… Just make sure you speak a little louder up there, please. Cheers and Goodbye.

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