When the dust clears from the civil-engineering project that is the Blanco road and Fulton roundabout, there shall appear a new neighborhood hot spot. More of a WiFi hotspot, actually, where you can also get a spot of hot tea — organic and herbal teas from India and Nepal. The aromatic steam will float on melodies from the latest Bollywood film, fusion or Indian classical tunes, depending on the whim of owner Pramod Goshai, as you wander through the art gallery or check out the latest shipment of imported handicrafts. The idea behind Mandala Gallery and Tea House is to put a bunch of interesting things together and see what kind of cross-cultural, positive interactions might arise.
Mandala officially opened on September 29 with an art exhibition by Houston artists Page and David Piland, and local artists Alex Garcia, Adriana Garcia, David Blancas, Rafe Saenz, Dalibor Moyzes, and a few works by Goshai himself. A performance of Indian classical dance emphasized Goshai’s heritage, and his commitment to incorporating poetry readings, music and dance performances, lectures, yoga classes, and other programs into his event calendar.
“I really want this place to become a sort of watering hole for local artists and people in the neighborhood,” says Goshai, who envisions his latest endeavor as a cultural center in every sense of the term.
Married to a native San Antonian, Goshai moved here two years ago after a five-year stint in Nepal working for UPS. “I always joke with my wife that I got mis-delivered,” quips Goshai — a handsome, well-dressed, cosmopolitan type from northern India — whose entrepreneurial verve seems driven by a searching, almost spiritual belief.
“Nepal is where I first started thinking about the idea of a cultural center. The whole city of Katmandu is like a museum,” he says. Unfortunately, after five years, it was time to move on. “The economic situation in Nepal was getting really bad,” says Goshai, as was the increasingly volatile political situation. “It was just time to leave.”
His first gig in San Antonio was to take over a funky thrift shop on Donaldson called Eva’s Treasure Box. As the costume jewelry and vintage clothes sold, he started replacing them with imported items.
“When you’re from a place, you don’t necessarily notice certain things — they’re just part of the environment,” he says. But on his most recent trip to India, he started paying attention to the traditional handicrafts available from all over India and Nepal, many made by craft cooperatives. His arts and culture side spoke to his business and commerce side, and the pieces began falling into place.
Located in the heart of the Blanco business district, Mandala is ripe with potential — particularly for the laid-back, funky-hang-out kind of crowd. It occupies the large corner space of the strip that houses Casbeers and Mazatlan Mexican Restaurant. Windows along the two exterior walls allow a wash of light into the airy, open space, which is equipped with moveable walls and pedestals for professional gallery installations. Suspended Nepali textiles define a quiet seating area by the windows, where patrons can sip beverages, nibble samosas or bhelpuri chaat, read, or work on laptops. A discreet case in the back of the space features handcrafted jewelry, shawls, and gift items from India, Nepal, and Mexico.
Goshai originally trained as a cook, and food is part and parcel of his concept for Mandala. The kitchen isn’t fully operational yet, but in November he’ll roll out a menu of Indian snacks and signature sandwiches. The gallery is open now from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., offering tea and beverages. Soon he’ll serve gelato, Indo-British high tea after 2:30 p.m., and a full line of vegetarian and, as they say in India, “non-veg” fare. He plans to open early for that morning cup of tea and biscuit.
But don’t let the Indian-ness limit your perceptions of Mandala. His upcoming show will feature artwork, altars, and a full day of activities for El Dia de los Muertos on November 2. The exhibition will also showcase traditional Indian altars and artworks related to Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Light, which falls on November 9.
Poetry readings and other events are planned for both days, in addition to the show’s opening reception on October 23. Like everyone else in the neighborhood, Goshai is eager for the Blanco construction to be finished. Don’t wait on that, though — Mandala is its own oasis. •
Mandala Gallery and Tea House
1701 Blanco Rd @ Fulton