Quaint hemitage for Pune’s bibliophiles

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When third year students, Gauri Awate and Aanchal Mehta, want to unwind or brainstorm they head to Waari Book Cafe in Kothrud. The computer engineering students prefer the pleasant and quiet ambience at the cafe to their college halls or gardens. Awate says, “Whenever we want to brainstorm or discuss an idea related to college or studies, we gather here. Also, I got the idea of starting a food page on a social networking site while sipping on coffee here.”

Interestingly, like Waari, the city serves as a home to cafes in the city that serve as a haven for book lovers. One of the oldest of such cafes is called Pagdandi,and is located in Aundh. The newer ones go by the names of Words and Sips book cafe, and Boka book cafe on Fergusson college road.

A community hub

Boka book cafe on Fergusson College road was launched in September 2018 by Akshata Dahanukar who was unknown to the concept of book cafes until she joined a college. (RAVINDRA JOSHI/HT PHOTO)

Having led a traveller’s life,city-based couple Vishal and Neha Piparaiya wanted to create a space for people, to unwind and slow down. The objective behind the project was to provide people a space to read books, share ideas and create a community hub.Thus Pagdandi came to being. “Books hold a special place because we believe they define our lives. Vishal said, “When we decided to settle down, we realised how life in the city runs by the clock. We wanted to create a creative space and enable it with books as we received a lot of direction through the books we read.”

The busting narrow lane near Vaishali hotel on FC road ends at a rather quiet and quaint spot called Words and Sips book cafe. A five-month old cafe, run by Pradeep Tambake, is filled with college students and young professionals, who can be seen busy reading or discussing. Tambake, also runs a Readers club study room in Sadashiv Peth, a study centre for students and professionals. “Over the years, we often received queries regarding if we were a library, or whether we offer a space for reading. That’s when we realised the need and demand for a book cafe. Hence, we launched Words and Sips book cafe.”

Place for book lovers

Akshata Dahanukar, owner, Boka cafe. (RAVINDRA JOSHI/HT PHOTO)

For business administration student, Akshata Dahanukar, reading is a passion which she covered into a business idea. Unknown to the concept of book cafes, Dahanukar was introduced to the same by her friends. “When I moved to Pune, I kept hearing college friends talk about book cafes and how it helped them read and work on projects in one place. So, I started researching on the same. Coming from a business family, my parents supported me and that’s how Boka book cafe was launched in September 2018.”

Sourcing books and maintenance

Pagdandi book cafe in Aundh has been serving Punekars since 2013. (HT PHOTO)

Vishal added that with regard to the library that they run at the cafe, things are pretty smooth. “When we started out, we selected books from our own collection, purchased some, visited second hand book sales and old stores. However, when it comes to a small bookstore, I believe the market is not aligned to support initiatives like ours.”

Tambake adds that they were always keen on having the best collection of books to offer. “We purchased majority of the books present in the cafe. Although over the last few months we received a lot of book donations. We want to be able to provide for college students, for whom purchasing new books can really burn a hole in the pocket. So, they can come and refer the same without worrying having to worry about memberships fees or other financial expenses.”

Activities and events

Vishal and Neha Piparaiya, owners, Pagdandi (HT PHOTO)

Interestingly, these cafes have organised several events and activities too. Dahanukar says, “It was a part of the concept as I was looking at creating a cultural hub. Back when social media was yet to be thought of people, would gather to discuss and interact. It is that closeness in the community that I wish to revive. The idea is to get people to come together brainstorm and while having a good time.” She organises poetry reading sessions and open mic events at the cafe.

Pagdandi has also organised several events over the years. Vishal adds, “Activities and events have been an identifying factor for us. We are thankful to the community for having trusted us with multiple events. Since we have now have more space infrastructure wise we are able to conduct 5-6 events per week. We recently organised an event on Indian classical music, self publishing and a listening circle on relationship, love and sexuality.”

Response and change

Pradeep Tambake, owner, Words and Sips book cafe. (RAHUL RAUT/HT PHTO)

The Indian baithak and seating arrangement in these cafes are a hit and win-win. Tambake shares, “The fact that the students can relax and feel at home in these arrangements is what makes them comfortable.”

Dahanukar adds that initially they struggled in terms of customers but gradually they saw an increase in footfall and things have been steady since.

Vishal adds, “We see a lot of new faces coming in owing to the migrant working and student population. It is a good mix of demographics. This shows how the place has evolved over the years and to think when we started out we did not have a blue print in mind.”

[“source-“bbc”]