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A Book Cafe, a Music Concert, and a Night with Books Drenched in Bloo…. Sorry Rain

I am a 31-year-old with the mind of a 20 year old and world experience of a 10-year-old. I am lagging behind in almost everything. I was 1 year late to join school (this is a long story, but still). I was many years late to create an account on social media. When everyone around me was joining courses, giving competitive exams, and appearing for interviews to secure their dream jobs, I was sitting at home – reading, listening to music, writing poetry, sipping endless cups of tea, and occasionally getting scolded by my parents (for not doing anything worth doing).

I am a late bloomer and this is one of the things I really like about myself. It lets me discover things at my own pace and makes me me. But one thing I regret knowing late in life is about book cafes. Yes, I didn’t know something called book cafes existed till recently. I found out about them later this year when I started my blog. Oh, and I was even late in writing this blog post. The incident I am about to talk of happened around a month ago.

It was a Sunday in August and I had a musical concert to attend in the evening. Now the place I live in is far from main Mumbai and thus, from any place of importance. This concert was farthest from my house- about 2 hours in total.

I decided to make good use of the day and cover two places – the book cafe I read about and later attend the concert. I started from my home around noon and 2 hours later entered….

Mumbai’s Warm and Little Book Cafe- Kitab Khana

This book cafe is located inside an iconic building and you can easily miss it if you are not specifically looking for it. As soon as I entered the bookstore cafe, the air and the entire atmosphere changed and I forgot I was feeling irritated just before entering (it was raining and the umbrella wouldn’t shut). My younger sister, who was accompanying me, had to come back (she had already gone inside) and close it eventually.

There is so much to like about Kitab Khana. It is very small and that makes it cozy and warm. It exudes a welcoming feel like a home away from home. It’s been designed tastefully, with attractive pictures and sculptures adorning the walls. The bookstore left even my non-reader sister impressed.

I immediately lost myself in the array of books- romance, young adult, fantasy, murder mysteries, poems… There is also an upstairs section that houses books related to spirituality, religion, self-help and books in regional languages.

After spending over an hour at the bookstore, I bought a total of 6 books. They were costly, yes- you can get the same books at half the price on Amazon. But tell that to the part of me that melts every time she looks at books. I would have bought more if I wasn’t supposed to attend the concert and I didn’t fear my sister would soon get impatient and leave me.

The Cafe

The cafe is situated at the back of the bookstore and keeps with its theme of being small and inviting. I really wanted to have a sip and a bite at the cafe as I had heard about its enticing menu before visiting but couldn’t (if only I could get my eyes away from the books). I also don’t have any pictures to display here because we forgot to take any.

At first, I couldn’t decide whether to browse the shelves or sit inside the cafe. I decided to do the latter first because I doubted whether I would even remember about the cafe once I was among the shelves.

We sat inside the cafe, secured a table at the back, put our bags on the chairs and headed towards the order counter. The wall menu only had beverages (and I was too shy to ask for a print menu) and the snacks (there were croissants and some foreign looking snacks whose names I am not aware of) were kept under the glass counter. Again undecided- the whiff of coffee was inviting me but I wanted to have a proper meal and the rows of books were beckoning me. I couldn’t have possibly done all without being incredibly late for the event. So we decided against it and I happily went, or flew, to be among the shelves.

I continued my immersion with paperback after paperback while my sister got herself a sugar-free white flat coffee. This meant I couldn’t even taste it; I hate beverages without sugar. So I have nothing to say about the cafe (my sister said it tasted good, though I doubt it- how can a sugar-less beverage taste anything at all?).

Early Dinner at Spesso Gourmet Kitchen

After leaving Kitab Khana (very reluctantly; I am definitely going back!) we straight away headed to Spesso Gourmet Kitchen which is a pure veg restaurant located very close to the bookstore cafe in Churchgate.

It had a lively ambience and was less crowded, which was quite a relief. We ordered pita bread with hummus as a side and later red sauce spaghetti. They were both yum.

For dessert, we chose lotus biscoff cheesecake which wasn’t as delicious as its name or looks. But, overall, we had a very satisfying and filling meal at the restaurant.

Later in the Day

The concert. This was the main purpose for my coming out of my cave. It was a live-in concert by singer Hariharan and I can’t find enough words to describe how beautiful it was.

I highly recommend attending musical concerts for creative folks; it helps with your creativity. It fuels your brain and activates the creative part, making you brimming with new ideas.

Hariharan enthralled all with a mix of classic and popular Ghazals. He even surprised us by giving a ghazal a contemporary jazz-like twist. It was endearing. I only have two words to sum up the entire experience- deeply soothing.

BUT my time at the concert didn’t go entirely uneventful. Since I was attending this concert alone (my sister is not a fan of Hariharan), I had booked the last seat in a row. The seat beside me was empty – the rest of the row was already booked and so I thought – who else would come alone for a concert and I can sit comfortably throughout. Still, I feared a guy would sit next to me and that is what happened.

Some 20 minutes into the performance, a guy came and sat in the lone empty seat beside me. I leaned towards the other side as much as possible and focused my complete attention on the music. Around half hour later, in between when one Ghazal ended and the other was about to start, the guy next to me turned and said out loud- ‘Can you please change your seat with mine back there?’, he gestured somewhere upward behind us. ‘Only if you have no problem,’ he added. So, he wasn’t alone as I had presumed.

He was so loud, he startled me and everyone around stared at us. Absolutely not, I thought. But said, very slowly,- ‘No I am okay in my seat’. He smiled graciously and said, ‘No problem’.

Meanwhile, the performance had halted. There was some technical issue with the stand mic. It went on for more time than anticipated. And I was thinking, is God punishing me for rejecting the guy’s request of changing seats? Why is there an issue then? Why isn’t it getting resolved? After more than 10 minutes, it felt like half an hour, Hariharan decided to use the mouth mic and everyone cheered. The relaxing Ghazals resumed touching our hearts.

For the last half hour or so, Hariharan honoured the requests of the audience. There were shouts of ‘sing Kaash’- his most famous Ghazal, and film songs like Tu Hi Re, Roja Jaaneman, Aye Hairathe Ashiqui, among others. Hariharan obliged and that was the jewel in the crown of the performance. For a fan, it was a dream come true.

My Journey Back Home

So this is the most interesting (it was annoying at that time) part of the day.

It was late by the time the concert ended. Late by my standards that is. It was past 9:30 at night and I am usually found curled up in bed listening to music or dreaming at this hour.

I was in a different zone when I emerged from the concert hall. And that changed abruptly when I saw it pouring heavily outside. My immediate next action was to open both Ola and Uber apps to find a cab to the nearest station, Churchgate, as quickly as possible. But no driver was available on either app and after waiting for 15 minutes or so, I decided to walk the distance. Bad decision. Actually, I could have changed the cab, I chose a taxi without AC as its fare was the lowest. If you choose an AC cab whose expense is a little over Rs. 100 you will definitely get a ride. I didn’t want to spend so much for such a short distance but I should have because it was raining heavily and I had no umbrella with me. I had given the umbrella to my sister (We were carrying only one 😒).

So I walked as fast as I could to save myself from getting completely drenched. It was useless because I had to walk more than 15 minutes to reach the station which could have been covered within 7 minutes by vehicle. I cursed myself and walked and walked and walked. The road didn’t seem to end and I was dripping wet and I saw I hadn’t inched more than a few meters on Google maps. The map posed another challenge- I had to keep one eye on it to check I am going right while the other on the road and a third one on the traffic.

And did I mention I had a bag with my books in one hand? I had a backpack over my shoulders but I chose to carry my books in a paper bag in one hand in the rain. I had one look at my bag with books and saw the upper part fully wet. My thought, ‘Okay, the rest of the part below is still dry and if I hurry I can save my books from getting wet.’

It was a pretty messed up situation. 10 minutes…12 minutes….15 minutes.. finally I was nearing my destination. And a final blow was waiting to strike me just then. As I was about to cross the road, my destination was on the right, the paper bag (completely wet and melted by now) gave way and my books lay spattered on the middle of the road. Horrified, I started picking them hurriedly while also avoiding getting crushed under wheels. Thankfully, the traffic at that moment was less. The books were all wet and there was some dirt on them (I had to dry and sanitize them the next day). I stood under a tree and put them quickly in my backpack- what use was that now?

The rest of my homeward journey went uneventful, save for the Rickshaw driver who asked for extra 10 rupees as the clock had struck midnight when he dropped me at my location. I argued with him- for some reason I was in the mood to save on public rides but completely okay to spend thousands on books and concerts. Not cool, but anyway I entered my home sweet home at 12:01 a.m. exact.

Are you the still-figuring-things-out kind like me or the more confident and smart one in the group? Whichever category you belong to, embrace yourself as you are because it makes for great tales. 😊

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