BENGALURU: Sample this: You are seated by a window that opens out to lush green foliage. The smell of something comforting, probably a rich coconut loaf or watermelon gazpacho, wafts in from the kitchen close by. Occasionally, the soft sound of a ladder being dragged across the room falls upon your ears: Just another reader trying to get to a book stacked on shelves that reach the ceiling. Welcome to Champaca Bookstore Library & Café, a new bookstore in the city.
“I’ve always wanted to serve coffee or tea with books,” says Radhika Timbadia, who founded Champaca with Pavithra Sankaran. The 1,000 sq ft space includes a library for children below 12, a bookstore for adults, and a kitchen, where dishes such as pulled pork sliders, avocado toast, and various soups and salads, are made every day from 11 am to 7 pm, except Mondays. Tucked away towards the dead end of Edward Road (just off Queen’s Road), space is nothing less of a nook straight out of a fairy tale for book lovers, one where the hustle of life outside is replaced with the chirps of a tailor bird instead.
Champaca took three years in the making, and was conceived when Timbadia, a former ecologist, who also worked with a library in Pottery Town, realised the need for a community library. She recalls how when she was growing up in Mumbai, the only books she had access to were Archie or Tinkle comics, or secondhand books. “We mainly had books by international authors and I wanted the children of today to read books they could relate to,” she explains.
While the café is the stomach of the space, its heart and soul lies in the bookstore. Books can be found on every table, almost like breadcrumbs leading you to the 3,000-strong collection. If you look closely, you realise there’s actually a method to the madness, with shelves dedicated to feminism, environment, memoirs and biographies, sci-fi and fantasy, caste, translations and young adult, whereas written works on sexuality find a proud display near the billing counter. Most of these have been handpicked from over 1 lakh books by the founders and their board of curators.
“We wanted our collection to be diverse in author identity and themes,” says Sankaran. At least 40 per cent of the books on display are by Indian writers. “We aren’t just proud of our collection of translations from Indian languages, but also thrilled that a huge number of them are sold out,” she adds.
At a time when most are trading turning pages to tapping a device, Champaca is already seeing repeat customers within two weeks of its launch. “The books are selling well because we sell them personally. Sixty to 70 per cent of the people who bought books here are those we’ve had a conversation with,” says Sankaran, adding, “People realise you can’t browse online. There’s no shelf where you catch sight of your favourite author and get curious about the book next to it. A bookstore lets you make discoveries.”