Keekli Interns, November, 2018, Jasmine Sharma & Mandeep Kaur Bhardwaj (St Thomas School)
Takka Bench, a famous tourist spot in Shimla also known for the Book Cafe is situated above the Ridge. People often come here to hangout, to feel the nature as it provides certain positive vibes that can only be felt in person. Surrounded with books and magazines, sitting with a cup of coffee is the ideal way to spend your mornings or evenings here. A perfect haven for book lovers and writers who can absorb its serenity and spend hours reading or writing.
This place has an interesting story as well, for it being called the Takka Bench. A name which stayed from the time of the Britishers Rule, when Shimla was the Summer Capital of the Britishers. It is a known fact that during the old days, if any Indian wanted to sit and enjoy the evening view of the Ridge, the Britishers would charge a sum of money, that was one taka which is half a paisa.
The Book Cafe is a very recent addition, and a much better use of the place which was once in shambles with broken washroom facilities for the tourists and locals alike. The cafe was inaugurated by former chief minister of Himachal, Virbhadra Singh. A unique concept about this cafe is that it is being run by prisoners of Kaithu Jail, Shimla, presently, Jai Chand and Yograj, who look after the day to day affairs of the cafe. These prisoners were first trained in a hotel and after successful results they were given this task. The idea is to give a chance to the jail inmates for reformation. Under the reformation scheme these prisoners were taught the use of handlooms and how to make bakery products. They have been trained so that it provides them with a means of livelihood and an income on a daily basis. The Cafe serves few delectable bakery items which in turn are made by the inmates themselves. It may be noted that these very prisoners are serving a life term, for deeds they now regret they hadn’t committed.
The Cafe has a wide range of books on tourism, history, including matters of national and international importance, fiction, non-fiction, comics and much more. Most of the books have been donated by local residents and tourists. The Book Cafe also provides with facilities to the visitors like free WiFi along with snacks, of course that needs to be bought. Students and other people often come here to gain knowledge. The Cafe is open for all. People of any age can visit this place. The main focus of the Book Cafe is that people of Shimla who are retired from their work or are free and want a peaceful place to relax, can do so here.
An award winning documentary by Dr. Dev Kanya Thakur featuring the Cafe and the reformations of the jail inmates and the reforms undertaken by the government of Himachal Pradesh won her the First Prize by Human Resource Ministry Delhi. The documentary gives a deep insight about the reformation of jail inmates.
A regular feature of this place are the visiting poets and writers who meet here every week to discuss, read books and narrate poetry. People come and sit here to feel the beauty of nature. During free time they love to read books inside the Cafe. People from all walks of life sit and enjoy, be it children, adults or elderly ones. The ambience of the Cafe is quite peaceful. According to people, it acts as a paradise for bookworms as it is a place of scenic beauty and away from all the noise pollution.
Though small, but the Book Cafe serves as an imaginary world with a book in one hand and coffee in the other in peaceful ambience.