Deodar trees and the gigantic mountains tower over and provide a perfect, cosy backdrop to a book cafe in Shimla. Mostly thronged by book lovers, it is also known for its staff. Conceptualised by the Himachal Pradesh prison department, the cafe is run by four prisoners who are serving their life sentence.
Yograj, 27, and Subhas Chand, 44, are serving their life term and are posted at the Kaithu sub-jail of Shimla. Working as waiters at the cafe, they walk from the jail to the cafe with no police supervision. When not taking care of the orders at the cafe they borrow books from the library’s well-stocked shelves. The cafe, funded by the State’s tourism department, was jointly built by the State government and the prisons department, said a PTI report.
The duo is also assisted by inmates Ram Lal and Raj Kumar, who work as chefs. The cafe is situated just above the historical ridge at Takka Bench, has a seating capacity of 40 and is built with a budget of Rs 20 lakh, says a report in Financial Express.
The cafe, which opened in April 2017 has seen visitors from all walks of life. From students to the elderly, the cafe has hosted several reading enthusiasts. The cafe has also evolved into a melting point for book readings, launches, poetry events, according to the The Hindu.
I enjoy reading about the history of Shimla — what the city was like during British times, says Yograj.
Another inmate, Subhas, who has spent 15 years in jail, adds,
When in jail, we interact with co-prisoners only. Book Café has been a welcome change; it keeps my mind occupied. Sometimes, I read Hindi language books to understand the world beyond.