BY TINAT ATIFA MASOOD
My friend, Nandita Talukdar called me to say there’s a reading session at Back Benchers Café and I told her, I will go!
It took me just a couple of minutes to locate the place, rushing as I was a couple of minutes late. It was 5.40 pm. The numerous colourful pictures on the staircase leading to the first floor had a story to tell and I was excited to know more! Santanu, a friend was sitting informally just outside the door on a low tool and he greeted me with a warm smile. As I entered the cafe, which I have been wishing to come by, I took in the most beautiful picture; there was Mitra Phukan sitting in the middle of the room, with her back to a cute kitchen area, in her colourful best, her face in an ethereal radiance and a fairly large crowd of young people around her. The introductions were going on and it didn’t take me long to understand that most of them were Mitra Phukan fans and they have read each and every article that she has written so far! One girl, who introduced herself as a granddaughter of Late Parbati Prashad Barua, earnestly requested Mitra Baideo to sing one song at the end of the session, since singing used to be one of Baideo’s passion! “Maybe some other day!” Mitra baideo flashed one of her iridescent smiles!
In a couple of minutes, we were all ensconced in a pleasant warmth in the room, which was not done up over-the-top. What however is impressive is the bookshelf, greeting people to read whenever they stepped into the cafe for their mouth-watering delicacies. Sometimes I see a cute bubbly teenage girl in Mitra Phukan, whenever she starts speaking. She soon wrapped all of us in her articulate web, keeping each one of us charmed with her stories! “Motivation is what drives a criminal,” she spoke while also reiterating that motivation for criminal activities begins with need, then goes on to greed and then it becomes a habit. A criminal becomes arrogant after a couple of successful crimes.
Mitra Phukan read out from her story ‘Gold’, which was published in the Femina some time back. It was an interesting story about the need of gold by the house-help to buy medicines for her mother, how she steals it and the repercussions thereof at the house of the in-laws of the young bride, who is burnt to death because she brought 10 tola less of gold. She also read out paragraphs from her latest book, “A Full-Night’s Thievery”, which will be an interesting book and I am picking mine soon! An evening to reminisce! It was fascinating to be amongst quite a large number of youngsters who were probably anxious to spin their own yarns! It was quite a mixed bag though; some kids studying at TISS, a doctor, an army-man, a journalist, an engineer based in the US, teachers….
The proprietors of the cafe, Banamallika Choudhury and her best friend, Manisha Khaund Das, a lawyer turned baker run the place pretty awesomely, with reading sessions once in a while, served with freshly baked cup-cakes and sah or coffee! They have more to offer in the menu and I am sure to make another trip to the cafe to try out sticky rice and bamboo-shoot! Sounds yum! It will be a treat if it is topped with another reading session! The address reads 1st Floor, Kabita Mansion, Rajgarh Link Road!