Rahul Verma discovers a café tucked away in Shadipur, where food for thought is the main course

I had been hearing about a new café in town for some months. It had been started by a few old friends of mine, so I kept planning to give it a visit. But then this happened, and that happened, and I never managed to find the time to drop in at May Day Café.

I went there last week and was really wowed by it. May Day Café is in New Ranjit Nagar, near Shadipur in West Delhi. The café came up when the street theatre group, Jana Natya Manch, was looking for a place for itself. Now the theatre group stages its plays in Studio Safdar, which is housed in the same building. The publisher LeftWord Books has its outlet here, too. So you browse around and buy your books, and drop in at the café for a cup.

Let me give you directions to begin with. Go to the Satyam cineplex in the Shadipur area. Leave the hall to your right and keep moving straight till you reach a T point. From the T junction, turn left and keep going straight. You’ll reach an open space – where you’ll find cars parked. Café May Day is on your right. The address is 2254/2A Ground Floor, Shadi—Khampur, New Ranjit Nagar.

The café looks good. It has book shelves all around, and some very nice posters and pictures. The colours are soothing— with spots of blue singing in harmony with cream, red and brown. You can sit there and drink your coffee in peace. On most days, the café only serves coffee and cakes. But on the third Sunday of every month, it does a brunch. The themes are different every month. Last week, when I was there, the topic of discussion was street food. So everybody had come carrying something from the streets— the table was heaped with bedmi and aloo, gol gappas, papri chaat, chholey kulchey, fruit chaat, suji halwa, sweet and salted lassi, and of course, there was coffee.

Their earlier brunches were focused on various aspects of food and beverages. The first one was on coffee; the second one was a tea- tasting session. There was one on food culture in China. One session on mangoes had various kinds of mangoes for tasting, along with some other stuff such as aam ka shrikhand, chutneys, murabbas and cakes.

May Day Café has its own philosophy about prices. There are no fixed rates— and you can pay whatever you want to, but the suggested contribution is Rs.250 per head. I like the place tremendously. This is something that I always wanted to do— start a bookshop with a small coffee corner. The idea of buying books, sitting back in a comfortable chair and reading them while drinking coffee is most enticing. But May Day, of course, is an even better idea. To eat and talk about the food you are eating is the best way to appreciate food. Our discussion on street food, for instance, moved from the decline of street food in Delhi to the main hubs of street food to the role of salt and the evolution of south Indian cuisine. Clearly, the café is all about food for thought.

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