Cafe Book Mark, a book stall and reading room on the premises of Ayyankali Hall, attracts bookworms

Book Cafe, conceptualised by Abraham Mathew, Secretary, Kerala State Book Mark, is open on all days from 9am to 9pm

Published - July 09, 2024 02:52 pm IST

Cafe Books Mark at Palayam, Thiruvananthapuram.

Cafe Books Mark at Palayam, Thiruvananthapuram. | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Abin Biju from Pathanamthitta is immersed in his reading material at a quiet corner in a small heritage building on the premises of Ayyankali Hall at Palayam, Thiruvananthapuram. Studying for the examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission, he says he finds the book-lined space an ideal spot to study as it is peaceful, tidy and centrally located.

Abdullah Musafir, a civil service aspirant from Malappuram, is engrossed in a newspaper that he has selected from the dailies arranged neatly in a rack in the sun-lit room.

Book Cafe, inaugurated on June 19, is a haven for readers. Open from 9am to 9pm every day, it has become a place for students and bookworms.

(From left) Abraham Mathew, academic KP Rajappan Nair and Agriculture Minister P Prasad  during a discussion at Cafe Book Mark.

(From left) Abraham Mathew, academic KP Rajappan Nair and Agriculture Minister P Prasad during a discussion at Cafe Book Mark. | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Conceptualised by Abraham Mathew, Secretary, Kerala State Book Mark, under the Department of Culture, the plan was to revitalise the outlet, which used to sell government publications and major works in Malayalam.

Says Abraham: “When I joined Book Mark, the building was in a dilapidated state and the tiled roof was leaking. The book stall that used to function there was closed. I had the place renovated into a welcoming space that offered visitors a comfortable reading experience. They are welcome to browse through the books or read and are under no pressure to buy.”

C Rahim, Abraham Mathew, Congress leader PA Salim, Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, MLA, and Politburo member MA Baby are deep in conversation at the Cafe Book Mark

C Rahim, Abraham Mathew, Congress leader PA Salim, Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan, MLA, and Politburo member MA Baby are deep in conversation at the Cafe Book Mark | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Instead of a library with membership rules and restrictions on borrowing of books, he envisaged a space where people could drop in to read, write or study. His proposal was accepted by the Kerala State Planning Board and ₹10 lakh was allotted for starting the project and renovating the space.

Abraham explains that to maintain the sanctity of the heritage space, roof tiles were bought from Thrissur to replace broken ones. Two young designers were entrusted with the job of transforming the dingy space into an airy, sunny room. Based around the idea that knowledge enlightens the mind, even the lampshades in the Book Cafe are designed to resemble book covers.

A wide range of books, both fiction and non-fiction, in Malayalam and English, including books for children, are for sale or for reading. Aishwariya, who is in charge of the Book Cafe from 9am to 6pm, says the place is crowded from 5pm onwards with bibliophiles. Students from University College drop in to bury themselves in prose and poetry. Abraham admits that he was quite taken aback by the popularity of the place.

“A small space around a table has been included for talks and discussions on books or reading-related matters. Instead of a fee, we request organisers to buy books worth ₹1,000. We hope to add books and keep the place functional on profits generated by the sale of books,” explains Abraham.

Hot coffee and tea are available at the Book Cafe for visitors while they get transported on wings of creative writings.

Abraham says that Book Mark has also moved into publishing and three books have been released – Vinod Bhattathiri’s book on cyberlaws for children, Prabha Varma’s book that makes English accessible with the help of old sayings and adages and C Rahim’s book on the environment.

“One of the visitors suggested we should have pocket editions of the Indian Constitution. Plans are afoot to publish it ourselves in addition to ten other books,” he adds.

Abraham plans to open such book cafes in Kochi and Kozhikode followed by similar ones in other districts too.

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