This Bengaluru cafe offers solutions to mend a ‘broken’ planet

Volunteers at work at Repair Cafe in Bengaluru.   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Parked in the corner of a cafe at HRBR Layout in Bengaluru, a book presser soaks up a lot of attention, because of the simplicity of its design and what it does to torn books.

Consisting of two plywood planks held together by clamps, it can exert the right amount of pressure on a torn book that has been pieced together with adhesive. When the book is drawn out of the planks, it comes out whole. Ashok, who designed this contraption, points to a stack of 10 books that it had repaired. It is an alternative to unwieldy book-pressers found at printing presses — that is what Ashok has to say about this mechanical machine.

He is a volunteer with Repair Cafe, which holds workshops and events at different neighbourhoods in the city. This corner is bustling with activity, all of which is centred around mending some broken object. A three-member team is fixing electrical gadgets including a mosquito “bat”; and a “Thomas and Friends” toy train, under the excited eyes of its owner, a little child.

“We have repaired at least eight toys today,” says Bharath Kumar, who dabbles in mechanical and automobile repairing. At the other end of the table, two women discuss how to stitch the pocket of a pair of jeans. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, another person is fixing slippers, shoes and bags.

At the end of the day, these volunteers would return home with the satisfaction of having kept a few things back in circulation, and preventing them from going to the waste dump. A majority of the volunteers do all the fixing for free, and no object is considered too trivial to be brought to the Repair Cafe.

A volunteer mends shoes at Repair Cafe.

A volunteer mends shoes at Repair Cafe.   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

The first Repair Cafe was held in Amsterdam in 2009. Today, the Repair Cafe Foundation, a non-profit organisation, has grown worldwide with more than 1500 repair Repair Cafes. In India, so far, Bengaluru alone has been impacted by this movement, thanks to Antara Mukherji and Purna Sarkar who brought the concept to the city in 2015. The organising team has conducted more than 40 events so far, making sure it is held at a different neighbourhood each time and a venue that is open to hosting visitors.

All those who sign up as volunteers —some as young as a teenager to a septuagenarian — help mend things brought to the venue.

V. Mohan, a software professional who volunteers with Repair Cafe, says, “You don’t need to be an expert to fix things at Repair Cafe; you just have to know the basics.”

Repair Cafe also works with a few schools in the city to teach children the basics of repairing. Himadri Das says “Repairing cycles is a great conversation starter. Cycle Day provides us with an opportunity to increase out volunteer base.”

For details, email Follow them at Repaircafe080Bangalore

‘The support of RWAs can be invaluable’

Purna Sarkar, co-founder, Repair Cafe Bengaluru Foundation, talks about the changes, challenges and the community support that have helped sustain this initiative over the years.

Repair Cafe started by engaging professionals to carry out repairs. Now, you have a pool of volunteers. How did you manage to build the network?

We don’t follow the international system strictly, we have a mix of volunteers and professionals. Currently, 15 volunteers, all from different backgrounds, attend our events regularly. We sometimes nudge people to try their hand at repairing and many of them discover that they have it in them.

Most RWAs do not have a space of their own, and getting permission at public places to hold these workshops can be a challenge. How is it being done in Bengaluru?

We don’t pay for any venue, so we are happy to sit in an open space, shed or garage. For instance, at Wheeler Road in Bengaluru, we sat in a garage and the residents ensured people came with items that needed to be repaired. People not only brought things to be mended, but also got involved in the process.

This Bengaluru cafe offers solutions to mend a ‘broken’ planet

Is there any new project in the works?

Over the last two years, we have been creating a data bank of repairers in a neighbourhood. It has information of where you will find a particular mechanic and some details about the person and how they could help the community. Senior citizens of Banshankari have helped us to bring out these details in the form of a calendar, which we will be releasing on December 29.

How do you meet the expenses of running this movement?

The overall cost of conducting a workshop is less because all volunteers bring their own tool box and we don’t pay for the venue. We take a small fee for some repairs. We also keep a donation box for people to make a contribution as they deem fit. The money generated from each of the workshops is used for the next one. We also raise funds to take Repair Cafe to more places.

What do you have to say to people in Chennai who may be interested in promoting the Repair Cafe concept there?

Repair Cafe can be started in any city provided you have a group of volunteers to support it. Being associated with an active RWA can help run a repair cafe. We have a local manual that answers many queries, including how to go about starting and running these workshops and we are ready to share the resource with interested groups. We advise people to get started with any one workstation — alteration/book binding/ repairing appliances — and build on what they have learnt there, by conducting events regularly.

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Printable version | Mar 7, 2021 9:02:05 AM |

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