Spanish novelist Zafon has created a place in his literary universe, ‘Cemetery of Forgotten Books’. A place where all the forgotten and the banned books can find refuge; carry their journey to eternity and at times, find their way back in the safe hands of a deserving reader. Well, Zafon’s Cemetery might have an oddly hopeful yet grave connotation to it; but I recently happen to stumble upon a place which from the very first step taken inside, reminded me of the sacred places, for books, described in the universes of the likes of Zafon. It is situated in one of the most happening areas in the ‘pub city’ of India. A quaint little cafe with a vibrant character frequented with patrons who visit this place, not for coffee & food but for food for thought, food for the soul- Movies, Art, Travel, Games, Photography, Poems, Stand ups and of course- Books. This unique community place has a thoughtful name too- Dialogues Cafe. Being a book lover ( or at least I thought I was), I got intrigued when I read about a meetup- ‘Dialogues with Books’ which is held every second Saturday of the month, at this cafe. Partly to fulfill the curiosity and partly with a hope to get some recommendations on which books to pick up next, I landed at one of the meetups of the fellow book lovers of Bangalore. I don’t recall now what was the exact dialogue which I had in my first visit. But I do remember walking out with a big smile and number of titles added to my ‘to read list’. But most importantly I sure still can feel what I felt that day- overwhelmed with the thought that there is so much to read and it will never be enough. I re-visited the next time with a title or two wiser, few insights to contribute and hungry for more. The sessions were structured around a particular theme. They always ventured into anything and everything related to the theme, books being discussed, authors and most importantly how each book was perceived by the reader, how it impacted them. I kept coming back like an addict to a dealer; wanting more with the feeling of being overwhelmed consuming me from within. I discovered what it actually means to be a ‘book lover’, started losing myself more and more in the realm of fiction, going away from reality. Or was it that the sense of gaining new perspective helped in getting closer to the reality or at least handle it better? Soon I realized, it was not just an intellectually & emotionally stimulated dialogue on the literary world which I looked forward to, but the familiar faces and the post-session coffee discussions with them on topics ranging from universe, life & everything. Through the passage of written word, I was able to communicate my true self with this group of book worshippers in a way I could not in the routine life outside this cafe. They understood me, valued my opinion and they also looked forward to meeting me. I had finally found a place and a tribe where I belonged. Isn’t this an eternal quest for all us Sapiens, to find a place or people where we find a sense of belonging? Isn’t it what we call ‘home’?
I still attend the sessions with the same curiosity I had on my first day. I still walk out with a never-ending list of books I want to read. I still get equally overwhelmed, impressed and inspired by the people I meet. Every new theme discussed, every new author I meet through his/her work reveals to me this different aspect of my own thinking. Some beliefs changed, grey areas traded, depth of emotions fathomed and not just mind but heart captivated by the magic of the written word. Amidst the fleeting mundane-ness of the transactional world, for me, this place is a sanctuary of books. In the noise that drowns day to day to life, I have been fortunate to engage in this meaningful dialogue with books…no, most importantly with the wonderful people I have met here who truly treasure books and I hope our dialogue continues till the magic of written word lasts… -Aditi, Regular at dialogues. When not reading, trying to be a writer. Bookseller by day and book reader by night.
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