Forget Khan Market.
You and everybody else you know lives in Gurugram, anyway. And most likely you only ever went to 'Khan' if you wanted to visit Chacha for a kathi roll or to Bahrisons Book Shop to browse and maybe buy a book that jumped off the shelf into your willing hands.
Now the Bahris have brought their wares across the border. At the busy and festive Galleria Market, I mount with increasing happy anticipation the flight of stairs leading to The Library — a noun to conjure up a host of images, depending on your experience of said noun. At school, it was a heavy, book-lined place where we were supposed to read quietly, although all we ever did was send little messages in paper airplanes to those on the far side of the large tables. In the library of Rushdie's imagined Alexandria, people lingered among the storied shelves drinking tea and living for generations in rooms made of stacks.
In my own experience in the 1970's, I worked in a private library in midtown New York. Here we sent books up and down in a dumbwaiter, and here I often chanced upon John D, a clerk like myself, asleep on the eighth floor after lunch. He didn't think anyone would be interested in the old Dutch and German books that snored there along with him.
But forget the old! Here, in noisy, busy Gurugram, I enter a brightly lit space suffused with natural light from its large windows, and the perky perfume of coffee freshly brewed. The perfect blend of book and brew, I thought, glancing about, as I invariably do, for the children's book shelves. They were all there, the Blytons and the Tulikas, the Dahls and our own controversial Paro Anand.
The browsing of unpurchased books with a cup of coffee in hand is strictly not permitted, I was told. I was most dejected until a very helpful staffer, the name “Bahrisons” emblazoned on his t-shirt, relented when I promised I would buy if I spilt. So, armed with a slew of paperbacks, I went over to the Blue Tokai side of the space, to sit myself on a high stool and order me a flat white cappucino. It comes in a blue cup brimming with something called “micro foam.” I suspect it is the heart-shaped milk in the middle of the coffee, a sort of island for those marooned beside cup and saucer.
Barely had I sipped and slipped into the tale of a snail named Sunu when I was politely told by a staff member of Blue Tokai -- so read the t-shirt -- that unpurchased books are not allowed in their part of the (politely) shared space. I relented. Putting the slim books aside, I did the other great thing a coffee drinker should do if not reading, that is, is not to be the one great thing which a coffee drinker does do. If you get my drift.
I listened to two ladies chatting amicably in Korean two tables away. It helped that I didn't understand a word but I caught the drift. Then, my eyes lit on the enormous building across the way, a many-storied Greek style high rise. I looked, from balcony to window, up and down, like a book full of stories, sorrows and joys, and also fresh laundry and ferns.
Outside, on The Library’s wrap-around verandah, two people were discussing a joint business venture. It all sounded very murky to me, something out of Dalal Street. Coffee will do this to you: make you talk and think deep and shallow thoughts as you stir in another sachet of sugar into your second cup.
Blue Tokai coffee, I learn, is named for the Malabari word for the plumes of a peacock. It is, as you know by now, sensational stuff, not just in packaging but in the very sourcing of the bean. I did not give in to the flaky-looking croissants sitting in a display shelf, made by Suchalis Artisan Bake House: put full stops after every letter in Artisan and you’ll know what they look and taste like, I suspect. Next time, I will have one, and promise not to leave a flake inside a book, unless it happens to be titled 'Crumbs!'
It is perfectly wonderful that Bahrisons has extended itself into the hardscrabble world that lives in frantic excitement outside the Ring Road. For those who have yearned for a refuge in the midst of the madness, that is ‘D.E.V.E.L.O.P.M.E.N.T.’: a magic space.Will I forget Khan Market? Well, I do like kathi rolls; and what about that special person at Bahri's who knows which book I want even when I don't? The appeal is undeniable — but there’s no Blue Tokai, is there?
Getting there: The Library, 55, DLF Galleria Road, DLF Phase IV, Sector 28, Gurgaon.
Emma Lateef is a nom de plume for a painter, author and homemaker who leads a far more exciting interior life as M.
Wake up to daily updates on what to eat/shop/do in your city