When I got this sudden call to reach the Connaught Place (CP, in Delhi) on an off-day, it was routine. There are some good, quiet places in the chaotic CP where we can sit and spend some quality time, be it for some professional engagement or spending time with friends or simply for networking.
While discussing about the place, the idea of the Oxford Bookstore and its Cha Bar cropped up once again. Though the Oxford Bookstore along with its Cha Bar (a good place for quality tea while leafing through the pages of the books carefully selected from the book shop – the old experience) had reopened some months ago and in CP only, just in front of its previous address, the Statesman House, we had not been to the place yet.
And we decided, let’s meet up there. For me, it was always a good time out option with its concept of the previous bookshop (rather a book lounge) in mind – a lounge sort of environment, peaceful and appealing, plenty of good books to read and decide from, with sips of different preparations of tea (coffee too) and some good bites and a good view of the traffic on the Barakhamba intersection that added positively to your time there.
But, I should say it was a letdown like the Starbucks CP outlet. The reason behind it is the ‘book lounge’ feeling has been totally compromised. Though, it was never too spacious even at the Statesman House, one felt at ease while reading through and choosing the books and more importantly enjoying the time with the books with a seamless access to the lounge area. There were no lines drawn and the sip of chai (tea, since its Cha Bar, let’s go with chai, the Hindi for tea) blended naturally with the atmosphere.
That was not the case with this reopened outlet. Here, the Cha Bar was on one side of the book shop clearly separated from a wall with poor sitting arrangements. It looked chaotic. Crammed with people, it was indeed more like a poorly arranged hangout zone of some eatery. Also, there was no outside view like the Barakhamba intersection.
It looked more like a narrow space carved somehow from the book shop to focus entirely on the commercial aspect of the Cha Bar as a hangout joint for that small bite while one looks to sit somewhere, a good place, certainly not on the line of the concept that I had in mind.
If we think of the esthetics associated with a book lounge sort of environment, it was totally absent here. Add to it, the music was poorly chosen for the ambience and was distracting, more like in the CCD (Cafe Coffee Day) outlets, loud and interfering. Even the white of the walls could not prove soothing.
Overall, it didn’t give you the feeling to be at ease with you (when you had the concept and the feeling of the previous bookstore at the Statesman House in your mind), be you wanted to be with books, with you or with your friends.
I opted for ginger chai and it was equally disappointing and so I didn’t go any further. Hope, the next time, I will be served a better quality chai for my time and money there.
I googled for Cha Bar images of the old and the reopened bookstore and came across these which clearly tell the difference (a letdown).
The only saving grace came from the book shop (and not book lounge). Book stacks were easier to approach. Here the white gelled well with the ambience. The collection was obviously good. It was supported well with material on multimedia content. There is no need to write on other stuff available in the shop, the gifts, the goodies, the accessories. They were regulars like in the previous one.
Yes, the positive development for me, to visit the bookstore, came in the last, during the time I spend looking for books, movies and documentaries. Surprisingly, I could find some good content on Auschwitz and Holocaust.
When almost every book is available from online bookstores like Amazon or Flipkart on healthy discounts, and that too, at your doorstep, bookstores like Oxford (not offering any discount) with concepts like Cha Bar can still a good draw provided they maintain the lounge character of the store. That I could not find here, during my first visit to the reopened and the remodeled store. Hope, it will be a better experience next time, obviously with a better chai.
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/