When you think Goa, books are not the first thing that come to mind. The party capital of India is known for its King’s beer, sun-kissed beaches and water sports. But if you want to catch some ‘me time’ here, head over to Literati, a beautiful little book café in Calangute district.
Former lawyer Diviya Kapur has wonderful memories of the beach town. Little did she know that a place like Goa would become home away from home and fulfil her dreams. She set up Literati in 2005 in a 100-year-old Goan Portuguese home. Today it offers books and Italian grub to anyone in search of some idyllic respite, and also plays host to literary and cultural events.
In an interview with Indibeat, Diviya talks about the joy and the challenges involved in running a book cafe.
IB: How has Literati’s journey been so far?
Diviya: We envisaged Literati to be a place to go to for literary and cultural events in Goa. That is why we inaugurated the bookstore with an event, namely a reading of a play by Goan playwright, Isabel Santa Rita Vaz. The journey has been mostly good, but we have had our share of difficulties given the changes to the retail market in recent years, especially in reference to books.
IB: The cafe is set in a 100-year-old Portuguese bungalow and you’ve chosen to retain its look and feel. Tell us more.
Diviya: The idea was for Literati to be not just any bookstore, but something unique. An old Goan house was chosen keeping this in mind. It took about a year to find this house and make this a reality. The restoration of the house was done by a friend, Francisco Sousa, and its look and feel of authenticity is because of his work. Of course there have been some changes along the way including the greening of the outdoors, which has evolved with time.
IB: How do you plan and organise events with authors? What genres do you prefer to highlight?
Diviya: While we believe that all reading is a good thing, we definitely try and see if we have an audience for a Book Reading/Event before agreeing to host it. This is important as otherwise, the author and audience will end up disappointed. My personal preference is of course good fiction or literature, and the occasional non-fiction book.
IB: What kinds of books/issues are discussed in your book club?
Diviya: In the book club, the book that is chosen for us to read could be suggested by any of the attendees as long as it is of interest to the general group and as long as we can access multiple copies of the book.
IB: Tell us about the annual fete that you organise for Bebook.
Diviya: Bebook is a mobile library for disadvantaged children. It’s a not-for-profit registered trust. It functions with the help of volunteers and minimal staff. The aim is to make reading fun for children. Once you have made a child into a reader, a world of imagination and opportunities opens up for the child. We have an old-school style Fete once a year as a fundraiser (for Bebook), and also to keep the community involved at some level. It consists of a Jumble Sale which is also very popular. Also different stalls selling clothes and other stuff. The live music, food and drinks of course are always a big hit.
IB: What is the most rewarding/challenging aspect of working at a wonderful place like this?
Diviya: It is a great life in terms of the everyday as well as the kinds of interesting people you meet and events that take place. The downside is the struggle to keep it financially viable, especially since we do not have a level playing field. The other problem is trying to get books we want and order from publishers and distributors who have a tendency to dump unwanted books on us.
IB: What else would you like to add to Literati?
Diviya: More room for books!
Image Credit: Literati Goa