Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Travel Café Cup–Shup At Kunzum

Updated: October 15, 2011 4:23 pm

Go hitting a rendezvous while sauntering around through the cobbled street amidst restaurants, hotels, galleries and shops where you can steal a rest over steaming hot tea and even without forking out a dime for the cookies you chomp, a day is said to be well spent.

Seeing things beyond the tip of your nose is an exhilarating experience especially when you explore and tread the beaten track hiding a treasure when even well travelled miss a chance as they go journeying by the book and skip the must-not-skip spots. Kunzum is a pass in Lahaul, Spiti and in Delhi at a historic Hauz Khas Village, a perfect joint where those fatigued and drained travelling souls after a day’s long drill come to stretch their legs over a cuppa tea or mugga mocha. Not just the travellers who share sagas of trip and tour and pencil the itinerary but the students as well who are working crazy hours. The cafe remains packed with students who come, plonk themselves down on the wicker chairs strewn around, toll a bell for cha to shoo their fatigue away and exercise grey matter with the likeminded. It has become a shoppers’ stop, like an inn where people of all colours, cultures, sizes, and lingos hit the place, enriched with sophisticated ambiences and cool guests can be seen sipping at their cups. The cafe serves you with all flavours such as green tea, ginger and lemon tea with cookies to dunk, for free. Passersby climb up a short flight of stairs and enter this rather aloof zone, that exudes a different aura with positive vibes hitting the Satan out of the door. It’s a little before the entrance of the fort in Hauz Khas Village.

Hauz Khas, a sightseeing but ASI’s callous attitude and absolute negligence leave it in a dilapidated state except for the co-coing birds who stray into it to make a perfect date.

Hauz Khas Complex

Hauz Khas was known originally as the Hauz-e-Alai constructed during the reign of Alauddin Khalji (ruled 1296-1316). The water was collected in it during the rainy season and was then used throughout the year by the people in the neighbourhood. Later on, after Alauddin, the lack of maintenance led to the silting up of the channels that fed the tank and it dried up. When Feroz Shah Tughlaq came to power (ruled 1351-88) the water supply system to the tank was restored, the tank then came to be known as the Hauz-Khas.

The importance of the site was also evident from the fact that Feroz Shah chose this place to build his own tomb at a focal point in the complex. The connection between the buildings and the tank was strengthened by the several sets of steps leading down from the college of that era to the tank.

At kunzum

“It’s a place where I sit for hours doing my stories, interact with many souls around, share views and experiences. If you are teaphile (teaholic) you can drain cups,” Madhuri Balodi, a journalist says. Netizens spend hours trawling the net on Wi-Fi for free and plug in their own laptops and iPods to chillax. Everyday, many a young student climbs a little short flight of steps to enter the zone, takes a pew or reclines in a corner opens the lappy and spends a whale of a time twittering and facing. Bibliophiles open the best read and slip into the world of fiction and fantasy. One may even surf a rack there and pick a book there mostly about travelogues and various voyages penned by Ajay Jain, the owner of this travel café. One of its kind in Delhi, the café is the brainchild of Ajay who himself is a journo by profession, a seasoned traveller who vroom through the mountains in the north and the north-east in his SUV. Ajay, a footloose and travels far and wide writing all corners he explores the mountains. At Kunzum he breaks his journey to assimilate his experiences and Anubhuti, his wife, a German linguist, assists him.

Everybody seems submerged in the sublime location, confined to their worlds, unlike most Delhiites and some oldies (old music) of Lobo and Jim Reeves in the background. Here, no one kowtows to no one; hacks and scribes frequent this place more often than not and laze around writing their piece to meet the deadline.

Besides, the area outside the café sits in the lap of sylvan surrounding, as many walkers and strollers walk a mile in the sprawling lush green Deer Park to relish the walk like in Hyde Park in England, when zonked they make it to the café to refresh with teas. This one year and plus café has won many hearts. As many queries have constantly been pouring in if Ajay Jain is going to give a café like this to cities like Bengaluru, Mumbai and Pune. Jain would exhibit his photographic art in the same place and have many drop in and walk past without buying his art. It was not at all viable. Then Ajay and Anubhuti decided that they should expand it and make it a space where the travel-minded could come and chill out with similar interests. Furthermore, they came up with the idea to serve tea, coffee and cookies without a bill to pay and no obligation to order for eats, nor will you have a waiter hovering over your head. The couple strove to enhance by introducing a travel library and free Wi-Fi to the gallery that attracts many visitors everyday. On average, the café has more than 100 people walking in through its doors everyday and contributing to tea and coffee so as to meet the overheads.

Guests dropping in at this artistic joint want a little bigger a la carte than just coffee or tea, but Jain apprehends the dilution of its real McCoy theme and somewhat he feels strongly the civic sense of the city as well. They fear lest the essence should evaporate. Ajay is contemplating taking Kunzum to other towns as well with market for photographic art and looking forward to making it big in days to come.

“Weekends are like going picnicking. This remains inch packed during most parts of the day and we have to apologise to our regulars as there remains no room left. This small room cannot accommodate all of them at a time. They are left standing waiting, but at the same time they are understanding and bear with us, Shruti Sharma, who manages the entire show, mused.

The café is a big no to fag, no plumes allowed but yes to an energy drink or a coke you can fetch in guzzling, but avoid littering around as no compromise with cleanliness. Books and coffee table are shelved here and the photographic art can be bought on the cheap as well. Café demands no check to pay. You do not have to go Dutch to visit this cha bar to chill out but while saying adieu to close the day there is a box right at the door nudging attention to drop in to what pleases you, and how you have felt about the prompt and cheerful service of Joshi and Jagdish who wait at table, make you feel comfortable with a cup and cookie. There is no funding, for all expenses including the ones on tea and coffee are met by Ajay.

“The café treads on a party meter at times as some celebrate a time as their memorabilia by strumming the guitar orchestrated clubbed with bongo for bonhomie, they just come jamming,” Shruti says. Tracks from MLTR, Bryan Adams, Back Street Boys and the like are pretty pleasant to ear even more soothing is the instrument like Kenny-G. “I frequent this place too often as I put up close by. I spend hours at a stretch, do helluva lot of work. I like its soothing atmosphere, congenial to reading and writing. I get much needed respite and unwind,” Albin, 27, from France studying International Law at JNU, shared in his cockney accent.

Eyelyne, 29, another JNUiite, loves surfing the net for a couple of hours everyday and hardly does she miss. She has been coming here for some time and enjoys the world meeting here. “I’m from Switzerland. Here, we have many from different parts of the world. It’s awesome! It’s fun to be here. I do not have any disturbances around and lounge as long as I want to without any one troubling me. The best thing about Kunzum is that it’s non-commercial. In Delhi you cannot go anywhere without a walle,” well pronounced by this bubbly damsel who seems to have read the city inside out.

No cheque book journalism but I swear by the café as it lays claim to being just one in the whole city. Use free Wi-Fi. Waiters won’t bug either. Catch the metro and get off at Green Park or Hauz Khas, the nearest metro stations. Kunzum at T-49 Ground Floor, deserves to be known better. Kunzum wakes up at 11:30 and sleeps at 7:30 and Monday he unwinds for himself, no café day! At this point in time, the travel is vivid in my memory how I got over my ennui I had had for long.

By Syed Wazid Ali from New Delhi

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