Bidding farewell to Himachal’s best book café!

Location, book and shawl courtesy: Illiterati Cafe Photo Courtesy: Abhinav Chandel
Location, book and shawl courtesy: Illiterati Cafe
Photo Courtesy: Abhinav Chandel

Edit: Even while the previous owner of the cafe has left, the cafe was left in good hands, and continues being the lovely, cozy and all-welcoming place it originally was! Yes, it is very much operational, and kicking ass no less! 

Writing about something you’ve grown very very fond of, the fondness almost bordering addiction, is the most difficult thing to do, well almost. As I sit in my verandah, trying to write a goodbye ode to my favorite café … all I can really think about is how I wish I could be writing this at Illiterati, with belgian fries and mausambi juice for company.

Why am I writing about some place that has already shut down? What’s the point in praising a place no one can visit anymore? Well, something this beautiful deserves to be preserved for posterity, even if only with words and pictures. I want to capture and save a part of this café on my blog, so that ten years down the line, when I’m old and probably bored with my existence, I can look back and remember how much joy this little place in the mountains gave me, pick up the phone and make a trip to meet the owner, wherever he will be then.

Have you been to Illiterati? If you have, you already know what I’m going on about. I’ve spent months nestled in the same couch of the café, just sitting and noticing reactions of people who walk in for the first time, and it almost always would be “WOW”. It’s hard to not love a place that has books for walls, an unrestricted view of the mighty Dhauladhars, soulful live piano music in the background, and amazingly weird people around. Oh, and not to mention, a delightfully mouth-watering fare on the menu! But what beats it all, is the soul of this place, so pure, positive and giving, where everyone finds a reason to stay, to call it their own, to never wanna leave. With Yannick playing the piano, Aymon lost in his own world dancing around the place, Devanjali jumping from one table to the other, Manan secretly praying that someone orders a Belgian Waffle, Julian feeling too important for the mundane busy with his iPad, Lekmon and Rikten chattering away in Tibetan, Atisha browsing weird Youtube videos to complement his weirdness, Ten Tsering pestering him to play Maar Daala, Nalin trying to find something he lost last night (again), Lakhan in the kitchen asking for his special chai, Abhinav walking in with a bunch of tired travelers from his photowalk, Elena going through the coffee-table books to find something new to sketch, Mudita complaining about her soup while Manu’s thinking about the next poker night – oh, they met at this place like so many other couples, Dolker reaching in style on her Enfield, Divya reading the same book about plants – AGAIN, the kids loitering around trying to get their hands on any phone that has Subway Surfer… and Fondue, well Fondue just being Fondue – there really was no good explanation for whatever went on here, and still there always was, at least for me! This is the place that made Himachal so beautiful for me, and for many I know. It was where everyone was welcomed back, and where everyone met to say their goodbyes. It has now been no more than 4 days since the café shut shop. Of course there will be another café here soon, maybe the same café with a different owner, maybe a different café altogether, but it is hard to imagine being the same ever again.

Illiterati - Books, books, and books, oh and coffee.
Illiterati – Books, books, and books.


A regular evening scene at Illiterati. Picture Courtesy: Abhinav Chandel
Oh, and conversations over coffee. Picture Courtesy: Abhinav Chandel


One of the many impromptu jam sessions. Yannick on the flute for a change.
One of the many impromptu jam sessions. Yannick, the cafe owner, on the flute for a change.


The worlds most serious comic reader.
Will miss reading comic books so seriously.


Cafe with a view.
Cafe with a view.


Cafe with a view - part 2
Cafe with a view – part 2


No explanation for randomness
No explanation for randomness


The worlds best work-station!
The worlds best work-station!


The one thing I can keep with me. Illiterati's plantable bookmarks made of seed paper!
The one thing I can keep with me. Illiterati’s plantable bookmarks made of seed paper!


The life and joy of the place!
This! How can this ever be replicated.


They say it’s not really a goodbye until it’s a goodbye. Unfortunately in this case, it already is!

4 thoughts on “Bidding farewell to Himachal’s best book café!

  1. I have not felt so uprooted in a while.
    Every trip to himachal started and ended with taking bags off at & in from Illiterati. Sure time brings new things our way, but the place where we start our journey can never find an equal.
    For all we are now and will become in time, our roots go deep, behind the door of the cafe, now closed perputally..

  2. I stayed at Dharamshala for two years and only discovered this place in the last few months even though I was up and about Triund almost every other month. I’m glad the place has the same vibe. Miss Yannick and his soulful eyes though.

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