Did you know you could make a stop at a book cafe run by prisoners on your next vacation in Shimla? Yes, that’s right. It is the first of its kind in the country and is independently run by four prisoners of the Kaithu Jail, Shimla.
Shimla is a haven for nature lovers, with scenic mountains, lush greenery, and an amazing culture. Now it has given tourists yet another reason to come and visit. The Book Cafe was inaugurated by the longest serving Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, Raja Virbhadra Singh, 11th April, 2017. It was opened as an initiative by the state’s Tourism Department which funds it in collaboration with the Prison Department.
Located at a spot called the ‘Takka Bench’, the Book Cafe is seated just above the iconic Shimla Ridge and falls on the way to the Jakhu Temple. Jai Chand, Yog Raj, Ram Lal and Raj Kumar – the four inmates of the Kaithu Jail – are more than ecstatic to be working here. Having received training in the art of cooking and serving food, the four of them have found a new perspective to life.
Constructed with an investment of about 20 lakh rupees, the Book Café can seat up to 40 people, where they can enjoy the delicious coffee, cookies, pizzas and other snacks made by the four inmates. It opens at 10 in the morning and closes at 9 at night, after which the prisoners return back to their cells. The Book Cafe, as the name suggests, is a sort of mini library and a paradise for book lovers as it harbours an impressive collection of books, both by national and international authors. As an added bonus, it also has free WiFi!
The journey of these four inmates from their isolated cells to a world of hope makes one feel proud of the initiative taken by the state for the rehabilitation of prisoners. Jai, Yog, Ram and Raj have got a shot at a new life. They can now interact with the world outside and strive to be better. So far, the café has proven to be a success with curious people coming in from all over to witness the reformation story first hand.