In just three years of its launch, Dipanpur -- a book store in Dhaka's New Elephant Road -- became a hub for literature aficionados.
"Dipanpur was a place where many literary events would take place. People would come to read books. but also to chit-chat while sipping on their coffee. The space accommodated children too, who would come to learn painting and read books," said Razia Rahman Jolly, one of the owners of Dipanpur.
"But all of it had to be stopped for the past three months," Jolly said, speaking of the Covid-19 induced countrywide shutdown.
Jolly is the wife of Faisal Arefin Dipan, the publisher of Jagriti Prokashoni who was killed by militants in October of 2015. It was in his memory that Jolly and some friends launched Dipanpur on July 12, 2017, on the eve of his 45th birthday. The café sought to carry his legacy and dream of enlightening people.
Alas, after three years of successful existence, Jolly and the partners have decided to put an end to their endeavour. As revenues kept falling during the lockdown, there was no way that the owners could keep the café afloat.
"Our income had come down to zero. Yet, we had to bear rent, utilities, staff salaries -- it all added up to a pretty big amount. The rent was being paid from the advanced we paid when we first rented the place. But this month, the landlord notified us to vacate the space within 15 days," Jolly told this correspondent.
This is a difficult task, Jolly admits. Along with the sentiments that come from closing down one's own business, Dipanpur was always an emotional venture to the core, and forsaking its trajectory comes with a lot of pain.
But the current situation has proven to be too uncertain, leaving little room for the emotions behind this business. No one really knows when or if everything will be alright. "This uncertainty has forced us to make this difficult decision," she said.
What added to the woe was how the business had been running low on profits even prior to the lockdown. "Last year, we had spent a good amount [of money] to renovate the space to attract more people, but that didn't quite work out," Jolly lamented.
However, after posting a Facebook status about the closure from Dipanpur's official page, bookworms and literature lovers flooded social media with words of grief, bringing some much needed enthusiasm in Jolly and Co.
"I got many phone calls and text messages after posting the status. Those who were touched by our efforts are inspiring us to continue with our dream and showing lots of care. If I am able to get any support — be it a regular order of my caterings or a bank loan— Dipanpur might even survive this time," Jolly said with a little bit of optimism.
Following the status post, some observers of the book industry has pointed out that the shutdown of Dipanpur should serve as a wake-up call for other bookstore chains in Bangladesh to rethink their strategies during this pandemic.