Walking down the seemingly random lanes of Mohammadpur, you don't expect anything but chaos. Charcha bookstore is a completely unexpected sight, almost a relief to the eyes as you stumble upon it while trying to dodge the unruly bike that nearly runs you over. Once you enter the store, you feel like you have entered a totally new territory. Calm and peaceful, it falls into the perfect definition of what a bookstore should look like. Sabrina Islam, the managing director at Charcha, and one of the initiator partners, had a lot to share with us. According to the book enthusiast, Charcha was set off with the proposal to provide customers with rare books that were almost out of print. “Charcha is like a treasure trove for paperback aficionados. We like to store books that are unique and printed on thought provoking subject matter, appealing, exciting to read and worthy of research,” declared the bookstore owner.
A little bit of exploration led me to the back of the bookstore, where the owners are planning to incorporate a tea-stall. “Wouldn't that be great?” she asked with glee. Then, over further discussions, we learnt that Charcha regularly holds programmes where the literary society has a mini get-together by sharing their views on books, listening to deshi music, watching intellectual movie screenings and much more.
“Scholarly idea sharing is what is missing nowadays. We are so busy with our own lives that we forget to discuss about things that are important and really matter. These kinds of discussions and gatherings were common in the golden years, but somehow, over time, we have lost it, and our idea with Charcha is to revive the plain old days of deliberation,” Islam said.
While browsing through the shelves, we saw an interesting collection on Indian oriental art, politics, calligraphy, Islamic art and a wide range of graphic novels from both the Bengals.
“Yes, we try to encourage readers towards graphic novels as they are a new form of interpretation of traditional literature. From our very own publication board, we have published a few graphic fictions for little children and we hope to do a few more in the near future,” she revealed.
Islam also pointed out the fact that Charcha had a very strong online presence and customers can actually search for books on their webpage and place an order from anywhere inside Bangladesh. “We accept cash on delivery, and if the books are not available in our stock, we take a 15-day window to meet the order,” she added.
In an age when people are more and more getting into a super busy lifestyle and e-books, the use of paperbacks is certainly losing ground. But with constructive efforts by innovative entrepreneurs like Islam, the complete switch to the digital will still take some time. Till then, we can hope to breathe in the scent of disintegrating history and forgotten verses from the shelves of quaint little bookstores like Charcha.
By Mehrin Mubdi Chowdhury