Dear followers, believers and supporters, dear angels. It’s been long since I have not written in the blog due to all the happening in our dream café. Now it has been four months since we started with many up and downs, however, we can say proudly that our café is, right now, the number one in our area, with a rate of 4,5 out of 5 points on Zomato given by our clients (it is an important achievement because it is the first place who achieves such a high rate without paying any publicity or position), 4,8 in Google and Facebook page, and 5 in Tripadvisor.
It has been a long and difficult journey, it took me 5 years to make my dream a reality, and I cannot describe with words the intense feelings overpowering me. The kind of libraries I saw in Barcelona few years ago, that ones who awoke my hunger for going there and enjoy a peaceful and sociable environment full of culture, could not even be believable in Mumbai, they were a very new concept for me and I wanted to export that to our Mumbai city, adding my personal touch, adding what I have missed most in my life, adding love. After opening the library café in Marol, a place where no one could believe it would succeed, I could see how this place has awaken the same hunger I had in Barcelona in our clients. Most of them become our regular clients, looking for a place to share their abilities, to interact with people, and to develop their skills for solidarity.
BUILDING OF THE DREAM CAFE
Explaining people the original idea of how I wanted the dream cafe to be built was as difficult as explaining a few months old child not to go near the fire. The place I chose was a garage, so it needed renovation to look like a café. The design I wanted was very weird for all the workers involved in the renovation, so that it means, we had to face a lot of renovation mistakes, cheating on the charges and material cost, and unprofessional work. It is unbelievable how all the workers cheated us even though they knew about the social and charitable cause. Nowadays we still have to pay the reparation of the work done by them, walls are cracking, tables are broken because of its bad quality, and so on. When we discussed about the renovation plan with the head of the builders, the construction work was supposed to be completed in a month, however, it took four months because of the shoddy work and their irresponsible and lazy attitude.
But today when you enter to the cafe you'll find that every single thing there has a meaning and a reason for being like that. For example, there is an open kitchen in order to show that all the meals and drinks served are cooked on the spot, using fresh food in a home-cook style. Also, we want people to interact with the boys and girls working there, so then, any client can have a conversation with them while they are doing their job. I am very happy that people are appreciating it and enjoying the atmosphere of the café along with our service and the food.
Sabiya Shaikh, my small sister, is the first person who I want to talk about because without her, this café could not run. She is the strength and the best cook I have ever met in my life, with no experience in the restaurant field. If the café is receiving such a high rates is because of her delicious and unbeatable food. I am very proud of having Sabiya as a part of my dream team. I call Sabiya as the salt and spice of the café
Anil Kurup is the sweet part of the café. He is the proof of the willing of improvement. Everybody who have taste any of his deserts have been beaten straight to their hearts, and they could not do anything more than taking another one. I hope he keeps going like he does, even though sometimes he is not sure about himself. I hope he realises about his value soon.
Gopala Singh is becoming a great public relations, without him the food cannot be moved to the tables and if clients are coming again and again is also because of Gopala sweetness and tender smile. That is what Gopala does, he cares about the clients and he is able to remember the likes and dislikes of them. He makes them feel like they are not only clients, they are friends for him too.
Sairaj Methari is our super duper star. He is rocking in the café with his BBoy style, and getting every time better and better as a barista. I am very proud of him, he is a dreamer who fights with determination for his future, a bright future, with an innate talent in dance. We feel gifted with having him in our café, his sweetness and responsibility brings peace to all of us. He surprised us and tenderized our hearts with a song written by him about the café. Right now we are trying to find a studio to publish the song and promote him around the world as a BBoy dancer and rapper.
Khusboo Ali is the charm of the café. She brings the style and the colours through her line of cloths, and sells their items in the coffee shop with more than a pinch of love. She cannot be all the day in the café but she spends most of her evenings here. I am very proud of her level of improvement; she has been able to broaden her mind and brings innovation on fashion from her indian-european designs.
Mohammad Ali and Akbar Shaikh dream is to go abroad in order to improve their lives by having a higher salary. Right now we have them working in the café for two reasons, one because we want to make them realise that going abroad does not mean to have better life conditions, that most of the times the Indians working in the middle east are extremely bad-paid according to the work conditions, and the second reason is because we want them to gain experience and broaden their close mind typical in the people who lives a very traditional Indian life in the small villages. I would like to thanks to my angel Linda Fernandes and her brother for helping our boys during the selection process in a 5 star hotel in Bahrain.
Shabana Shaikh is a volunteer who is a huge help. Almost every weekend, and whenever she can, she comes to the coffee shop with a big smile and works in every single thing; either in the kitchen, either as a public relation or taking care of the library.
Sara Mampel is a volunteer that as much as I speak about her is less. She has been so important for me in the café that sometimes it is difficult to explain all the work she does. She can be helping with the accounts or writing articles in facebook, blog… replying emails, making reports of interviews in the social media, organising talks, make people from Europe understand the situation of the café with her western point of view, and so on. I think I am very lucky having Sara around us, she is now one of our family members who is not anymore a volunteer, and a very important pillar of the café and for me.
Without all of them in this dream team we could not have gone so far, however, they are not the only ones. I would really like to show my gratitude to all my angels who are far from the place but very near to us being the beat of the heart of this dream café. I am very proud of everyone who just has happened to be with us.
THE PRE OPENING DAY
The last week before opening the café was the most difficult one. There were only some days left and we did not even have ranges for cooking food neither a fridge, we only had some tables and the coffee machine in the kitchen. You can figure out the intensiveness of the moment, everybody was full of nerves, everyday increasing because of the difficulties happening day by day (the water connection broke down twice, the walls got moisture because of the rain…).
Then, the magic happened, a couple from Spain, Maria Antonia and Carlos, came as a miracle to the coffee shop to help us. It is incredible for me how two angels from 7000 km far from us just decided to come, all the way from a town in the north of Spain, Figueres, spending their own holidays in order to light a big candle and remove our dream from the darkness. How can this be possible? We have so many people in our Mumbai city, 20 million people, and no one decided to stand by us, however, this unknown couple, that they just read my book in Spain but we never had seen each other face to face before, decided to take this long journey and become our strength? It is sad for me that here in India no one trusted on my dream neither believed on the possibility of making it real.
As nobody of us had worked in a restaurant before, they helped us to buy the kitchen equipment needed and explained the basics to run a café (how to calculate prices, some recipes, management, service to the customers, and much more) We wanted to give the Spanish touch to the café also, so if today Bombay To Barcelona Library Cafe has Tapas is because of them.
THE OPENING DAY
The opening day took place on 14th august 2016. It was a beautiful and sad day at the same time, surrounded by beautiful people, good feelings, art, encouragement, but also with some disappointment.
People who loved me came to inaugurate the place and gave their most beautiful and warm feelings. Dilip sir, a well-known writer who helped me with his family to make my book readable, gave such a beautiful speech that made appear tears in the eyes of most of the crowd, then, Shabana danced Bharatnatyam very sensitively, and after her, father Placido Fonseca, my saver, my hero who stood by me during my years in SnehaSadan, my pillar, cut the ribbon. It was a very special moment for me, finally, after 5 years of working day and night to accomplish my dream, it became real. I wanted to share with my beloved ones, with my family, with my home, but unluckily, no one from SnehaSadan except father Placido came to celebrate it. I wanted all the house parents and two children from each house to come on this day and make the smallest children cut the ribbon with father Placie. We waited for them for an hour and a half, but I did not receive any news about them, so then, heavy-heartedly, we carried on with the day schedule.
People entered inside and the counter was full of tapas and deserts that were awaiting for them. Some were Sabiya speciality, some were Anil speciality, and some were taught by Carlos sir, who had been working with us, non-stop, since the day he came from 7 am to 11 pm. Priya, a classical singer, sang “jo bhaji thi duaa” beautifully, and Sara, a volunteer from Spain also, played Imagine from John Lennon with the transverse flute. People enjoyed the day a lot with all the food served by our café dreams team, but as you could check, the day had its ups and downs.
The license part has been one of the toughest thing to do, where people were suppose to help us they were taking advantage of our kindness, as we did not have much knowledge about the license process. I would like to explain in more detail the whole process, but unluckily I cannot. After all the struggles and bribes, finally we are running with all the licenses needed.
CONFLICT WITH NEIGHBORS
One day, a group of clients were sitting outside having some chai when then a misunderstanding happened. One of them asked for cold coffee when we did not have freezer yet, and we told them that it was no possible because of that reason. Then them replied arrogantly that when we had it, we should give it to them for free, and I said sorry, but free items are only for street children. From this conversation all the mess started. I was very upset on this day because he was imposing the blame on me that I have abused, the group of five left the place and then, at 11:30 in the night, a group of 20 people or more came violently to fight with us, so they were blaming and shouting loudly using bad words.
Some or how the conflict was solved but I believe the world can only be run by love and not by hate. This is the reason why I stood there very firm and apologized, not because I was afraid, but just for my girls and boys not be harmed. I am holding the responsibility of their lives under this café. Now things are better, people respect and appreciate our ideas, and day-by-day, more children are coming for their cupcake or hot chocolate. It is amazing seeing how beautiful smiles are drown in the children faces after receiving their small muffin or glass of hot chocolate. I wish I could make all the children of the world happy, but obviously I am not a machine to make it possible. If only all the people could give the value to that smiles as much as I do, this dream could be a reality.
CLIENTS (GOOD CLIENTS WITH BIG HEARTS)
Since the day one, the café has been filled with beautiful clients who are standing by us and appreciating our concept a lot. Many people have written beautiful articles in their blogs or newspapers and reviewing us with their comments about the food and service at café in Zomato, Google, Facebook Page and Tripadvisor.
They also feel like coming to the café for doing their celebrations, so birthdays, anniversaries and important dates have been celebrated here. Others feel so comfortable that they organize cultural activities like book clubs, workshops, story telling, and art exhibitions, and I just loved it. The café is also becoming a place where the cultural exchange happens naturally, and clients can meet for first time other clients. Some of them come and sit in the tables chosen, and after some time, they finish joining the tables and having a common conversation. After these four months, I realized about the strong hunger Indians have for finding a place to perform and sharing their knowledge. I wish I could have a bigger place to host more activities like this because is really beautiful, but right now, we give what we have.
FIRST GET TOGETHER FOR JAMMING (SINGING)
I was gifted to come across talented people like Prashant Shetty and his team. They have been very humble and kind as they started the jamming concept at the café. The first day they played here they created such a warm environment, that people, being so amazed with the event, wanted to have more evenings like that one, and magically, more bands came to the café asking for performing. Since that day, we have conducted 10 music jamming sessions, allowing people to come in large numbers, removing all the tables and filling the place with chairs and stools to host them. The bands always start playing their own music or covers, and then, there are always people from the crowd who get up and sing few songs for us.
BOOK CLUB (DISCUSSION) AND STORY TELLING
As we mentioned before, there are some workshops and story telling events taking place in our café. Everything started when a group of young ladies came in order to have discussion over a book. After that session, one of them came up with the idea of conducting a story-telling workshop what we executed really well some days after. Children had a lot of fun!! It was so good that we have repeated this session twice, one of them after a cartoon sketching workshop for under privileged kids which we all created beautiful memories together while we were enjoying a lot.
Till now, we had meditation sessions, corporate meetings, conferences about different topics (how to run cashless, how to make story telling…) and much more. We are very happy to have all this cultural exchange happening here. Through them, we are also learning things day by day and understanding better our society.
The fact that people is joining us to share their knowledge is just amazing. Some people come for one day volunteering, some for a few days, and for us, this is very valuable. They are coming from different places, some are our neighbours and some cross their continent, and this is a proof of how far the goodness can go. The first people who came, as we mentioned before, were the two Spaniards who crossed more than 7000 km and used their holidays to teach whatever knowledge they could in an intensive course of 9 days. Another girl from Spain appeared one day in the coffee shop and from then, she came everyday during three weeks to draw smiles in the faces of people with her hilarious performances, because she is a professional clown, two girls from Dubai came also to teach us delicious recipes, staying here for a week with a big suitcase full of useful tools and ingredients difficult to find or more expensive in India. We also have welcomed people from Pune, and we are very grateful to have some people who came as a clients, and they become our family and pillar of the café because of their constantly help.
MUCH MORE BEAUTIFUL NEWS TO SHARE
This is just the beginning as we further progress, we would come up with new thoughts, more magical gatherings and activities and better ways of helping the world to become better. We can't change the whole world but at least we can try to change the world around us. Many more beautiful memories to come, and after my entire journey I can only say the following: believe in yourself, even tough people discourage you or don’t help you. I will keep going as I do now as long as I am alive. I have one life and I believe that, as long I wake up, everything matters to me. I really want to show my gratitude to all my angels who are standing by me, the dream I dream is not about me, the dream I dream is about all the others Amins who cannot be like me. Keep supporting unconditionally to make the good happen and make a better world for you and for me. Everything is possible when you believe in it and you work on it.-->
I am because of you
Amin Sheikh and all the dreams team with a big smile.