How this backpacker husband-wife duo found each other at Pagdandi

20th Jun 2015
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Situated inside an idyllic mall on Pune’s Baner Pashan Link Road is Pagdandi. It is an inviting place with a modest yet charming décor heavily featuring bamboo. The first things you notice on enteringareprobably the book-filled racks that extend till the ceiling, and the aroma of fresh chai being brewed.

What started as a book library-cum-café has now grown into a space that hosts a range of interesting events and activities that foster a sense of community and camaraderie among patrons. Only two years old, Pagdandi has received much praise and many media mentions, the latest it being listed in ‘Lonely Planet’ as a thing to do in Pune. Let’s hear more about Pagdandi from founders, husband-wife duo Neha and Vishal Pipraiya.

Neha-and-Vishal-Pipraiya
Neha and Vishal Pipraiya

How it started

On quitting her job as a media professional, Neha decided to backpack around, and pursue her passion for yoga. Little did she know that she would meet her soulmate and husband Vishal on one of her backpacking journeys. Vishal, coincidentally, had also quit his full time job as an IT Manager to backpack throughout the country. Soon after, they began a life together, and Pagdandi - an expression of their shared love for books, travel and community- came into existence. They started with their personal collection of books, which they used to seed the library. Eventually, generous donations by patrons, and frequent and multiple purchases from old bookstores and second-hand sales filled the walls of the café.

The concept

Pagdandi, in Hindi, is a rough path through a farm or up a hill, a path that is not constructed but appears when one walks following their heart. Apart from the significance of travel to the founder duo, it is also a metaphor. “We want our space to inspire people to walk the Pagdandi of their lives,”says Neha, who is also a yoga instructor now. The store provides a wide collection of books with a focus on independent publishers, both for rental and purchase in a café environment. Food and beverages are available allowing readers to sit and read right there. A gallery wall allows budding artists and photographers to display their work for a nominal fee, while regular events help the local community bond.

Subhash and Alam by Ajay Patel
Subhash and Alam by Ajay Patel

Activities

Today, the place serves as a melting pot for like-minded people to come together and participate in activities that interest them. The Pagdandi Pen Writer’s Club, which meets every Sunday morning, encourages writers to come forth with their work, hang out with fellow writers, and energizes them to pursue their love for writing. Other activities, such as the Pune Poetry Slam and Thursday Night Acoustic Jams have a huge fan following. Weekends at Pagdandi are usually abuzz with film screenings, art workshops for children, book launch sessions for independent authors, and many more such exciting activities.

The store allows budding artists and photographers to exhibit their work on the walls, and home bakers to sell their products at the café. Home-based business owners, who make and source merchandise, sell it from the store. One corner of the store is stocked with items for sale, such as organic food, t-shirts, and cloth bags made by environmental organizations, along with notebooks made by Tibetan refugees. Vishal adds, “We wanted to build a space where one can meet like-minded people without hidden agendas, and have some awesome chai while at it.” Looking at how increasingly famous the place is getting they have surely achieved their goal.

More on team Pagdandi

Entirely conceptualised and funded by Neha and Vishal, the business became sustainable quite early on and has been driving itself. Apart from the two, the store is managed by SubhashNair and Alam Imran, who are an important part of Pagdandi and have been working at the store, serving customers courteously, ever since its conception. They have recently been joined by Elvis Daniel Matthew and Anil Manjulkar. Team Pagdandi is quick to thank the people of Pune, and its patrons across the globe, for all the love the store has been showered with. Vishal reveals, “On those rare occasions when doubts creep in, we derive our strength from their encouragement. It’s almost like we have been adopted by the people of this city.”

Pagdandi

When asked about the competition they face from upcoming hangouts in the area, Neha says, “The concept of competition is an anti-thesis to the community we are trying to build. We like to collaborate and share with everyone we meet. That is our culture and ethos. We just come in daily, put our heads down, work hard and do what we do.”

Facebook page: www.facebook.com/pagdandiworld

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