Pay-as-you-please café Fursat Se shut shop in 2015 due to a shortage of funds. Today, it’s back as a bookmobile with plans restore its former glory.
On a bright December morning, the lane outside Hindu College at Delhi University’s North Campus saw a parked car proudly sporting a banner that read ‘Fursat Se’.
With stacks of books to choose from, and jute stools to sit on along the footpath, this ‘bookmobile’ strategically stands next to the roadside tea shop, allowing one the luxury of a good read along with a cup of tea. Those picking a book are free to sit and have a read, or even just take it away. Many, however, sit, discuss and deliberate. This is Fursat Se in its all-new avatar!
Until 2015, Fursat Se was a café with a physical space in Delhi’s Shahpur Jat. The terrace cafe worked on the pay-as-you-please model, and works of local artists adorned the walls. Stacked with books, Fursat Se soon became a place where people came together to relax and unwind.
The café also organised book-clubs, open-mic poetry slams, stand-up comedy nights and film screenings. Photography and art exhibitions, literary writing workshops, and cultural programmes and made the café a must visit. However, its revenue model was not sustainable and it shut shop in 2015.
Founder Amrita Bhasin, an event manager, though, kept up the idea of reopening the café to serve the community it had built.
The starting line
Born and raised in Delhi, Amrita studied commerce from Khalsa College. She wanted to pursue a masters in business administration overseas but did not have the funds for it. Following an event management course from Amity University in Noida, Amrita went on to complete an internship with Wizcraft and later joined her uncle in Thailand to work in a production house.
On returning to India in 2005, she did various freelancing assignments as an event manager, but always sought to start something on her own. In 2012, she started her event management company, Angel 21. Being a book enthusiast herself, Amrita also organised several book clubs, but the venue was always a constraint.
“People loved the book club, and they wanted it again. In 2012, there were no cafe in Delhi which held such cultural events or host us. Even if we wanted to pay,” says Amrita.
“I discussed with my mother, and wondered if we could have space or just a room, where people could come talk, read, gather and discuss, without thinking of logistical needs - an all-inclusive safe space for everyone.”
Armed with the idea, Fursat Se was set up a year later. Amrita asserts, “Fursat Se was a place where jaagah ki jaroorat hai toh ajao fursat se (If you need a place, come to Fursat Se).”
Inspired by the old charm of Delhi, Amrita says the name the cafe was inspired by her grandfathers, who would invite people to talk and discuss issues at leisure.
Though the concept was much-loved, it was not easy sustaining the business and the cafe shut down in 2015. “We even tried to raise a crowdfunding but it didn't help. The only challenge I face was the constraints of money.”
The second beginning
After Fursat Se closed down, Amrita says, “I used to get inquiries through phone calls and on Facebook regarding if we are open. This was almost every other day. Therefore, I started referring or arranging a different place for these inquiries.”
“I knew I lacked funds, and therefore I wanted to go beyond the limits of a physical space and start again,” adds Amrita.
Fursat Se’s core team now includes Ketaki Nagaraju, Riya Ray, along with Aditya Raj, along with Amrita.
Starting with a bookmobile, Amrita now plans more events and eventually hopes to build a new space for the community. “Fursat Se was an idea at the beginning, and now it has turned into a community.”