Lahore’s Reading Nook: Books n Beans

Once upon a time, I wanted a dinning table. I just couldn’t eat in my bed or sitting cross legged on the floor anymore. I needed a proper wooden table and a chair. I did what any sensible person does before going out shopping; I raked Pinterest. I searched for all the dinning table designs there could be and narrowed down three I liked the best. I saved the pictures on my phone and called K to stop by on his way back from work. We were going to check out the string of furniture shops on the ‘Phatak’ road. (While writing this blog, I called Nida, K and my rickshaw wallah only to discover that what Shamsie wrote about Karachi holds true for Lahore as well. Roads in Pakistan never go by their true names).

Now if you are a Lahori and an avid Pinterest user, you’d know that getting a Pinterest furniture design copied isn’t a problem but walking into the shops on the ‘Phatak’ road with hopes of finding Pinterest furniture is well being a bit too over-optimistic.

But wait, we didn’t return home empty handed. On our way to the shops, we had spotted a bookstore and when in all his impulsiveness K had suggested taking a U-turn and leaving the furniture shopping for some other day, I hadn’t relented. We were for once going to do what we set out to do. Luck was on his side that day. We didn’t get to do what we set out to do because the shops on the Phatak road cater to people who are passionate about bulky furniture with intricate engravings and gold finish.

Having lost all hope of finding a good dinning table, we walked into Books n Beans. K had been super excited about the Beans part. At that time, the bookstore didn’t have its cafe set up. Now that the cafe is set up and the store is up and running, we like to think of it as a revised edition of Readings. (Lahoris, please forgive me for the blasphemy). A project of Vanguard Books, Books n Beans has managed to become the store Readings had dreamt of being. It expanded Readings dream of a small coffee corner to an entire cafe.  Only thing is that the cafe has failed at being stuffy and pretentious like others around town. The loveseat right in the middle of it all invites you to grab a book from the store’s versatile collection of books and just curl up with it and read, stopping only to take a sip or two of the coffee you ordered. Mind you, the coffee isn’t all that. It’s to be expected. The city recently began looking past Nescafe to satisfy its coffee cravings.

I learned that when in all my literary snobbery I had marched off to Pak Tea House, despite Nida’s warnings, and discovered the coffee to be extremely watered down and the book collection to be devoid of Faiz.  Of course, Pak Tea House isn’t a bookstore and it isn’t supposed to carry books to begin with but the cafe served as Lahore’s literary hub for years. It would be saying too much but in its own way Books n Beans is trying to bring the lost culture of Pak Tea House back to Lahore. Maybe, not Pak Tea House. No, not that for sure.  Books n Beans is in the process of creating its own niche.  The bookstore’s cafe has been serving as a platform for various ‘talks’ arranged by the bookstore featuring  intellectuals for the city’s mental stimulation. It was time somebody got up and did that. Books n Beans gives hope.

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O! And  as I mentioned that day, the first day we went to Books n Beans we didn’t walk out empty handed. For the millionth time in my life, I bought my personal bible – The Prophet by Khalil Gibran among other books. K got himself Mein Kamph. The bookstore has an ongoing sale on books. Yes, half of my salary has been going to discounted books from the store.  Now you know why we never got around to getting a dinning table and a million other things on the list.

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