Touring country in a mobile cafe telling stories

Chandigarh: Six young people with a passion for stories have set out to travel to seven cities with the unique mission of reviving the lost tradition of itinerant storytelling. In the process, they hope also to revive the gift economy — pay as you may.

Team Bean, comprising four girls and two boys, all in their 20s, Monday started their 3,000 km journey across seven cities on their multi-utility vehicle tantalisingly titled Cafe Bean Here Bean There (CBHBT).

“We will be moving from one city to another, collecting and sharing stories, creating community spaces, mapping each city with things not so popular and conducting workshops. We have converted our van into a mobile cafe. We will interact with common people in different cities to share stories. At the end of it, we will document the stories and experiences of all these places,” said Team Bean member Sukhmani Chani .

The vehicle, a Tata Sumo MUV, is equipped to serve as a cafe, and they will serve coffee and snacks. There is no fixed price attached to the coffee or snacks; people can pay as they please, and exchange stories.

The team members say that CBHBT is a collaborative project between the six partners who will be on the road for a month.

“This is our first attempt at this. We intend to make it an annual feature, adding more cities and countries in the coming years,” team member Pratishtha Dobhal said.

Starting from Chandigarh Monday, the CBHBT will explore Dehradun (Sep 18-19), Rishikesh (Sep 20), New Delhi (Sep 22-24), Jaipur (Sep 27-28), Udaipur (Sep 30-Oct 1) and Ahmedabad (Oct 3-4) and Baroda (Oct 6) before returning.

“It’s a month-long project where we will stop at each city and collaborate with individuals and organisations doing meaningful and engaging work by creating healthy community spaces for all sorts of skill-sharing,” said team member Rameez Alam, who hails from Muzaffarnagar district in Uttar Pradesh and works as a consultant with a Delhi-based NGO.

“In every city, we will encourage people to write a letter to an unknown person in the next city. It can be anything about the city or personal. This will encourage letter writing and story-telling,” Sukhmani, the “technical brain” behind the mobile cafe project, said.

Sukhmani, who walked out of the formal education system and has explored subjects as diverse as film-making, art and design, zero-waste lifestyles, theatre, craft, urban farming and clowning, had set up the unique Cafe Kaffee Kuchh in Chandigarh’s Lajpat Rai Bhawan premises in Sector 15 in 2008 to provide a platform for different art forms in an open environment. She has also been associated with community theatre for over a decade.

Team Bean has collected over Rs.40,000 so far, mostly through friends and individual efforts, for their trip and hope to get more help en route.

“We will run on the gift economy and everyone who visits us will be at liberty to decide howsoever and in whatever way they would like to pay us. Through jewellery- making workshops, letter writing, conversations, film screenings, theatre, arts and crafts workshop and music, the intent is to create a free space in an urban environment to interact, explore, share skills, and have a lot of fun in the process,” an enthusiastic Srishti Lakhera, a visual artist and land activist, said.

Other Team Bean members include Nivedita Soni and Rajesh Nandan Singh Meher.

Rajesh, who comes from Odisha and facilitates workshops for young people, wants to set up a learning centre one day in his home state.

By Jaideep Sarin/IANS

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