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Nandini Oza
Nandini Oza

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The peacekeepers

The peacekeepers Mass appeal: Karma Cafe, Ahmedabad | Janak Patel
  • Karma Cafe is Wi-Fi enabled, and one can spend as much time here without ordering food. Even as you eat, you have the liberty of picking up 1,000 books on Gandhi in different languages.

Karma Cafe, a Mahatma Gandhi themed cafe, opened in Ahmedabad on January 30, 2015. The cafe has become popular for its organic food, and the ambience there can take you closer to Gandhian ideals.

The cafe is situated in the Navjivan Trust, which was started by Gandhi himself on Ashram Road on the western side of the Sabarmati river. This is one of the busiest areas in Ahmedabad with ample parking space. The cafe serves a wide range of Gujarati nibbles on weekdays and offers Gandhi thali on weekends. Guess what, till six months ago, people were not charged for what they gobbled! There was a glass box placed at the self-service counter, where people could put money, if they wished. The cafe has now started charging money so as to discourage habitual freeloaders. Karma Cafe is the brainchild of Vivek Desai, managing trustee of the Navjivan Trust. Said Desai, “This is a way of reaching out to people. For us, this is an activity.”

Desai, who took charge in 2011, brought about change at the place, and was criticised. That phase is now over, with Karma Cafe having made a profit of Rs 3.5 lakh in one and a half years.

Gandhians across Gujarat visit Karma Cafe. A tea here costs Rs 30 and dinner Rs 100. Plates are eco-friendly and are made of banana leaf. Herbal juice and low-sugar sweets are also served at dinner.

Karma Cafe opens at 12 noon and serves till 9pm from Tuesday to Sunday. The dinner is served only on Saturday and Sunday. Said Desai, “There are requests to serve dinner on all days but we want to limit it and not make it a [full-fledged] restaurant.”

Karma Cafe is Wi-Fi enabled, and one can spend as much time here without ordering food. Even as you eat, you have the liberty of picking up 1,000 books on Gandhi in different languages.

“The people connect has worked,” Desai said. “The sale of books at the trust has gone up after we started the cafe. This wasn't the case even when we were offering discounts."

Quotes from prominent Gandhians have been put up on the cafe’s walls for everyone to read. The simplicity of the place is what adds to the quiet, soulful ambience.

Adjoining Karma Cafe is an art gallery, where exhibitions are held. Satva, a shop selling khadi clothes for men and women, is also there.

In the days to come, Desai has plans to introduce lectures by eminent people on different subjects at Karma Cafe.

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