Inside A Cosy Sikkim Bookstore Offering A Nurturing Space Of Inquiry & Community Spirit

Inside A Cosy Sikkim Bookstore Offering A Nurturing Space Of Inquiry & Community Spirit
Rachna Books

Imagine a cozy bookstore filled with some of the most diverse and eclectic collections, nestled in the lap of the mountains. Sounds straight out of a fairy tale, right? Well, a place like this exists in reality and is quite close to home in the beautiful hill city of Gangtok in Northern Sikkim. After a successful initial run, the store, Rachna Books, closed in the late 1980s due to changing consumer habits. The local people moved away from being voracious readers and embraced other forms of entertainment like television and in the following years to come, the internet.

However, Raman Shresta, fueled by his passion for books, decided to re-open his family business in 2001. This time, he meticulously curated a collection, ensuring each book on the shelf resonated with him. This dedication to selection is evident in the well-stocked shelves, particularly the section dedicated to the Northeast region. Here, readers can delve into the rich tapestry of Sikkimese, Nepali, and Tibetan history, culture, folklore, and art.

But Rachna Books goes beyond regional offerings. It boasts a diverse collection, encompassing Southeast Asian literature, a dedicated section for women writers, graphic novels, literary magazines reflecting the vibrant Himalayan voice, and a selection of timeless classics. Shrestha frequently hosts events featuring writers, illustrators, and publishers from across the globe. Attending one of these events allows visitors to not only engage with authors but also experience film screenings, poetry slams, music gigs, and even shadow puppetry sessions. Rachna Books has now become a vibrant cultural landmark in the Himalayas.

Pefromers at Rachna Books bookstore, Gangtok, SIkkim
Raman Shresta on the mic during a discussion with writer Easterine Kire (seated to his left) at a session organised by Rachna Books inside the bookshop. The Hindu

Rachna Books isn't your run-of-the-mill bookstore where you only buy books; it's about experiencing them. This philosophy extends beyond the curated collection. Stepping into the store is like stepping into a literary wonderland. Shresta has meticulously curated a collection of ephemera – old black and white photographs capturing the essence of the Himalayas, figurines, posters, postcards, and a captivating display of retro cameras.

The architecture of the bookstore thoroughly acts as a catalyst for getting lost in the literary world. Walls transform into fortresses of knowledge as the towering wooden shelves, laden with tomes from every genre and era, stand like silent guardians. Overhead, fabric ceilings drape the space in a gentle hush, inviting you to lose yourself in the stories. Plush armchairs nestled by sun-drenched windows offer a haven for exploration, where natural light dances across the pages waiting to unfold their secrets.

However, the true magic of Rachna Books lies in its symbiotic relationship with Café Fiction, a cozy cafe nestled on the ground floor. After a fruitful browsing session, patrons can indulge in a cup of coffee, meticulously sourced from local small farms and roasted in-house. The cafe's ever-changing menu caters to all palates, offering delightful options like momos, steaming bowls of noodles, pasta, pies, sandwiches, and an array of freshly baked pastries.

For those seeking a souvenir beyond the written word, Rachna Books offers a treasure trove of local delights. Coffee and tea enthusiasts can take home locally sourced packets, while stationery lovers can find charming handmade diaries, notepads, coasters, and stickers crafted by Rachna itself. Look out for quirky tees, mugs, and diaries by Sikkimis, a local design brand.

Inside A Cosy Sikkim Bookstore Offering A Nurturing Space Of Inquiry & Community Spirit
Swing Into Adventure With The Playful Flavours Of This Homegrown Artisanal Coffee Liqueur

The experience doesn't end with browsing, coffee, or local products. Rachna Books boasts a charming Bed and Breakfast (BnB) above the store, aptly named Bookman's Bed and Breakfast. This allows visitors to truly immerse themselves in the literary atmosphere, spending their days exploring the curated shelves and their evenings indulging in a good book with a cup of coffee on their balcony, overlooking the majestic Himalayan backdrop.

Rachna Books has transcended its identity as just a bookstore and has evolved into a community space, a platform for local voices, and a testament to Shresta's unwavering dedication to fostering a love for books and the written word. In an era where digital distractions abound, Rachna Books acts as a refuge, where the scent of paperbacks mingles with the aroma of freshly brewed coffee, and where stories come alive not just on the pages but within the walls of this unique literary haven.

Find out more about Rachna Books here.