Bombay to Barcelona - From sleeping in the streets to starting a cafe

Photo of Bombay to Barcelona - From sleeping in the streets to starting a cafe 1/2 by Bhavya Vatrapu

The Bombay to Barcelona Library Café has recently become one my favourite spots in Mumbai. I fondly recollect hearing about this cafe from my host in Paris. When I told her that I was from India, all I expected her to know was the Taj Mahal (I'd seen a photo of hers with the Taj Mahal the other day in her drawing room). Instead, she talked about this café in Mumbai and how she found inspiration in it; she told me the story of Amin, its founder. Sometimes you hear things like these when you least except it, but most need it.

I visited this cafe a year after I came back from Paris. It's a library cafe with charming interiors, great vibes, super-friendly staff and decent range of food- all excellent reasons to visit this place often. On my fourth visit to the café, I was expecting to meet Amin that time. It was a rainy day and I was half-drenched by the time I reached the café. A guy standing there took my umbrella and led me to an empty table outside. I asked him if Amin was in. He said "I'm Amin, how can I help you?"

Amin's story:

Circumstance forced a young Amin to run away from his house. He called the streets of Mumbai home and grew up with other street kids, working a different job every day to eat. He went through abuse as a child, was deprived of sleep and a healthy lifestyle, and underwent things which shouldn't be a part of anybody's childhood. He was then picked up by Sneha Sadan, an organisation that gave him food, shelter and education.

Life was not easy, but he viewed it as an opportunity to learn things the hard way. The turning point of his life came when he started working for a man called Eustace Fernandes (who created the Amul baby). He took on multiple roles like driving and generally managing household work. His life changed when Eustace sent him to Barcelona- a city where not a single child is seen sleeping on the street and where everyone's respected for what they are.

After coming back, he wrote a book called 'Bombay Mumbai Life is Life- I Am Because of You' and wanted to start a café with the money he would've gotten from that. Unfortunately, he didn't get a publisher for the same. He self-published the book and started selling them in Mumbai at the traffic signals. He then was able to take a garage and convert it into café. He has sold 20k copies so far in nine languages and you can tell he is proud of his accomplishments. People who come to the café are treated the same way no matter who they are or where they come from. It is run by youngsters who were once on the streets just like Amin was, and the merchandise displayed in the cafe is made by his fellow members of the social organisation, Sneha Sadan. Amin mentioned that all the money made from selling these products is given to them without taking any cut for the café. He also serves cupcakes, hot chocolate and cookies to the street children who drop by, free of cost and no questions asked.

That day, words poured out of Amin like Mumbai rains- heavy, yet tranquillising. He told me secrets about the dark side of this city, all the while reiterating how much he loved Mumbai.

I feasted on authentic Spanish food as we had bits of conversation interspersed by having to manage the café. When I asked what his future plans were, he told me about his vision of opening an organic farm run by differently-abled people to source all the ingredients used in the café from and how he wants to take his staff to Spain once every year. Soon to be a father, Amin can't wait to go to Barcelona to see his wife and the little one.

Photo of Bombay to Barcelona - From sleeping in the streets to starting a cafe 2/2 by Bhavya Vatrapu

It was one of the most meaningful conversations I have had and I was fortune to hear his story. Do drop by this café to enjoy Authentic Spanish cuisine. The churros, tapas and crêpes are my personal favourites. You can buy the book from his website or from the Cafe directly. Bombay to Barcelona - Iam because of you

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