It’s not just the pages that tell Champaca’s story

When Radhika Timbadia Decided To Open Her Own Bookstore In The June Of 2019, She Knew It Had To Be More Than Just About, Well, The Books…

The roof is transparent, the floor tiled with red clay of old and the trees sway with all their rustling leaves to churn out a background score you can never tire of. Champaca bookstore is an experience even before you approach its shelves. And once you do, the loop on the perfect vibe gets closed.

“I searched for two years before I found this space. I wanted to find something that I could afford, but I also wanted a place where I felt comfortable reading. I didn’t want air conditioning or glass windows, and I wanted people to get a natural experience. It was a very conscious decision.”

Born in Mumbai and having travelled across the country, Radhika says her love for books began at a very young age, but it was more about the stories she was told in her formative years that got her hooked.

“I started reading when I was about eight or nine years old, which isn’t very early, but my father used to read me these very unusual stories. These were not children’s stories, but they were complicated ones that made me very curious. They hooked me, and my love affair began with stories. Books, naturally, have been companions ever since.”

Formerly an ecologist, Radhika’s love for tales between pages took her down a road that ended with the desire to open a bookstore. A lot of thought went into the name, she says. “We wanted to name our bookstore in a way that was local to Bengaluru. Magnolia Champaca is the scientific name of the Champa tree that is very beloved to the people of this city.”

With every question about her store, stories tumble out and reiterate the fact that Champaca is no ordinary bookstore. “Books have done many amazing things in my life, and that’s why our collection at Champaca is very eclectic. If books really open doorways for you, it also helps you understand where you are in this world. Our books aim to talk about caste, queer lives and feminism; things that people like to shy away from. These are natural parts of our lives and they deserve to be written, spoken about and read.”

Barely a year old, Champaca saw its biggest challenge with the outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic. While Radhika says it has been a struggle, the city of Bengaluru has been kind to her.

“We were less than a year old when the pandemic came around and it hit us really hard. I didn’t know if we would survive, to be honest, but we’ve had a loyal customer base that supported us. We’re lucky because there is a very good reading culture among the people in this city. The older bookstores definitely deserve credit for that, because they made books very accessible to people.”

Through research conducted four months into the lockdown, a survey of 1,000 people reported that time spent with books has almost doubled since the outbreak of the pandemic. Radhika says that she finds hope in that people find an escape into an alternate reality through books.

“We’d do anything to get someone to read a book from our shelves. People can call us and speak to us about a genre they like, or get information about the books we have. We’re delivering books all over India so that anyone who wants a book can read it. While it is true that bookstores are suffering, people still want this experience. When everyone’s experience with reality has taken a beating, they want this instead and I find hope in that.”

Champaca Bookstore is located on Edward Road, off CK Jaffer Sharief Road in Vasanth Nagar. Click here for more information.