When in 2013, Jiten Suchede moved into his new office in Saket, an empty poultry shed in a ramshackle area called Murgi Farm, all he wanted was a place where he could make some noise with his carpentry work. But soon he was making noise in the evening too, as the space turned into a jamming venue for friends and up-and-coming artistes. It soon came to be known, quite aptly, as Bakheda.
The product designer also doubled as a chaiwaala, running Jugmug Thela, a pop-up artisanal tea and coffee shop on a thela, quite successfully. With Jugmug Thela’s growing success, Bakheda took a backseat, and eventually folded up. Then, in 2015, Suchede told Blue Tokai, a café chain with an on-site roastery, about the vacant space, and they decided to move in. This created a stir in Saket, as Blue Tokai was already an established name. The café brought a lot of champa plants to decorate the street, lending the place its name—Champa Gali. Soon, curious residents started to wander in.
Today, Champa Gali is a thriving space, getting better known by the month. Amongst new eateries slated to open here, for instance, is a Vietnamese restaurant called Phoking Awesome. Suchede, who was still running an office from Champa Gali, opened a permanent café here in 2016, called the Jugmug Thela Café. More recently, he added The Reading Room and the Jugmug Art & Culture Project to the gali’s charms.
The Reading Room is a take on street-side second-hand bookshops, except in this case the proceeds fund education projects at Karm Marg, a home for street children in Delhi. The Jugmug Art & Culture Project offers a studio and gallery space inspired by the addebaazi and chaupal cultures. It is an informal open space where people gather to perform, converse and even sell their wares in the periodic pop-up bazaars.
Jugmug Thela itself is inspired by Indian street culture, so you will find snacks like eggs on toast and chutney sandwich to wash down with their signature ‘12 Secret Spices Masala Chai’. The café’s street-side seating gives Champa Gali a European air, and an attached shop, with trinkets and bags made from waste materials by disadvantaged rural women, adds to the Gali’s happy, holistic feel.
Champa Gali is an inspirational space. You can potter about, read, and linger on till evening when, who knows, there might just be an impromptu bakheda.
Champa Gali is in Lane 3, Westend Marg, Saidulajaib, Saket.
Kalyani Prasher is a freelance writer and editor based in Delhi. She was executive editor of India Today's travel magazine till end-2013 when she decided to get out of the office routine for a few months to see what having a life feels like. She never went back.