Monday, 23 December 2013


This is a long pending post. (I love this sentence; every time I use it, I get a feeling that the whole world was waiting for this post with nail-chewing breathlessness).

I have been to Alcha umpteen number of times. And, with every visit, the heart grows fonder. I mentally wished to write about them the same umpteen number of times, but a gentleman called Procrastination would wind my fingers with bright red ribbons and tie cute little bows (which I generally refuse to untangle).

A few days back, a friend went to Shantiniketan and posted photos of Alcha café. Let me add to this post, at the very outset that Alcha has two sections, a store and a café. I enquired if she visited the store as well. She fell from up-above-the-world-so-high and answered in negative.  I was determined that I would wash my hands of her. I mean, the store and the café are in the same compound and how could one miss either of the two?

Being the generous soul that I am, I dropped the idea of disowning the otherwise wonderful friend of mine and decided to write this post on my favourite store (I wonder how photo pe aisi baat mein dabake chali aayi for so long).

Alcha is a quaint little shop in Ratanpalli, Shantiniketan (5 minutes ricksaw-ride from the University campus; Phone : 0346-364-5272). The narrow dusty road is ornamented by Krishnochura (Gulmohar) trees on its sides. (In the picture however, you can hardly see flowers; you can spot two or three monkeys instead.)

Alcha is as beautiful as its name suggests. The whole compound is layered with shades of greens and pinks. Madhobilota (Rangoon creeper) and Bougainvillea grow here in abundance.

The moment you open your shoes and step onto its red cemented floor, you are transported to a different world. Weaves of various kinds greet you at the entrance. The weaver bird’s nest turned into a lamp and left-over kantha and khhesh fabrics mounted on the wall will instantly woo you with their simplicity. 

What awaits you is the Wonderland of Alice. At every nook and corner, you will find indigenous hand crafted items…. fabric ornaments, Dokra/ beaded jewelry, kantha bags and batuas, block printed and batik sarees, ready-made printed blouses, gamchha and khhesh curtains, cushion covers, wall hangings, fridge magnets from left over fabric, lamp shades, jewelry boxes, coconut shell candles, handmade soaps and the list is as long as “office-time-e-Metror-ticketer-line”. (Their in-house label is known “Abokaash” meaning ‘leisure’)

The first thing that invariably catches my attention every time I visit them, is their ornaments section. Their fabric-ornaments and Dokra pieces are innovations at their best. 

I saw this cute little butterfly and caught it with my camera lens. What a pretty sight it made!

The dupattas, stoles and blouses are stacked in big cane baskets. The readymade blouses are pocket friendly, priced mostly at a humble 350. You get halter-necks, boat-necks, t-shirt necks, knotted backs and many more….quirky, kitsch, stylish.

The Khhesh fabric has been put to use by Alcha in all its possible forms….sarees, curtains, cusion covers, bags, boxes and bedspreads. The same story holds good for Kantha.  

Alongside sarees, Alcha also has a wide range of apparels for men, women and kids. Their leather products are unusually beautiful.

Their home accessories section is on the first floor. They have beautiful hand painted mirrors, ceramic crockery sets, kantha lampshades, Patachitra-painted boxes, handmade paper wall hangings, cushion covers, quilts and curtains of various colours and textures. Mind-blowing collection and must-must-must-buy stuff.

Their collection of soft toys-turned-fridge-magnets-turned-tabletop-decorations is terribly cute and you would go mad at the profusion of choices. Their assortment of wrapping papers, mostly block-printed old newspapers, also stands out in the crowd.

Go. Visit Alcha. Just stroll in the store, bask in the beauty of their hand-crafted products, buy if you like and then head straight to their café. The café has a tiny bookstore which lends you books to read while you gorge yourself with a fat and fluffy omelet and take sips from the steaming cup of chaa.

Aaah! Abokaash, at its best…. : )      

Photographs: Author's own :D