Bandhavgarh; a place full of grand and little treasures, be it Bandhavgarh forts or majestic Bandhavgarh tigers. The very name of Bandhavgarh, conjures up images of wildlife, sprawling in the vast acres of untouched jungles, haunted stories of Bandhavgarh fort and dry lands of Madhya Pradesh. But, Bandhavgarh, is holding many other secrets of goodness too. And, one such secret is Malaya Cafe!
A place, where you get myriad collection of artifacts and crafts, from every nook and corner of India, yes INDIA, in Bandhavgarh. Now you must be wondering how could artifacts from all over India ended up in a remote place like Bandhavgarh? It’s simple. Travel, explore and collect!
It all started in 2007, in the mind of Neelam Verma Ji. She got super bored of city life and ventured out for a place away from all the humdrums of urban life. She looked everywhere, but one place that perfectly fit into the jigsaw puzzle of her life was Bandhavgarh, a place right at the heart of India. She liked the place so well that she decided to move there permanently. And, so, in 2008 Malaya Cafe was born. But that was not enough. Her wild heart needed more. So, to keep her heart tamed, she resolved to travelling. And, why limit to nearby areas when you can travel the entire nation!
She travels to far away and secluded areas to find artisans and NGOs, explore their artwork, collect them and bring them back to her abode. And, it is then available for art lovers like us!
What she is doing may look really simple but it is not. She is, in her own little way, helping artisans and craftsmen who are not able to sell their work. There are artisans, who don’t have money to even go to nearby towns to sell their work, and, even if they somehow manage to reach town, no one’s interested to buy their products. Even, the interested ones pay only a meagre price for all their efforts. There life is really difficult. But, by buying their products and selling them to international buyers(tourists), she is providing a platform to those craftsmen (who represent our country). She is creating a spectacle for tourists from Europe and other countries, a spectacle of Indian arts and traditions.
What she is doing is totally inspiring. She is striving in her own way to save the cultural art of India , which is slowly dying. And, what does she gets in return? The satisfaction of living a fulfilled life, freedom from the killing corporate jungle and the joy of being a helping hand to all those artisans who need help, help from us, people like you and me.
So, when Bandhavgarh is closed for the monsoon season, you will find her on wheels, spanning India and collecting crafts. And, when Bandhavgarh is thriving with tourists,from all over the world, you will see her in a little shop chatting with tourists, explaining them the crafts and making filter coffees for them. The only place in Bandhavgarh where you will find homemade filter coffees. You know, Malaya Cafe is nothing like any ordinary mainstream cafes that we find in every other corner of our superfast, super congested urban cities, where coffees all taste same. “Ma ke haath ka khana”, can be a perfect way to describe her simple, yet, full of taste, dishes. Everything is homemade, hand cooked, specially by her. The food is light and healthy. Not just that, she even cooks (pre-ordered) breakfasts for you, just like a mother. You will get 20 types of chai, lassi, filter coffee (I know I have mentioned it before, but still- the best filter coffee you’ll find in Bandhavgarh)!
It’s like a little paradise amidst the grand paradise of nature. If you happen to visit Bandhavgarh, you “must” visit Malaya Cafe- for coffee and handicrafts. Who knows, what little art trinkets you might find there!
PS: Malaya in sanskrit means mountain.