Sector 126, Noida otherwise known as Raipur Khadar or just Raipur is a hub for students. This plethora of hostels opposite Amity University, Sector 125 houses nearly half the population that studies there. I shifted here last semester when I left the on-campus hostel. The area was… disappointing until Hemels happened.
In the early days of my stay outside campus, I missed the feeling of inclusiveness of the campus life that I had grown so used to in the one year I stayed there. The road that separates Sector 125 and 126 is a literal cultural divide. Nothing ever happened here. People got up, went for classes, lived the rest of the day somewhere else and crashed. I don’t mean to say people didn’t talk and friendships didn’t thrive. That obviously happened. We’re human after all even though students are probably the most degraded version of Homo sapiens.
Until one day, I saw a new coffee shop open in the area. Hemels, the board read. I wanted to satiate two needs that evening – my caffeine intake for the day and my curiosity – so I went up and talked to the owner there.
He introduced himself as Anshul. An alumnus of the same university, he had lived here in Raipur in his college days and had come here first, for the opportunity and second, for the vision to convert this place into something like Sector 37, Noida affectionately called Tea Shop. If you’re familiar with Noida, you know it already. If you’re not, it is a strip of great sandwich, burger and coffee joints. Tea Shop is the most popular joint there and thus, the popular name. Sector 37 is much more though, it’s a community. People who go there, go there everyday and you will always find faces you’ve seen before. Always.
My conversation with him went nice given how good I have gotten at building topics, conversations and relationships in the last year. I was also influenced by him. For a Masters in mechanical engineering, the coffee business seemed like a last resort or so my friends thought. I believed otherwise. “No business is small”, I’d argue but they didn’t budge.
Until one day, I took them to the shop itself. They loved it and thus, their opinions changed. Hemels, I had googled, meant heaven or heavenly in Dutch and trust me, his coffee is as close to heaven as it gets. His shakes are heaven.
Over the course of the last few months, something changed in the area. As Hemels grew and as the word-of-mouth spread, the crowd increased. Conversation increased. Anshul had his brother join him for the work and now there are two people I often get some of the best little conversations with in my day-to-day affairs. Soon, stools were added. You could sit around now and it was starting to look good.
One day, out of my general curiosity I asked Anshul’s motivations. He told me, “I used to a make coffees for friends who got high a lot. They’d need those chocolate and Oreo shakes the morning after. I too went through a rough patch after college ended. It was then when I stopped the whole routine and ate a lot of chocolate and drank a lot of shakes. They say it’s the best medicine, isn’t it? So one fine day, the idea to take these shakes and coffee forward hit me and here we are.”
Fast forward to a couple of months later. Hemels now offers waffles, tipsy shakes, a great choice of shakes and some of the best coffee I’ve had yet. I’m a regular customer and so is my group. We go there at least once daily. That is the beginning of it though. The thing that made me write this post is what I’ve noticed for a few days.
Hemels is next to a girls only hostel and in the evening, a couple of girls play badminton near the shop. They sit there. They sing songs and laugh. Thereby, attracting more people into the mix. The person who works for and helps my landlord also sits nearby. I shake hands with him everyday because of his proximity to Hemels.
As soon as the clock hits 5:00 in the evening, Hemels becomes the center for activity. You can hear the community there. You can see it. The makeshift restaurant for students, the coffee shop, the people sitting outside them, the girls singing and laughing, the people playing badminton, the little children around – the community is visible now. People get down and they talk or smile at each other even if they don’t know everyone. It’s a beautiful sight. Maybe because I saw it happen slowly. This is the impact people talk about when they talk local businesses.
“Your shop has created a community in the area. Guess the vision is working”, I commented today. Anshul chuckled and agreed. I talked to him and a friend of his for a while and then I went on my way. I also smiled at a girl I see there everyday. She smiled back. Maybe one day I’ll gather the guts to say Hi.
Guess a lot can happen over coffee, huh?