New Delhi, April 18: In Shimla, first Book Cafe inmates of a sub-jail near the capital city are trained by a renowned hotel to serve cookies and pizza they have baked. The cafe, with a seating capacity of 40 and constructed at a cost of Rs 20 lakh, was opened by Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh last week.
The four who run the cafe are Jai Chand, Yog Raj, Ram Lal and Raj Kumar, all of whom are serving life imprisonment at the Kaithu jail near Shimla, Director General (Prisons) Somesh Goyal told IANS.
The first-of-its-kind cafe in the country is funded by the state's Tourism Department. It is open daily from 10 a.m. until 9 p.m. At night, the prisoners return to the jail.
"This cafe has given us the chance to connect to the world," Jai Chand told IANS.
"This is being run by four of us independently. Even the visitors, the locals, don't show any apprehension while interacting with us. Indeed, they are keen to know more about our radical transformation," he added.
Most of the time, the cafe, which offers free Wi-Fi access, is occupied by visitors reading books on wildlife, environment, tourism and Shimla's history while sipping coffee.
It has books of authors like Chetan Bhagat, Nikita Singh, and French novelist Jules Verne, besides educational books, magazines and newspapers.
According to jail authorities, five of the 10 prisoners are undergoing life sentence for murder and two are facing trial under the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act.
Special music classes were organised by prison authorities for almost a month to train the inmates in singing and playing instruments.
They sang Himachali folk songs, qawwali and Sufiana songs of Bollywood movies.
(with inputs from agencies)