Requiem for a performer’s cafe

Published: September 9, 2010
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A musician performs at The Paper Microphone, a unique cafe that closed down recently. Photo: File

A musician performs at The Paper Microphone, a unique cafe that closed down recently. Photo: File

ISLAMABAD: As new theme cafes and community spaces sprout up all over the capital city, a relatively older venture is worth recalling for its unique focus on creativity and intellectual stimulation.

Emerging a little over two years ago, The Paper Microphone (TPM) became the “it” artsy platform for budding, like-minded creative people. Nadine Murtaza, proprietor TPM and a young educationist, said that she had felt the need for centres that encompassed all age-groups and catered to the unexplored talent in the city.

Adorned by perky graffiti and artwork, the café radiated a comfortable and clubby atmosphere. It was likened to the Central Perk coffee house of Friends fame. TPM used to host a myriad of events from storytelling afternoons to open mic nights to book clubs, game and movie nights.

The open mic nights became an instant hit, with performances on poetry to recitals to music instruments to monologues and standup comedy with a live audience.

Back in 2008, TPM collaborated with Desi Writers Lounge (DWL), an online writers’ community and forum. After that, readings and book clubs hosted by DWL became a permanent fixture at TPM.

The DWL community met every fortnight to discuss and dissect literary works over steaming lattes and juicy club sandwiches. These sessions became a regular feature at TPM that would invite readers and writers from all walks of life. TPM dedicated an exclusive corner to facilitate this rendezvous. The writers’ stationery and paraphernalia could be found neatly stacked in shelves, with pamphlets and bookmarks, alluring casual browsers visiting the cafe for the first time.

Another interesting activity at TPM was Game Night. Stimulating and aggressive matches of word games including Scrabble, Taboo, Balderdash and Boggle used to make for exciting evenings at the cafe.

However, TPM was not without its faults. For instance, it was located in a place of low visibility in Super Market (F-6) and its marketing was practically non-existent as the café’s management relied on Facebook groups and event pages for their promotions, hoping that word of mouth will pull them through.

The quality of the food served at TPM – once known to serve some of the most sumptuous pasta in town – also deteriorated over time, which contributed to its eventual demise about a year ago.

Though more outlets of same ilk might open and flourish, The Paper Microphone had made a space for itself in the hearts of the enthusiasts that visited it. It was decent yet affordable, which made it a natural choice for students.

The Paper Microphone brought together people from all walks of life and encouraged a healthy exchange of ideas and activity. Despite its low profile, it proved to be a secluded spot, away from the hustle-bustle of everyday life.

Once a mini mecca to writers, thespians and art aficionados of Islamabad, The Paper Microphone still invokes pleasant memories among its former patrons, who would sit around a table and slurp the delicious white hot chocolate served to them during a particularly intense session of Taboo.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 9th, 2010.

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