When I first called Divyanshu Batra, he was making tea for some customers at his cafe. He apologised and asked if he could call me back in five minutes. Five turned to 20 as they made him sit down and have a cuppa with them.
A month ago, the 21-year-old from the north Indian city of Dehradun opened a small cafe, and now, knocking back cups of special masala chai during conversations with his customers is a regular occurrence in his life. What’s drawing new visitors to the cafe isn’t necessarily his jovial personality though, it’s the bizarre name: “Dil Tuta Aashiq” (“Heartbroken Lover” in Hindi). As weird as the name might be, it sums up precisely why Batra decided to set up the cafe—to bond with people over heartbreak.
A couple of years ago, Batra was in a serious relationship when his then girlfriend told him they couldn’t be together anymore because her parents didn’t approve of her seeing someone—a classic Indian cockblock. The breakup hit him hard and he spent months, including the lockdown, holed up in his room, unable to do anything except play mobile games like PUBG. It felt like his life had come to a standstill. But eventually, he realised that time was moving as always, it was him who was stuck in a limbo. He wanted to do something to help people who were going through similar ordeals. So, he took the plunge and invested all his savings into setting up his cafe.
“Dil Tuta Aashiq is not a business, it kind of acts as a support group for young people nursing broken hearts. Heartbreak is a universal struggle for the youth, and people often conflate it with illnesses like depression and trivialise them,” he told VICE. “I want young people to know they’re not alone, and that their lives can still go on.”
His idea was met with friction from his father, who’s a property dealer and didn’t want Batra’s frivolous ideas to tarnish his reputation in a culture where young people are judged for dating, and heartbreak isn’t openly talked about.
“Initially, he’d taunt me every day. My printing guy called him up once because I was getting ‘Dil Tuta Aashiq’ printed on a large banner. But when one day his client’s family suggested my cafe for a meeting, saying they really liked it, he realised maybe it wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be,” said Batra, who’s running the cafe with help from his little brother.
While the cafe sees customers of all ages, the majority of visitors are young people with stories similar to Batra’s. He thinks it’s the name that draws them in.
“Earlier today, a couple of guys came by. They wanted to know the story behind the name. When I told them, one of them pointed to the other and said, ‘This is going to be him in a couple months.’ Instinctively, I asked him if his girlfriend was getting married to someone else. Turned out, my hunch was right,” said Batra.
Touched by his concern, the customer gave him a hug and shared his story with him.
“I spoke to him for a bit, and he instantly felt better. He took my number and I’m sure he’s going to come back regularly just to talk to me and surround himself with positive vibes,” said Batra, whose sole aim was to have strangers confide in him with stories they can’t possibly share with people around them. “You can’t always tell your family or friends you’re heartbroken. They might laugh or take it lightly. But when you meet a stranger with a similar story, the shared pain of heartbreak helps you trust them instantly,” he said.
In only a month of opening its door to customers, the cafe has evolved into a hotspot for jilted young lovers to come and bond over their broken hearts. Many come and sip on a cup of chai in the memory of their past lovers, even requesting music that helped them first get over their exes. “Dil Tuta Aashiq is no longer just a cafe, it has turned into a vibe that people relate to if they have experienced heartbreak in the past or are going through it right now,” said Batra.
Ironically though, the cafe has also become a popular date spot, especially for teenagers who visit for the reasonably priced food and in hopes of not having to endure the same heartbroken fate as most of the regulars. They make it a point to tell Batra they’re not going to end up like this.
Is it weird for him to see young love blossoming in the very space he built in homage to heartbreak?
“I just laugh it off, I’ve had time to deal with it now. I just say, ‘god bless you’ to them,” he replied.
But apparently, the irony isn’t lost on the couples visiting the cafe either, and it has led to some comical situations. A few days ago, a young couple visited the cafe. It was the girlfriend’s birthday, and she asked her boyfriend why he brought her to a place with a name like that.
He cheekily replied, “This is where I’m going to end up if we ever part ways, so I thought I might as well check it out.”
Follow Snigdha on Twitter.