The first time I ever heard of Tag Along was when a group of my friends asked me to tag along with them to this cool new cafe where they were screening the final season of “Game of Thrones”, provided they served epic hot chocolate and brownies and honestly speaking, they had me at hot chocolate. I couldn’t, however, tag along with them for some reason and instantly regretted the decision as a wave of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) hit me when they sent me pictures of them digging their happy faces in hot chocolates and brownies while Tyrion raised his glass in the background screen.
After several weeks or so, when I had somehow forgotten about the place, I was invited to witness a powerful presentation by a social enterprise for Zero Waste named Voyage, working towards sustainability and behavioural change regarding the climate crisis, that was when I realised that the cafe is also known as “The Travel Cafe”. As I entered the cafe, I could see it filled with teenagers, college students, business owners, creatives and tourists patiently focused on the talk being presented. There was a fresh smell of coffee and bakery circulating in the air, which obviously was coming from the live kitchen and the entire place seemed alive with all the energy there.
Pritam Pany, the founder and CEO of Voyage says, “Tag Along is becoming the nucleus for Zero Waste in Sikkim. From making food ingredients themselves to replacing plastics in the cafe and encouraging talks such as these, they are becoming a hub of conversations around Zero Waste.”
After the talk was over, there was a short open mic session featuring performances by local artists and I was also asked to perform a song. The moment I sat there with my guitar, about to perform, I could feel the ambience of the place hitting right at me and I didn’t feel any nervousness or fear to play in front of those people for the first time in my life.
Tag Along has been actively promoting local artists through their open mic sessions with the intention to bring in the culture of people sharing their interests like music, poetry, etc and that definitely seems quite innovative to me, given the fact that Sikkim has a lot to offer in terms of culture and untapped talent and they are providing a platform to showcase just that. They have also done screenings of five short films directed by a local artist. Tag Along also seeks to bring in the culture of sustainability and sensitivity towards the environment, as it can be seen in the initiative they have taken named as “Jog and Plog” wherein the participants jog around town picking any waste they find and then dumping it in the dustbin. The initiative was a collaborative effort of Tag Along, Manusatva and Voyage.
My curiosity towards understanding their commitment towards the environment led me to have a brief conversation with the sister duo who run the place, Manisha and Bhavana, which made me aware of the fact that they have also replaced regular plastic straws with steel straws and cloth napkins for the paper napkins, to minimize the single-use plastic and paper waste. Something which had definitely gone unnoticed to me but as I realised the importance of the small gesture, I too was starting to count the amount of plastic I use on a daily basis. Shortly, the cafe seeks to make its own vermicomposting unit.
When you are in Tag Along, you meet people who carry different interests or people with different ethnic backgrounds and various walks of life, be it the backpackers who stay at the hostel above or local folks who hang out here. The cafe is located at the Development Area, away from the hustle and bustle of the town, thus making it a perfect place to let shit go, drink some coffee and read a good book. They have their own personal collection of books handpicked by the sister duo randomly over the past many years.
They also host a backpackers hostel for travellers from all around the world with comfortable home-like beds and the chance to witness the beauty of Sikkim on a budget. The hostel also provides free travel consultancy and scrumptious complimentary breakfast to kickstart their day. One of the major activities the travellers look up to is the niche experiential tours they provide, such as Ride the silk, an offbeat trip which they organize once a year, and is currently in its 5th year this 2020 and Pang Lhabsol journey that takes travellers to the nooks and corners of North Sikkim to experience the festival with the local community.
Upon paying several visits to the cafe, I had the pleasure to witness products made in Sikkim by brands like Earthier (Yacon Syrup), Amlapala (bags), Voyage (bamboo pens), On vert (handmade soap and bamboo products), Tapestree, Shimpu Guras (Handmade Rhododendron Wine) displayed in several areas of the cafe. All of these products are designed considering its impact on the environment and the essence of Sikkimese culture which the travellers can take home with them.
Something I really noticed and appreciate is the fact that they are so dedicated to their mission and their attention to detail is commendable. Every nook and cranny, every tiny piece of material or object is fulfilling a goal, to spark conversations. As I spoke to them about this, they seemed quite upbeat, which is suffice to say that it wasn’t something they stressed about. Provided, it seems to me that building this cafe must have been quite meditative for them, telling by the warm smiles on their faces.
We, at Redendron are quite inspired by their work and the dedication they have put in order to create an environment for locals, creatives and travellers worldwide. Which is in fact, what we have kept in mind while working on the “Creator’s Toolkit”. A subscription box for creators designed to increase productivity, satisfaction and motivation. You can get one month free on this subscription box by clicking here.
It isn’t often that we find places where we can feel like home and chill without any restrictions, and as many times I have been there, I have often been assisted by almost anyone I encounter, even for something as simple as a cup of coffee. It is like everyone who comes there, contributes even a little bit to the happiness and calmness one can find there. Perhaps when a vision is led by the motive to spark conversations and connection, everyone contributes to the commitment ever so naturally. We wish them goodwill and success in the years to come. Cheers!