Blind Bake Cafe in Hauz Khas enjoys a good patronage. , Photo Credit: Special Arrangement
Rajni always loved experimenting in the kitchen, but her dream was shattered when she lost her eyesight at the age of 18 due to a genetic condition, retinitis pigmentosa, then fate landed her at the NAB India Center for Blind Women and Disability Studies brought Today, she runs the Blind Bake Cafe in Hauz Khas, where visually impaired women are provided with the opportunity to rebuild their lives.
It’s wonderful to see Rajni and her colleagues – Heera, Rakhi and Tara – move around the small kitchen at ease; Measuring their steps to reach the sink to wash vegetables, chopping them like a pro, weighing ingredients to prepare a variety of dishes from fritters, sandwiches, pizza and pasta to coffee and shakes.
The visually impaired have high perception skills which Rajni makes full use of. She was trained for four months after joining the cafe last year. Now she knows how to feel the rising steam by placing her hand over boiling oil and then carefully drop the pakodas into the frying pan without splattering. She counts minutes to get out perfectly crisp, hot golden-brown pakoras and serves them with green chutney and sauces.
Within no time, the 12-seater cafe has gained its loyal clientele, who don’t mind waiting a few extra minutes for the food they order. Many people who come inside also talk to women appreciating their work.
The ladies enjoy working in the cafe. Chasing dreams can be challenging.
Rajni says, “Lekin koshish zaroori rakna hai” (But, we have to keep trying).
The cafe is equipped with modified gadgets. For example, ovens and coffee machines have dots of different sizes and shapes to indicate different temperatures and settings. A talking weighing scale helps in measuring the ingredients used in a dish.
Another unique initiative, The Echoes was started by a group of friends in 2015 to help people with speech and hearing impairments. Initially it deployed 45 persons and opened the first outlet in South Delhi’s Satyaniketan. It had to be shut down due to the pandemic and now the team is back, running one in Hudson, GTB Nagar, near Delhi University North Campus. Another new outlet opened this March in Rajouri Garden serving a typical cafe menu with pizzas, shakes and loaded fries.
Echoes is equipped with sign boards and cue cards to help customers and servers interact. Each item on the menu has a code, and customers are given a notepad to write down their order. The 33-seater outlet still sees a low footfall and three specially-abled employees manage the Rajouri Garden outlet with ease.
“The deaf and mute employees get a chance to interact with people and don’t feel isolated,” says Sahib Sarna, co-founder of the cafe.
Blind Bake is at L-25, Block L, Kharera, Hauz Khas; Around ₹300 for two and; The Echoes is at E-1, Block E, Rajouri Garden; Around ₹600 for two.