How a cafe gives blind women a chance to earn a livelihood | Delhi News – Times of India

NEW DELHI: A live band performs in the background and the open kitchen is abuzz with activity as Kamala, Tara and Rajni busily deliver on orders for muffins, coffee, bread rolls, pakoras — and the all-time favourite: Maggie noodles with a touch of masalas and vegetables. It could be any other bustling cafe until one realises that the women behind the counter, serving, cooking and assisting in the kitchen are all visually impaired.
That is when the name of the café, “Blind Bake”, begins to make sense. The concept café will open to the public from mid-November and is a step toward creating livelihood options for the female trainees at the NAB India-Centre for Blind Women and Disability Studies in Hauz Khas Enclave.
A menu in Braille, a dedicated subway for the chefs and staff for better accessibility to the café and space for 50 on the picturesque lawn of the centre will make the café experience just that more memorable for guests. Blind Bake was officially launched with some guests and staff in attendance at the NAB Centre last Saturday.
“Full-fledged operations will begin on November 15,” Shalini Khanna, founder-director of the centre, told TOI. “While limited seating services will be available to friends of NAB Centre and those in its neighbourhood, Blind Bake will provide delivery services to other parts of the city.”
“Once a full-time canteen for the centre staff, Blind Bake now has a broader vision,” Khanna elaborated. “It aims not only at training bright and capable girls to find jobs or start their own cafes and tea enterprises, but also give them real-time exposure to income generation.” The centre offers skilling courses for visually impaired women and runs a hostel for 35 trainees.
At present, four blind women work under the guidance of their teacher, Sheena Sahni, a professional baker. When TOI visited the café, Tara and Rajni were handling a wok of noodles. Breaking into a smile, Rajni disclosed that they greatly relied on the senses of touch, smell and perception. “Once we know about the exact placement of things in the kitchen and the exact measurement of ingredients, we can easily cook a particular dish. It just happens,” the 35-year-old resident of Rewari smiled. She has been part of the cooking course for a month now.
The course and café have changed Rajni’s life. She admitted to being reluctant to meet people and preferring the indoors, dreading being judged by others. “Now I hope I will be able to open up and overcome my inhibitions,” she said before returning to assist Tara with another order for noodles.
Kamala, 39, is the head chef and has her photograph embossed on the Braille menu placed on each table. Her inability to see did not stop Kamala from leaving her home in Nepal and coming all the way to Delhi to pick up new skills at the centre. She arrived just before the pandemic, and cooking has opened up new avenues for her to dream about. She now plans to hone her skills before returning home to her daughter and help her set up an enterprise of their own.
Standing by the wok, Tara appears confident of the pace of cooking despite having just about 20% vision. The Kanpur native is most excited about meeting new people at the cafe.
Sahni, a considerate guide to these women, revealed that as a sighted person, she tried to step into the shoes of the trainees. “I close my eyes and try to do things to understand the challenges my team confronts. Work is divided among the team members depending on each person’s capacity to handle tasks such as cleaning, chopping, frying and baking.”
Welcoming the new space for a good cup of coffee for the area’s residents, Hauz Khas Enclave RWA president Praveen Gupta said Blind Bake was a much-needed idea that would encourage inclusion in enterprise.


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