Recently, I’ve been to 2 cafe, which I found quite different from the usual run of the mill numerous ones. Both cafes have got one aim, one motto, one vision and that’s the good part, but surprisingly, the path taken is quite different. This is their story.
The first one is Cafe I can Fly. Tucked in the lane behind Maddox square, south Kolkata, lies this one. Parking is not a problem, and in fact if somebody rides a bike, the same can be parked inside the alley itself.
There is this NGO called AddLife Caring Minds which has been working in the four wings of Clinical, Training & Development, Akademia and MindSpeak. The Clinical Wing provides mental health care through the services of psychiatrists, psychologists, special educators, psychotherapists, speech therapists, the hearing and voice clinic etc. The Training & Development wing conducts workshops on relevant topics for parents, teachers, students, corporate audiences and other social bodies. The third – Akademia, is running successful batches of the basic counselling course as well as multiple short term courses on topics like Play Therapy, Behaviour Modification, Specific Learning Disorders, etc. The fourth wing is Mind Speak which is an open forum that organizes a speak-free session every month on a relevant topic where individuals from all walks of life can participate by expressing their thoughts on the subject. The fifth wing is this cafe where supposedly, the specially abled people are getting employment and are running the show.
First things first. The first USP for this cafe is the decor. It’s pretty well lit, well decorated and there is a damn good collection of board games and books for kids and adults. Few sellable items are also there and they are pretty well promoted.
But frankly, once we settle down, we saw the most prominent tent card on the table, which went something like the below. “Now, wait, aren’t we supposed to treat the specially able people as one of the normal persons and not look down upon them ?” But, as soon as somebody goes through this card, he/ she starts sympathizing, which I am quite doubtful if these people would love or not. However, “Maybe I am getting a bit nerdy”, I consoled myself. Maybe, it’s done on a positive note and to protect these people ….. “But again, that’s where you’re looking down upon a regular human being … and an able human being”- my dirty mind started shouting.
However, we gave the order at the counter and it was smooth. We were told that the food will be served at the table- perfect. We ordered for one cooler, classic egg mayo sandwich and chicken and jalapeno pizza- it was lunch time. Service was decent- quick in fact. The food were okay- nothing great or out-worldly, neither bad, but okay. The server lady (specially able) served us with a really big smile …. “Now wait, am I actually noticing THAT trait and leaving apart her good service ? Damn that tent card”. And, if I talk of the food, apart from the chopped spring onion (placed for garnishing), sandwich was neat and cooler was great. The pizza was one of the most ordinary home-styled one I’ve had in recent times (nicely plated though) and coffee was okay (couple of cookies never hurt anyone though). And going by the sheer grandeur, investment and PR machinery involved, pricing couldn’t be cheap and it wasn’t.
But the problem is, still that tent card was haunting us. Otherwise, it was a nice, posh cafe, where some quality time can be spent and off course decent food. The vision of employing these specially able persons was fine, but the sales strategy seemed a bit odd. People will definitely go there for the cafe itself and not to sympathize with anyone …… but again, that’s my personal take.
The second one is another odd one. There is this Hope Cafe in Panditiya road. If you take the road adjacent to City Style, Gariahat Road and go till the dead end, it’ll be on your left. The tall building is for Hope Foundation Kolkata and Ms Renu Singh takes care of it.
This one, because of it’s location, has got easy parking, but from the bus route, it takes around 5 min of brisk walking to reach this place. The place has got big windows, flooding it with natural sunlight and a bright interior added to the positive vibe. There is no WiFi and a sign proudly says … “No mobile, talk to human beings” …. good for a change.
The philosophy is to train underprivilaged youth with vocational training in restaurant management (hands on off course) and make them employable. And, I am told, lots of restaurants consider this joint as their employment source. Pricing is one of the key positive points and it’s actually damn cheap.
I ordered for one chicken clear soup. But, when it arrived, I was kinda scared just by seeing the size. A big curry bowl full of clear soup and with LOTS of shredded chicken in it. As my experience goes, hardly quantity and quality match, but it was a different story altogether. The taste was actually good. And, at 55/- a plate, it was a steal. I understood, I am going to like this place – a lot.
Next was their chicken grilled sandwich. It was homely stuff. 4 pcs of chicken, americal corn and capsicum stuffed grilled sandwich and that too at 85/- a portion, can’t go wrong. And it didn’t. Finally, it was the carrot cake and chocolate cake and they were pretty big slices with chocolate sauce dripping at 45/- a piece. I saw the chicken thali getting served at the next table and it was bloody huge. Damn, I am already a regular here- from today.
The service is good and a sense of recognition and pride was evident in the smiles of the servers. Renu Singh is a sweetheart and obviously, takes a lot of pride in her work. The best part is, she doesn’t try to sell you the back-end story (underprivilagd youth and all… ) and the cafe runs on the merit of its good and value for money food. And, this is appreciated and respected. Locals including the office crowd throng this place and most of the times, it’s packed. Sadly, I was told, the cafe closes by 6 PM ……
So, two cafes, both having a vision statement apart from running the show and making profit, but the path somehow differed. Maybe I am wrong, but sympathy-sales is not quite okay- not with me at least …. and for whom it’s done, they don’t need it. They are one of us and should be treated with equal respect. But again, it’s my personal view and not aimed at hurting others.
Bon apetit !!!
Comments and critics welcome.
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