PUDUCHERRY: If you look for good cafés for writers to hang out in Puducherry, the first one to pop up is Writer’s Café. As budding writers visit the place, the miniaturist sketches of William Shakespeare and the like greet them from the whitewashed walls. There is also a large shelf filled with books at a corner in the café and sofas where you can relax and read for long hours.
Further, if you would like to order food from the café, there is a high chance you would find three teenage servers -- G Sarath, G Kamalesh and G Hemapriyan. The unique thing about them is that they have mild autism. The first two are intellectually disabled while Hemapriyan lives with cerebral palsy. Hailing from different families, they have been friends since their school days.
Their parents were worried about their future until they were trained in Satya Special School in Puducherry and joined the restaurant on a monthly salary. R Sundramurthy, a teacher from the school, says these three kids started their schooling in a mainstream school as usual. “But they were later identified as special children and sent to the special school. They came to our school and got their education here under the National Institute of Open Schooling.”
Special school coordinator J Kannan elucidates that their special skills were identified after assessments. “They were given training in that particular skill according to their choices. We approached the Pondicherry Institute of Hotel Management and Catering Technology, where Sarath and Hemapriyan attended a 30-day course on sweets and savoury making in June, following which four, including three of them, were sent for an interview in Writer’s Café, where there were vacancies. These three were selected and joined the café in July for initial training process in different activities in the restaurant. Cafe’s owner Tarun Mahadevan was instrumental in providing jobs to them,” he says.
Writer’s café manager A Christu Raj says, “We need patience to train them. They were trained in several sections, including packing, cleaning and table service, and started working as full-time workers. Now, they are doing basic kitchen works and will soon be trained to prepare food.”Kannan further says that usually companies avoid recruiting special people as they need additional training and care than others. “But I am glad that organisations like the Writer’s Café are giving opportunities to such people. This will motivate other special children as well,” he adds.
Hemapriyan’s mother G Hemavathy says she used to cry a lot of times thinking about his future. “But after he got the job in the café, I feel like I am on cloud nine.” Hemapriyan’s father lost his job a few months back as the company he was working in closed down and his mother was working as a tailor to make ends meet and also to send him to the special school. But after he got his job, she says she feels a bit relieved. Likewise, Sarath and Kamalesh are also from economically backwards family and through this job, they are helping their family.
Sarath’s dream is to go sailing and hence, he ultimately wants a job on a ship while Kamalesh wants to continue doing the same restaurant job. Meanwhile, Hemapriyan wants to be a physiotherapist, taking inspiration from his childhood physiotherapist.