BHILAI (CHHATTISGARH) : Walk into the Nukkad (which literally means a street corner) and you can instantly feel the difference. The colourful ambience lifts your mood and the aroma of good food whets your appetite.But it is service that takes the cake. And the overall dining experience at this one-of-a-kind restaurant in the city leaves you craving for more.Located some 30 km west of Raipur, Nukkad is like any other restaurant. What makes it different is the eatery’s endeavour to empower marginalised sections of society. Among the eight youths employed by the eatery, five are hearing impaired and three are transgenders.
“The idea is to make them feel empowered with greater social acceptance,” said Priyank Patel, a graduate in electronics and telecommunication, who started the restaurant in May last year.Dressed in a yellow T-shirt and black trousers, the five hearing impaired youths take orders from and respond to customers’ demands by communicating in sign language.On every table, a yellow-coloured chart is kept that guides the customers through various signs they can use to convey to the staff what they want or to even express their appreciation. Orders are taken on a small blank sheet of paper attached with the menu.
“Initially, they were shy and reserved. We offered them formal training and with regular interactions with customers, they have gradually become very professional and efficient,” Patel said.All the eight employees also do the purchasing, stock management and counter management. Acknowledging his employer’s support and customers’ appreciation, Kamlocha, a 24-year-old hearing impaired waiter, said, “As I faced problems in communication, getting employment was a big challenge.
This place has given us recognition and job both.” Sunit Barsogad, 24, is also grateful for the job and “no longer feels marginalised”.Chand, 28, a transgender, said, “Earlier, we faced the stigma of unspecified identity. Here, we are earning our livelihood with respect.”