Acid-attack survivors are serving sweetness and you don't want to miss it

Beti Zindabad Bakery - Sheroes Hangout

Though none of us were unaware of Laxmi Agarwal’s struggles, the discussion around her and those who have suffered same or similar fate, has been brought to the surface in recent times. During the promotion of Chhapaak, a movie adapted on her life, Laxmi appeared on several television shows and addressed gatherings at various venues. This brought her closer to her audience, admirers, and those who had known Laxmi only through electronic mediums or news platforms.

Do you know Laxmi gets no monetary benefits from these appearances she makes with the sole idea of spearing awareness in mind? She has a four-year-old daughter and being separated from her partner, the task as elephantine as raising a daughter has fallen on her shoulders.This is just one Laxmi that you know of. We share our society with thousands of such Laxmis who have had their lives disfigured by a splash of acid.

It’s invigorating to see these women shake off that ‘victim’ tag and readying themselves to shape up their lives again.The Sheroes Hangout in Arga, just a stone’s throw away from the phenomenal Taj Mahal, is one such endeavor.

Established by the Chhanv Foundation, which was initially founded by Laxmi and her ex-partner, the café is run by a group of young ladies who come with similar life experiences. The effervescent vibe of the kaleidoscopic ambiance of Sheroes’ Hangout exudes positivity and can lift up your spirits in minutes. Next time you are in Agra, do drop by and say ‘Hello’ to the lovely Rupa, Chanchal, Gita and Nitu, and sipping on a refreshing beverage, make your trip memorable.

Inspired by the popularity of the Sheroes’ Hangout, Varanasi is all set to open its first restaurant to be managed and run by acid attack survivors. Though in its initial days The Orange Café will function out of a rented property, Ajay Kumar Patel, who came up with the idea of opening this eatery, plans to acquire its ownership in the days to come. Patel has traveled through the state extensively in the past two years and approached survivors from Jaunpur, Bareilly, Rae Bareili and Varanasi.

After identifying four of his prospective employees, he is now getting these young and excited ladies trained in cookery, customer service and billing. “Our aim is to make sure that the acid attack survivors own the café and run it themselves.” Patel shares in an interview.

The ‘café culture’ is providing a ground of stability and sustainability to women who have soldiered through the toughest times and survived. That most of them have a penchant for cooking, opens new avenues for them to attain self-dependence.

On International Women’s day 2017, President Ramnath Kovind honored the Beti Zindabad Bakery of Jashpur, Chhattisgarh with the Nari Shakti Puruskar of the year. The café is run by 20 survivors of human trafficking; many of them were rescued from prostitution rings. On learning of their interest in cooking, a lady IAS officer, Priyanka Shukla thought of having these women run their own bakery.

Jashpur has a dominant Christian population with a constant demand of cakes, muffins and other bakery products. This seems to have inadvertently worked in favor of the Beti Zindabad Bakery. Luckily for these survivors, who received their baking training in Pune, there were no bakeries around this place, and its sales picked volume sooner than they could have imagined.