Blind Bake Café blesses darkness with dignity for empowerment

Tara Devi at Blind Bake Cafe in Hauz Khas in New Delhi

Image credit Bhawna Malik

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Blind Bake Café showcases triumph of will over limitations

By Bhawna Malik

New Delhi, July 1: Tara Devi, a young visually impaired baker at the Blind Bake Café in Hauz Khaz in Delhi, redefines empowerment. She ties her apron confidently, walks calmly towards the counter to get her first order of the day.

It’s ‘fresh lime soda and spicy Bread Rolls’. From taking orders, preparing and serving the food, Tara is hands-on.

Started in 2022, Blind Bake Café is an initiative and brainchild of Shalini Khanna Sodhi, the founder and Director of NAB-India, Centre for Blind Women and Disability Studies. The twelve-seater café serves Chinese, Italian, Mexican, south Indian, Idly Manchurian, and freshly-baked cakes.

The garden café has a soothing ambience and is run by all visually impaired women cooks and bakers. A favourite with the college students, the café has tied up with Zomato too.

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India alone has a population of 4.95 million visually challenged persons and 70 million visually impaired persons and economic independence remains a challenge for them. The situation for girls is even worse as they totally remain dependent on the family, with no exposure to the outside world.

Tara joined Blind Bake Café in 2021. “Since birth, I had limited vision that further deteriorated. Initially, I was an intern at a hotel in Gurugram. I used to set tables and clean them, once the customers left. But coming at Blind Bake Café, I started learning cooking and baking, said Tara.

Watching her prepare food is a joy for the customers. Single-handedly, she prepares the food and serves also with elan. She walks around the café with ease and without any support.

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“I have measured my steps and know exactly where to turn. Cooking for me is a life surviving skill. I am still learning new dishes and feel independent and empowered,” added 20-year-old Taara.

She said that the menu at the café changes daily. But there are some specific items that are in demand daily.

“Pakoras, sandwiches, cakes, maggi noodles, burgers, bread rolls and pizza are most sought after by students. We have non-veg food also,” she said.

Usually, the café is managed by a team of four to five chefs. On Sunday, she sometimes manages the café alone. Not once, she falters and prepares the food with great acumen.

Her managerial and negotiating skills are par excellence as she never lets any visitor go without ordering. On the unavailability of the veg nuggets, she is quick to offer French fries to the customers.

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“Customers come from far and it’s my duty to cook and serve them. Why should anyone go without eating,” she adds.

Handling the electrical gadgets without any support and checking the hot fried bread rolls is nothing short of a miracle. “I am trained to check the hot oil by moving my hands above the pan and also through the smell I know that rolls are ready. We have measured the quantity of the spices that will go into the recipe. Hence, there is no complaint from our customers,” adds Tara.

“All the machines used in café have special buttons having instructions in braille. The menu card is also in braille, which can be read by me.  I use my smart phone as a timer to bake cakes and I can prepare both hot and cold coffee with ease,” Tara further adds.

Visual impairment is not a hindrance with Tara. She has channelized her darkness into a dignified strength and setting aside all the limitations, she faces life with vigour, valour and vitality. Address is L 25 Hauz Khaz, New Delhi.

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