Nineteen-year-old Priyadarshini found it challenging to find a job in Chennai. She would either be rejected outright or be treated with sympathy by prospective employers.
With prominent burn marks on her neck, Priyadarshini, who had attempted to immolate herself two years ago following a fight with her mother, says, “Earlier, whenever I went to find a job, the employers will look at my burn marks and refuse to give me a job. I also worked at a printing press but there they kept sympathising and kept saying you should work less after all that has happened with you.”
But her trouble finding work ended when she joined Writer’s Cafe a month ago.
Run by M Mahadevan, a restaurateur, the idea of Writer’s Cafe was born when he visited a burn ward through non-profit organization, Prevention International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care (PCVC), six months ago. He knew then that he wanted to start a cafe to help rehabilitate survivors of domestic abuse, acid attacks and fire accidents.
Statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau reveal that 327,394 crimes against women were reported in India in 2015, 35% of which were classified as "cruelty by husband or relatives".
On December 11, 2016, Writer’s Cafe opened its door to patrons in Chennai. Presently six women survivors are working in three departments- hot kitchen, confectionery and bakery.
Speaking to The News Minute, Karan, Manager of Writer’s Cafe said, “Six people from Prevention of Crime Victim Care are working with us and soon four more people will be joining us,” he says.
All the survivors have to go through training at Winner’s Bakery, part of Mahadevan’s chain, where they are trained in all three departments for six months. “After training, they start working in Writer’s Club and are given a monthly salary,” says Karan.
Situated in Gopalapuram, the cafe consists of two floors with more than 13,000 books. Guests can leaf through a book over a cup of coffee.
Priyadarshini, whose responsibilities involve making freshly brewed coffee, says, “I never even knew that there were 11 types of coffees. I love what I’m doing.”
Unlike her earlier experiences, she observes, “Here, no one treats us with sympathy. That is why I even feel bad to take leave when I am sick because Mahadevan sir has opened this cafe especially for us.”
The cafe not only hopes to make the survivors fully independent, but also donates all the revenue from the business to Prevention International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care (PCVC) which helps survivors of domestic abuse.