You know what they say about life offering you lemons, right? You squeeze them right back and enjoy the lemonade.
Well, in this case, its coffee and a particular café we are going to be talking about. While this may seem like just any other café serving you coffee each waitress here is a real-life hero. She is a SHero, if you will, in her own right. Each woman working here has lived through a traumatizing ordeal of being burnt by acid thrown at her for all sorts of ghastly reasons. The Sheroes here, are women who have fought to survive after receiving a debilitating blow to their appearance and self-esteem by some members of the society.
A saviour in disguise
When life seemed to come to a complete standstill for them an unlikely saviour appeared in Mr. Alok Dixit. It was Mr. Dixit who took the initiative and established the ‘Sheores Hangout’.
‘Sheroes Hangout’ is a quaint, little café tucked away among trinket shops in the by-lanes behind the Taj Mahal. Symbolically located, next to arguably the world’s most beautiful monument; women victims who no longer fall within society’s paradigm of ‘beauty’ rebuild their lives one tough day at a time.
The idea of the café, as envisioned by Dixit is a noble one. Its primary aim is too spread awareness and give a new lease of life to these women who lived behind a veil of shame and sorrow.
Its aim is to make the rest of us, more fortunate, aware of their plight and at the same time not ask for pity or funds but for dignity and normalcy to be brought back in the lives of these victims. The idea of the café was inspired by a similar concept in Pakistan, a beauty-parlour that was sourced through crowd-funding. Sheroes Hangout caught on virally and saw a footfall of 5,000 customers in the first 06 months itself.
Friendship is the way
The women who join are first made to befriend other survivors already working there. This is done to understand that a fearless and guilt-free life is still very much possible even after a similar fate befell them. This helps to break barriers and shed veils that these victims have donned and lived under, some of them for years.
The ultimate goal is not just for them to shed their veils and get to work but to feel proud of themselves in their own skin. To feel beautiful, loved and worthy and along their way inspire others to live a more meaningful, compassionate and inclusive life.
Survivors ? No, Superheroes
There are about 250 to 300 acid attacks reported in India every year. This happens despite laws restricting the sale of acid or other deadly chemicals. Moreover, most of these are cheap, easily-procured and horrifically corrosive acid.
In about half of all cases, it was thrown at them by members of their own families; in almost every case, by someone they knew. The reasons are varied. It ranges from jealousy, revenge, reproductive ‘failure’ to rejection of a marriage proposal or sexual advances. AMost of these attacks aim at disfiguring women after facing rejection.
However, these very ‘survivors’ can be seen taking the initiative and building back not just theirs but others lives as well. They aren’t just survivors. In fact, calling them so would be an understatement. Visitors that visit the cafe were also amazed by the energy and positivity these women exude.
The 2nd citizen
Building back once completely broken is no joke. In a country where women are taken as ‘2nd citizen’, support is less. In many cases, the victims themselves are blamed of either being immoral, not having self-control and so on. Women from childhood are thought to be quiet, to not fight back. Wives are thought to bear the harassment they face due to dowry and many such issues.
Are you wondering if this is about 90’s? No, it isn’t. This is about the present period. While there are slogans of feminism being shouted by ministers, there isn’t much that is happening. There are laws that protect women from various threats, including marital rape. Unfortunately, the awareness of such laws is close to nil.