This Delhi Café Employs Deaf Waiters and Teaches Customers Sign Language for Free
We all know that Sheroes Hangout cafe in Agra is run by survivors of acid attacks. But not many of us know that there is a suburban restaurant in Delhi where the disabled are not differentiated from the abled. Unlike today’s theme restaurants, Hearken Café in Shahpur Jat near Delhi is a differently themed eatery. The theme of Hearken Café is sign language to help customers communicate with the deaf since the restaurant is manned by the hearing-impaired waiters.
Hearken is an old English word meaning ‘to listen.’ The interiors and menu of Hearken Café in Delhi are so deliberately designed that customers don’t feel awkward while interacting with the deaf waiters. And, the waiters too don’t find it difficult to understand what customers want. The generous theme of the restaurant facilitates communication between the differently abled waiters and the customers. (Watch a video of the restaurant below)
Some may be under the wrong impression that Hearken Café cashes in on disability as a gimmick to make business. But the deaf waiters make a happy lot and feel like being a part of the restaurant. They discard all such rumours as disability is a mere merchandise and they are nothing but puppets to entertain guests.
One of the waiters says that they feel at home and work happily in a sign-language friendly environment. Another waiter says that Hearken Café is not just a restaurant but a platform for them to breathe outside a cocoon and harmonize with the mainstream. Another waiter exclaims that he feels good and confident when a customer shows interest in learning the sign language.
Cofounded by Smriti Nagpal, Hearken Café in Delhi serves European cuisine and provides free lessons on sign language to customers. The mission of the restaurant is to level the field for the deaf community and make the society incorporate them too. The waiters have some or the other talent. One of the waiters is a mime artist. He often performs mime acts to amuse the guests.
The mission and vision of Hearken Café are inspired by a slice of real life. Cofounder Smriti Nagpal’s siblings are also deaf. Besides, she is a die-hard foodie. She merged her passion for food with her desire to bring the deaf to the fore and opened Hearken Café with the theme based on sign language.