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#AutismPower - Mumbai's Cafe Arpan is brewing a change, along with great coffee

Through April, we have been focusing on initiatives that empower adults with developmental disabilities in our series #AutismPower. Today we bring you the story of Cafe Arpan in Mumbai.

Coffee is community. It is society's big fix, that which make things right, and our day good.

Café Arpan is all of that, multiplied manifold.

Located at Juhu, Mumbai, opposite the SNDT University, this is a smart little place with lots of spirit.

Managed by people with developmental disabilities, Café Arpan began life as a dabba delivery service. Founder Sushma Nagarkar used to run a recreation club for disabled people prior to that.

Nagarkar got the idea from Manila's Puzzle Café. The family of Jose Canoy, a boy with autism, started the café to help train and professionally equip disabled people.

"We were very cognisant of the skill-set our team members were developing at the time and we said why not? This is the next step'. Nagarkar, Trustee of the NGO Yash Charitable Trust, then decided to set up the café, now a few months old.

The idea was to make these people visible, build their confidence, promote inclusion. - Sushama Nagarkar

The biggest challenge in setting up the café was getting an `eating licence' from the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) without going through fixers or agents. "So that took a lot of time but we got it".

Funds was Nagarkar's other big challenge. "We're an NGO and depend a lot on donations. We've been very fortunate in getting them. We have a very committed team".

The restaurant, its layout, indeed everything about it has been planned keeping the needs and abilities of the staff in mind. For instance, they have a compact menu that you can quickly choose from, and is easy for the staff to manage. Similarly, the food is simple, fresh, honest and from the heart.

Café Arpan's approach seems to have struck a chord. For it is already making a bit of a splash. Their Facebook page has gushing customer testimonials.

"Trust me this has been my best birthday ever in last 27 years", says Ankush Aagam Shah. "Never did I experience this kind of love and affection. These concepts and endeavours need our support and love and I would recommend all of you folks to visit this place to have this memorable and mesmerizing experience.. Thank you Team Cafe Arpan for this great arrangement. I promise to stay in touch and keep meeting your amazing team again and again.."

Café Arpan employs disabled adults in multiple aspects of business operations - from buying vegetables to helping with the cooking, and serving and managing customers.

Pratibha does yoga every morning and then travels to work independently. "I cut vegetables, make garlic bread and serve drinks". She can also play the sitar and has even performed in concerts.

Nandini makes sandwiches and filter coffee, and likes serving customers. "I meet different people every day". For the first time she got to welcome customers this week. She told them: "Welcome, please have a seat". Shen then handed them a menu card.

Vibhuti, a customer who was catching a snack when the Newz Hook team was there, said "I like the concept very much and the idea that we are giving disabled people an opportunity. It's very rare and special and I would definitely come here again".

Abuli prepares the lunch and apparently his potato chips are to die for. Anand, who makes nimbu juice, tea and coffee, simply says this: "I like to work".

One of Nagarkar's children, Arti, has a disability and works at the café. Being a trained opera singer, she loves music and occasionally regales the crowds if customers request.

Aarti loves greeting and interacting with customers.. specially telling them how much she loves music!! 🎶 One customer requested for a song and Aarti didn't hesitate! We captured a little bit of her impromptu performance.. enjoy!


#AutismPower - Mumbai's Cafe Arpan is brewing a change, along with great coffee

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