Just like Barack Obama said, the best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will find the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope. A person named Priyank Patel has proved this by taking an initiative that many of us might have thought about but none of us dared to turn it into reality.  

Priyank Patel owns a chain of tea cafes named ‘Nukkad’ where he has employed people from the transgender community, those who have hearing and speech impairment, and those suffering from down syndrome. Nukkad has been an inspiration to many and thus, winning the hearts of people. You can visit this café situated in the capital of Chhattisgarh i.e., Raipur and Bhilai only if you want to have more than just a cup of tea! 

Apart from being an amazing inspiration for millions of people out there, this tea café offers an array of delicious food and tea varieties, as its name suggests. It has an aesthetic interior which makes it different from other regular cafes that we visit. It gives a homely feel and of course, is a tea café with a difference. In an exclusive conversation with Slurrp, Nukkad tea café’s owner Priyank Patel shared his thoughts. 

What made you start Nukkad? 

I am an engineer by profession and have also worked in Mumbai and Delhi but I always had a feeling If I am doing the right thing or not. I always used to work with social help groups and NGOs. One thing happened after other and I came to know about the ordeal of those especially abled. It didn’t take much time to realize that the especially able people are often considered a burden to their families. Moreover, there is always uncertainty about the future of these people.  

It was then I decided to do something for these people so that we as a society should learn about the challenges faced by those having any sort of disability. In the year 2012-13, we started our first Nukkad tea café in Raipur as a normal café but with a serving team from any marginalized segment. Another objective was to create employment for such people. We also wanted to learn about the potential of these people and start offering them more opportunities. We opened the first café in 2013 and currently, we have 4 tea cafes in Raipur and 1 tea café in Bhilai. 

Did you face any problems in approaching people from the transgender community or those with hearing impairment? 

Initially, when we started, we faced some problems. But somehow, we managed to convince the families to send their children on a trial. If they like, they can continue, or else they can step back at any time. We had to learn sign language and we did a mutual learning exercise. Eventually, more people started getting associated with it when they saw that we have a friendly ecosystem. We tried making it a great place and it worked for us. For transgenders, we headed to their societies and convinced them to work. Most of them wanted a job but with a respect and we managed to do so.  

We provide proper training to all our staff. We teach them the sign language and how to read and write for the basic interaction with the customers. We try to empower them and bring a sense of accomplishment in them.  

Apart from being an amazing inspiration, you have a huge variety of teas and amazing food at your café. Can you tell me about that? 

We are a tea café and naming it tea was our objective behind popularizing tea as coffee is. We try promoting tea and we have always tried working towards providing the privilege to tea that coffee enjoys. We have quite many varieties of tea like masala chai, kulhad chai, ginger tea, Basundi chai, Irani chai, and many others. Besides, we have white tea, lemon grass tea, Kashmiri Kahwa, etc. Our ginger tea and kulhad chai are very much loved by the customers. 

We also offer a huge variety of food and snacks. Right from burgers, to sandwiches, to pastas, and to Biryani, we have almost everything. We try providing a vast range from Chinese to Indian to Continental food to the customers so that everyone can find their perfect fix. Our Indian food is much loved by the customers as well.

Your café’s interior is very unique. How did you come up with this homely feel idea? 

Just as you said ‘homely,’ this was what we wanted. No matter which Nukkad you visit, you won’t get a vibe that you have visited a commercial place. Rather people should feel like they are sitting in their drawing room and sipping a cup of tea in peace. We have digital detox in which, when people submit their mobile phones on their arrival, they would get a 10 percent discount on their bill. Our aim behind this was to make people realize that there is a life beyond mobile phones. Besides, you get a comfortable workplace with proper facilities. We also organize poetic workshops, anti-depression workshops, break the taboo events, and many others to invite public participation.  

How are you planning to expand Nukkad? 

We are on opening more Nukkad tea cafes. We are working to promote Chhattisgarhi cuisine and even planning to open cafes to employ surrendered Naxalites who want to get connected to the development stream. We are also planning to open a café which would be run by elders abandoned by their families. We are up to much more in the future! 

As Priyank Patel said, this is indeed a café with a vision. So, take out some time from your busy schedules and visit the Nukkad tea café. Don’t forget to have their kulhad chai!!