Chennai cafe helps victims of domestic violence

Oriental Cuisines and Higginbothams team up to restore the self-esteem of women

December 11, 2016 07:47 am | Updated 07:47 am IST - CHENNAI

Higginbothams - Writers Cafe run by Burns victims at Peters road in Chennai.

Higginbothams - Writers Cafe run by Burns victims at Peters road in Chennai.

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“Mine was a love marriage and only after I got married did I find that my husband had another wife, but she later died due to burns. Unable to withstand his drinking and abuse, I burnt myself. I thought I could go to work the very next day but it took so much time for the wounds to heal and the scars never went away,” said Asma Kesavan, a resident of Kannagi Nagar.

Ms. Asma and other victims of domestic violence such as Komala, Punithavalli Murugadas, Parimala, Priyadarshini Ravikumar, Maria Marikumar and Manjula Ramesh are receiving a new lease of life thanks to the opening of the Higginbothams’ Writers Cafe on Sunday at 98, Peters Road, Royapettah. This ‘Swiss cafe’, where guests can read, write, browse and eat, will have space for small meetings, get-togethers and book reading sessions. The women have only one appeal: they do not want other victims of abuse to burn themselves.

Social and familial issues

Lulu Buhari, a trainee at the cafe, says that both family and society look down upon women who are burn victims. “They are stared at when they travel to work by buses and neighbours abuse them because they are burn victims. They become unwanted in families. The women, too, feel they have become ugly,” she said.

Ms. Maria, who left her husband to go back to her mother, admitted to feeling ugly. “Though he asks me to return home, I do not want to go back since I am treated badly. He has not met the children even once after I went to stay with my mother. I am now considering sending my children, who are less than four years old, to a hostel, since there is no one to take care of them on days my mother goes to work,” she said.

M. Mahadevan, chairman of Oriental Cuisines Pvt. Ltd., the company behind several popular brands such as Hot Breads and French Loaf, said:“My mother used to say that if I earn Rs. 100 today and I only need Rs. 50, the rest of the money is meant for society. I have learnt that such welfare endeavours have to be self-sustaining from the projects I have funded, including Winners Bakery in Alwarpet, the Freedom Bakery unit at Puzhal Prison, the Give Life Cafe at Loyola College and the project for widows in Karaikal.” The non-profit cafe for victims of abuse is an offshoot of Oriental Cuisines’ Copper Chimney and Hot Breads chains.

Books on first floor

Higginbothams is providing the books on the first floor of the cafe. “I have partnered with Higginbothams in this venture and we plan to have more outlets in the city,” Mr. Mahadevan added.

Proceeds would go to International Foundation for Crime Prevention and Victim Care (PCVC), where the women receive physiotherapy and psycho-social therapy. Prasanna Gettu, founder trustee and CEO of PCVC said ,“It has boosted the capability and self-esteem of the women — they believe they are good. We teach them that they should not tolerate any kind of abuse.”

Victims of domestic violence or relationship violence at home or work can call PCVC’s 24-hour Crisis line 044-43111143.

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