A Tea Cafe in Raipur Blazes a New Trail By Hiring Only Hearing & Speech Impaired Staff

Welcome to Nukkad the Teafe, a unique cafe in Raipur where having a good time means a lot more than just drinking a steaming hot cup of tea. It means communicating in sign language with hearing and speech impaired staff members, enjoying books, reciting poems, meeting like-minded people, celebrating love, making new friends, and so much more.

Started in 2013 by Priyank Patel, this chai cafe hires only deaf and mute staff members for serving and managerial roles, and its basic purpose is to serve society at large.

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The cafe serves tea, food, and fulfilling conversations in a beautiful and soothing ambience. The team organises discussions on interesting topics and comes up with unique events for people to enjoy their time at the cafe.

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“I never wanted Nukkad to be a regular place where people just come, have tea and go away. I wanted people to experience Nukkad, know about the lives of other people around them, learn new things, etc.,” says Priyank.

Here are some distinctive ways in which he is pursuing this goal:

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  • Digital Detox – Nukkad the Teafe offers a discount to consumers who deposit their phones after entering the cafe. “We don’t want customers to be hooked to their phones, staring at their screens, chatting with people who are not actually present there. Instead, we want them to celebrate their time, have fun, read a book, talk to a stranger, and more,” says Priyank.
  • Gyaan Daan – Customers can deposit a book in the cafe and exchange it for another that they can take home for three days.
  • Tea and Tones – These are events where customers can take the mic and recite poetry.
  • Bill by Dil – The cafe celebrates its anniversary by declaring a bill-free day. Customers get an empty envelope in place of their bill and they can pay as much as they want.
  • Super mom celebration – Customers who bring their mothers to the cafe get one dish of her choice absolutely free.

Currently, the two branches of Nukkad in Raipur have eight deaf and mute staff members.

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An engineer by profession, 31-year-old Priyank worked with MNCs for about five years before he got an opportunity to join a fellowship programme. This allowed him to work in rural India and help communities find solutions to different problems. After working in villages in Odisha, Maharashtra and Gujarat, Priyank felt there were not many young people in India working for social causes. He continued working with the NGO but decided he wanted to create a space where people, young ones especially, could meet, share ideas, form groups, start up social ventures, be inspired, etc.

So he came up with the idea of Nukkad.

“I always wanted to create a platform that would give an opportunity to youngsters to get involved. I launched Nukkad with the idea of giving employment to hearing and speech impaired people and also with the desire to create a place where NGOs, local artisans and young people could come forward, form collaborations and work together,” he says.

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“Customers have started talking to the staff members in sign language. I feel that even if one person learns to talk in sign language, it will be useful in the long run. The staff have also gained a lot of confidence. They no longer feel like they are burdening their families and their family members are also very proud of them,” he adds, speaking of  the impact the cafe is having on its young employees and their lives.

Here’s a look inside Nukkad:

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