As we talked to Priya*, she had a ring in her voice and her eyes had a glint of pride. She showed us around the newly set-up bakery and café at The Banyan-Transit Care facility in Mogappair West, a facility that supports the mentally challenged. She said, “I never knew I could bake a cake. I enjoy the process of tasting while mixing and it gives great satisfaction when I complete making a caking.”
A delicious range of cakes, cupcakes and muffins are all waiting to be savoured at the newly launched Nalam Café and Nalam Bakery at the facility. Even as we had a look at the items on offer, an excited Priya* dragged us along to meet her friend and fellow baker, Chitra*.
When we asked her what she liked about baking, she promptly responded, “I love the aroma that wafts around, when a cake is baked in the oven. I feel so nice and happy. I have been a part of the baking unit at the Transit Care Centre for the last two years. But now I am really excited to see people buying and tasting goodies that I have baked.”
About eight residents of Banyan are involved in the baking process and four of them will be in the front, selling the goodies. The bakery was inaugurated on Saturday morning and the ceremony was graced by Mahadevan Muthalampet, Chairman, Board of Oriental Cuisines, who was seen interacting with the residents of The Banyan and relishing the fruits of their labour.
As a part of their holistic caregiving plan, Nalam (which means well-being in Tamil) Skill Development programme was initiated at The Banyan, to help residents engage in a vocation that would also help them earn a living, once they transcend into their desired futures. They were trained by Senthil Kumar who runs a popular home bakery venture Wholesome Rhapsody, known for making desserts using healthy alternatives like quinoa, buckwheat and millets.
Sharing his experience of training the residents, Senthil put forth, “Baking is all about timing, coordination and proper measuring. Many of these women are with a condition, where they might face problems in coordination and timing. But I was pleasantly surprised. Many of them would pay attention to details and come back for the next class and ask me about why we were using a certain ingredient and not the usual stuff. They took time to grasp things but eventually they managed well.”
The selection of cakes and cupcakes are made using the choicest of ingredients blending taste and nutrition, so that one doesn’t miss out on the ‘goodness of life’ while trying to watch their weight or manage other health conditions.
“The residents, who will be baking and selling at the café, will have fixed salaries which will be revised annually based on their performance. These women have been subject to so much exploitation and stigma for years. It is heartening to see them rise above all the pain and do something so meaningful,” said Archana Padmakar, Assistant Director - Transit Care Centre, The Banyan.
*Names of residents have been changed to maintain confidentiality*