Dr Sonam Kapse with her staff at Terrasinne | Photo: Special Arrangement
Adorning the walls of a building in Pune are the words of Guiness World Record holder Robert M Hensel, “There is no greater disability in society than the inability to see a person as more.”
'Terrasinne - Kitchen and Bar’, Pune's very first restaurant run by specially-abled people, is not merely an eatery but a socially conscious dining space that aims to promote inclusion, accessibility and a conducive environment for the differently-abled to choose work as per their wish.
Terrasinne employs more than 25 staff, aged between 21 and 36 years, who suffer from visual, hearing and speech impairment, Down’s syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy and locomotive disabilities.
“Terrasinne is not an organization or NGO or a trust. We are individuals who decided to strengthen the vulnerable communities and give them mainstream dignified platforms and livelihoods. Our inspiration is to be socially responsible,” says Dr. Sonam Kapse, oncologist and founder of Terrasinne.
For Kapse, the whole motive behind the endeavour was to set up an entirely commercial platform in a prime location where different people with disabilities could be given ample employment opportunities. “We opened in March 2021 but had to shut down in April owing to the pandemic. Once the Covid waves subsided, we reopened and now it’s been a year. Throughout the journey, we’ve had tremendous support from the locals,” she says.
From local to global
‘Terrasinne’, which means 'Earth Cuisines', follows a farm-to-table concept of dining and has around 200 farmers on board with them. The idea is to prepare global cuisines from local ingredients.
The restaurant offers a wide variety of dishes including Italian, Mexican, West Asian, Indian among others.
Zero communication barriers
One may wonder how the customers place orders here or communicate effectively with the staff. The answer is quite simple - sign language.
“Whenever a customer walks into Terrasinne, he or she is in for a surprise. They will be given menu cards written in sign languages, both Indian and American. Even still, if the customer finds it difficult to communicate, it won’t be a problem as all the staff are well trained to interact with the clients, without him or her needing to know sign language,” adds Kapse.
Mode of training
Any kid who seeks a job at Terrasinne is trained for free and is placed immediately. They are offered scientific training purely based on one’s behavioural aspects, physical traits and emotional well-being. “We look upon a person’s disability as their ability, focus on that skill and then lead on with programmes, where they can learn within their comfort zones,” says Kapse.
However, realising the adverse impacts of toxic positivity, Kapse prefers to call her staff ‘disabled’ rather than using sympathetic terms like ‘differently abled’ or ‘specially abled’.
“When you interact with these kids, you will understand that they don’t wish to be glorified in any manner. They prefer to be called disabled and when you put the ‘specially abled' tag on them, it makes it difficult for them to find jobs. These kids have accepted themselves for who they are and what they want is work opportunity, not sympathy or donations,” added Kapse.
What's in the pipeline?
Terrasinne, the first-of-its-kind initiative in the city, has opened up a new arena of opportunities before its employees. Keeping Pune as their centre of excellence, Dr Kapse, the spearhead of the project, is now hoping to expand her service to other parts of the country soon.