There aren’t many cafes in India that are LGBTQIA friendly. However, that hasn’t stopped Hephzibah Smith and Mohammed Adam to start their very own in Hyderabad. Hephzibah is a proud member of the LGBTQIA community. And, has never hidden the truth about the tough life she has led as a child. Mohammed a.k.a Adam, as his friends would call him, is an ally of the community. Together, this dynamic duo started their very own ‘People’s Choice Cafe’ in January, where everyone is welcome. That right! It’s a Human-friendly cafe as described by Hyderabad News.
Why start the Cafe?
The founders’ idea was to bring a different spin to the LGBTQIA+ cafes that are predominantly found in the city. What is so different?. Well, most cafes in the city that are LGBTQIA+ friendly, feature LGBTQIA+ members while showcasing cis-heterosexual people as their main customers. However, at People’s Choice, its a space for the Queer Community. The inspiration behind the cafe came almost 2 years ago when Hephzibah was working in Taj Westend. She shared her experience with the News Minute,
“I was at a café in Bengaluru when I saw a same sex couple holding hands, and anxiously looking around for a place to sit. There were a couple of empty seats but the staff at the café refused, saying other customers wouldn’t like to have a same sex couple around them. Two people holding hands doesn’t mean they are homosexual and even if they are, I didn’t understand how it bothered the restaurant staff,”
It was after this encounter that Hephbizah decided to open the cafe. She spent about 2 years learning more about the community. She also befriended many from the community. The two founders are passionate cooks and were classmates in culinary college. When Hephzibah pitched the idea for the cafe to Adam, he immediately accepted. Being an ally of the community, Adam was never really bothered by the possible repercussions or problems that would arise by opening People’s Choice Cafe. He said,
“I will support her because everyone needs support to be able to believe in themselves. After I started working with Hephzibah, I have become more aware about the LGBTQI community and the support they need from us,”
– As reported by The Hindu
Running a Cafe that is everything LGBTQIA, does come with its obstacles. Like any many other stories of struggle, People’s Choice Cafe faced difficulties with homophobia. In fact, neighbours of the area tried to even shut the cafe. People have entered the compound, tried to vandalise the cafe, and even cut down trees. However, the situation came under control once the cops arrived at the Cafe. According to an interview with The News Minute, Hephzibah was thankful, at that time, that the police was on their side.
Ambiance at People’s Choice Cafe:
Enter the Cafe and you will hear the sound of the pressure cooker. It is housed in a single-storied building, that is about 40 years old, in Sainikpuri. The building stands, with its black plastic walls with random splashes of neon paint. Inside is a small stage to host live performances. While the backyard is converted as seating for customers. The Cafe hosts regular events for the community. They even have an exclusive pride-themed menu with colourful picturesque foods. The second floor of the Cafe is for the community and is called LGBTQ Cafe. It truly is an embodiment of everything rainbow. It has a pride flag-themed door, a wall filled with colourful accessories, and even sassy yet catchy one-liners. The Cafe started to gain attention during pride month in June. According to Hephbizah, It was Adams idea to
“….take part in the Pride march and let people know about our café where they wouldn’t be looked down upon for their sexual choices and can spend quality time with each other.”
-As reported by The News Minute
Hephbizah and Adam love running the cafe and are often seen doing daily chores, including pulling weeds from the cafe garden. According to Adam, “Nothing beats building a place and doing it up on your own, from scratch,” as reported by The Hindu.
Future Plans for the Founders
In an interview with Hyderabad News, Hephbizah shared her views on the importance of supporting the LGBTQIA+ movement. She said,
“Any step by an individual helps take the movement forward. Hence, starting a café was an important aspect. More than the business, we were focussed on starting a space that can spread awareness. And we are working towards it.”
-As reported by Hyderabad News
Hephbizah and Adam, along with some of their friends to start a platform for education. The idea is to contribute towards providing education to the lower-strata of the LGBTQIA+ community. The friends plan to travel to locations and teach as many will not be able to travel to the city. “Among the many things I learnt in the past two years, the most important is to treat every human being with respect. And I believe education is a great step towards bringing equality in our society,” says Hephbizah.
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Source Credit: Hyderabad News, The Hindu, The News Minute