Of food, freedom and fighting for rights

Of food, freedom and fighting for rights

Of food, freedom and fighting for rights

It’s hard to start a revolution on an empty stomach, goes an adage.  Activist Manohar Elavarthi, best known as the founder of Sangama — a City-based organisation that fights for the rights of sexual minorities, sex workers and people living with HIV — would concur.

However, Freedom Cafe, the restaurant he opened in Mathikere, owes its origin to another aspect of Elavarthi’s activism: He wants to be financially independent in his crusade for the rights of a wide cross-section of society, be they the LGBTQ community, women or even workers in the unorganised sector.

There’s yet another reason for the eatery's existence. With the government cracking down on NGOs using what Elavarthi calls “unfair regulations”, a lot of them may soon shut up shop due to fund crunch. Elavarthi hopes that over time, his cafe would expand and set aside a little “neutral space” for some such NGOs.

“Every so often, when we go to a place to find out people's problems, we can't always talk to them inside their home or office. So we end up in an eatery, talking to them for hours. Restaurant-owners don’t often take kindly to people sitting for so long in their establishment,” says Elavarthi.

“After all, a domestically abused woman will not be comfortable talking to us in her in-laws’ house,” he says, explaining exactly why neutral places like the one he plans in his cafe are necessary.

Then again, Elavarthi wants the place to appeal to reform-minded youngsters, too. Thus, Freedom Cafe, open 11 am-11 pm, has no time limit for which a patron can sit.
The establishment also lets people also charge their gadgets, with power sockets at almost every table!

The activist’s principles are reflected in yet another way. A staunch supporter of the “Right to Water”, he doesn’t sell it in bottled form in Freedom Cafe, instead choosing to provide it free to patrons, but only after it has been purified by a special machine in the kitchen.

As for the food, the taste in each dish speaks for itself. The French fries are evenly flavoured in every bite, the crispy vegetable, paneer and chicken strips can give any MNC food chain a run for their money, the Biryani is a revelation and the Mizo rice cakes for dessert are a true tribute to the diversity of the menu, which also features Mexican rice with salsa.

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