The Optimist Citizen

An upscale restaurant in Mumbai where every member of its service team are individuals with hearing and speech impairments

Out of the vast and diverse population of India, a large number of individuals are those who suffer with some form of disability. Although it is not a hidden fact, but the abjection and differentiation they receive from the majority is evident. And while the acceptance from society for such individuals has been lukewarm, there are some bright corners which stand as a bastion of progressive change for the “specially abled”.

Mirchi and Mime (M&M) in Mumbai might seem like your usual upscale restaurant at the first glance. But, as soon as you call out for the wait staff, you might get the most gleeful shock of your life. Mirchi and Mime is the first restaurant in India to have its entire 27 member-strong service team comprising of individuals with hearing and speech impairments. “It is a novel social experiment where the food and the service speaks so loudly that the servers don’t need to”, says Prashant Issar, who along with his friend Anuj Shah started the restaurant on 2nd May 2015. The inspiration for the unconventional dining experience at M&M came from the Signs restaurant in Toronto, which has a similar service concept.

Although the concept of a wait staff who is Deaf might seem absurd to most, but with the hard work of those associated with M&M, the results are coming up beautifully. The recruits are given basic sign language training associated with serving in a restaurant as soon as they join. “The eagerness to learn a new skill and work to the best of their ability is something we see in our staff every day,” says Anuj Shah, who handpicked M&M’s wait staff from Mumbai’s Rochiram T. Thadani High School for Hearing Handicapped and from the National Society for Equal Opportunities for the Handicapped (NASEOH), Mumbai division and are paid at par to any other normal person working in any other restaurant.

Prashant and Anuj, owner and founder of Mirchi & Mime(M&M)
Prashant and Anuj, owner and founder of Mirchi & Mime(M&M)

For the customers who come in, the method of communication is stated on the menu. The mouth-watering flavours, combined with a unique service concept, present an extremely wholesome and unique dining experience to them. “The effect on both the customer and the employee is amazing. The customer feels good after having a meal and the employee feels liberated after serving every meal”, says Prashant. It is this experience that keeps Mirchi and Mime always full. Witnessing the exponentially growing demand, Anuj and Prashant are planning to start 21 more branches, 18 in India and 3 in Dubai, Singapore and London respectively. Recently, M&M was also rated as the best “Dine in” by Zomato for their food.

But it is much more than delicious food that Mirchi and Mime serves. It acts a portal to a better, more independent world for those who have faced immense neglect and dejection in their lives due to their restrictive abilities. It makes life a little more beautiful for its employees and makes them superheroes. The word “superhero’ might seem like an exaggeration, but the words printed on the back of the uniform of every Mirchi and Mime employee will drive out any doubt of our claims. It states,” “I know sign language. What’s your superpower?”

Anshul Sharma | TOC

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