'My Bike Cafe'|Hope and employment for Kashmir's marginalised youth

Muhammad Subhan has found a new hope to earn his livelihood in a dignified way. In his mid 30s, Subhan till yesterday was doing any kind of menial job he could found. But now part of Athrout’s initiative ‘My Bike Cafe’, Subhan says he has been earning not only better but in an honourable way.

Subhan, who has to leave his studies midway due to weak financial position in his family, is very optimistic about this new opportunity he has been provided by Athrout, in the form of ‘My Bike Cafe’.

The initiative launched few days back is aimed to provide livelihood to marginalised youth by these cafes on wheels to sell the street food    

“I was pursuing computer sciences but had to leave it due to financial condition at home. Then I started to do all kinds of menial jobs to support my family but I was unable to make the ends meet,” said Subhan. He is married and one of his three kids is disabled.

GK Photo

“In these few days, since I started to run the My Bike Cafe, I’m able to earn better, and am hopeful the condition back home will improve. I am not able to provide education to my kids but such initiatives of providing livelihood like Athrout is providing will change things. The encouraging thing is that they pick people who are really in dire need and are the lone breadwinners of their families,” he added.

Like Subhan there are more youth who are getting associated with these Cafes on Wheels which has been recently launched by Athrout in a bid to provide livelihood to youth from weaker sections of society and to take the Kashmiri Street food to a new level.

These ‘Cafes On Wheels’ is a home grown initiative launched few days back to uplift youth of Kashmir economically and promote local street food.

“Our primary target is to locate youth in their 20s and 30s who don’t have any livelihood and come from weaker sections of the society. We provide them with these bike cafes and eatables to sell so that they can support their families,” said Bashir Ahmed Nadwi, president of Athrout.

“One of the youth who was provide with the bike cafe is a young boy who has a paralysed father back home, these are the kind of people we look for so that those who deserve most will get a chance to earn through our initiative,” he said. “There were many persons who applied for it but we handpicked only those who don’t have anything to support their family.”

The aim of the programme is to empower these youth to earn their own livelihood and make them self-reliant, he said. Besides providing bike food cart, Athrout is providing all the raw material and food items they require.

 The group of volunteers at Athrout, who have been behind the idea, said that they have been working for over a year on initiative of the cafes on wheels.

 The volunteers said that they have kept the working of these small bike cafes like those operated in foreign countries. “Hygiene and quality are our top priorities. We have provided uniforms and paper disposables so that everything will be kept clean. Besides this, use of gloves is mandatory because we want to give hygiene top priority,” said one of the volunteers.

“Recently we damaged a large amount of eatables when we found that it is not up to the standard. By keeping these small things in mind we are trying to make a difference from conventional vendors,” he said.

 The organization has started with half a dozen such bike cafes. These cafes have a Kashmir centric menu like Kehwa, Kashmiri bakery items, vegetarian and non-veg patties and are planning to introduce Namkeen chai, Pulao etc in coming days.

 The organisation got permission to install their bikes inside Government Medical College last week. The members of Athrout said that they are locating places where there will be a large base of customers for their cafes.

The next level of planning, the chairman of the organization said, is to involve women in this initiative who will prepare the food items at their homes, which will be supplied to these cafes.

“For now we have collaborated with vendors who provide us with supplies but in coming days we want to involve female folk so that the initiative can help many more needy families,” he said.

“These females will be preparing the food items in their own homes to supply to these My Bike Cafes, in this way a female can earn from home as well,” he added.

The organisation is working in other fields too in order to uplift the weaker sections of Kashmiri society.

 “Athrout has always tried their best to help the poor sections of society. Apart from this new initiative, we are providing medical help, marriage assistance, education for those who can’t afford these things,” Bashir Ahmed Nadwi said adding that there are many people who don’t have an earning hand back home and the organization try their best to help these people by providing them with monthly assistance.

The members from the organization said that they had received a good response from people to the My Bike Cafe initiative and they are hopeful that more people will benefit from it.

Since the cause has a humanistic background, they hope more and more people will buy from My Bike Cafe to help and encourage these marginalised youth.