The Deepika Padukone-starrer and Meghna Gulzar’s directorial Chhapaak has brought back the important topic of acid attacks and preventing them. This brings to our attention the Sheroes Hangout in Agra and Lucknow, a chain of cafes run entirely by acid attack survivors. By Kumar Shree

The burns created by acid is not only on the skin, it chars the soul and will of a survivor as well. At a time when these survivors cage themselves in a societal-stigma-induced confinement, Sheroes Hangout delivers a shimmering ray of hope. It extends an offering hand for these survivors to reappear in the open, accept their new identity and lead a life of dignity.

Alok Dixit, a journalist turned activist, is the brain behind Sheroes Cafe. He is also at the helm of Chhanv Foundation and Stop Acid Attacks campaign. This cafe, which was set up with the idea of rehabilitating the #AcidAttackSurvivors, has been successfully living up the agenda. Both the centres have been doing well, and are now a popular go-to spot for food, snacks, leisure, book reading, and shopping.

The cafe employs many acid attack survivors like Madhu Kashyap and Rukaiya Khatoon. Rupa Saa — whose last name is an acronym for Stop Acid Attacks, in turn representing what she truly stands for — is another one of Shereos’ employees.

It was during the opening of their first cafe in Agra that Alok Dixit met Laxmi Agarwal, the survivor whose story forms base for Chhapaak.

The Agra cafe that opened in December, 2014 is a short walk from the Taj Mahal, and initially operated on a ‘pay as you wish’ policy. It has now evolved into a full-fledged establishment which runs like any other cafe with its own fixed menu and prices. It also has a library, a community radio hub, and a boutique corner showcasing creations of those working at the cafe.

Where

Sheroes Hangout, Agra: Behind Go Stops Hostel, Taj Nagari Phase 1, RK Puram Phase-2, Agra

Sheroes Hangout, Lucknow: Opposite Dr B R Ambedkar Park, Vipin Khand, Gomti Nagar, Lucknow

Related: Cafes In India Run By People With A Story Worth Knowing