Third Eye Cafe, located in Navi Mumbai, India is one of the few places in the country that trains and employs transgender people.
Media outlet Asian Boss spoke with the cafe’s founder, Nimesh, and one of his employees, Mahi, about the space. They discuss how the cafe is attempting to bring change to the community by challenging stigmas.
Third Eye Cafe
‘We chose this name, Third Eye, because we knew we were going to start a restaurant which would employ the third gender,’ Nimesh explains.
‘“Third” is for the third gender. “Eye” is supposed to mean that we have a different perspective. So we wanted to show the third perspective of us to society.’
The cafe features the Gandhi quote ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’ in big letters on the wall.
The cafe first opened its doors in 2017, but Nimesh had the idea for a while before that.
‘It was in 2011 or 2012 when I was doing research for my college thesis,’ he recalls. ‘I was doing a study on the third gender: the transgender community. And [it was] the first time I got in touch with the community in Bombay and across the country. That’s when I understood the basic needs of the community, the problems they face, as well as what people thought about the community.’
‘The purpose was to give them mainstream jobs and get them into the mainstream to familiarize people with them. And that’s how you get to know people and get them to accept you.’
Responding to criticism
Thankfully, Nimesh didn’t face a lot of backlash for his idea. He did, however, get critiques on how he went about doing this project. People wondered how he would manage it, how he would hire the right kind of people, and how he would ultimately pull it off.
To some people, the Third Eye Cafe is a gimmick to lure in customers. Nimesh’s response to this is just to brush it off.
‘It doesn’t matter to us because we don’t claim anything,’ Nimesh says. ‘You will never see a poster which says, “the transgender restaurant of the city.” You’ll never see a banner which says, “We are the first ones to do this. We are a different restaurant.” We never say all that.’
‘So the stance is pretty clear on that. This has nothing to do with anyone, I suppose. This is only to do with me and my people and my beliefs of what we want to do.’
Learn more about Third Eye Cafe in the video below.