The World Summit for Social Development (Copenhagen 1995) declared that an inclusive society is a “society for all in which every individual, each with rights and responsibilities, has an active role to play”.
13 years later, this definition was changed by the Expert Group Meeting on Promoting Social Integration, Helsinki, to:
“An inclusive society is a society that over-rides differences of race, gender, class, generation, and geography, and ensures inclusion, equality of opportunity as well as capability of all members of the society to determine an agreed set of social institutions that govern social interaction.”
Words and definitions are dynamic. Yesterday’s ‘inclusive society’ is not today’s and will not be tomorrow’s. It is up to us, individuals, to translate words into reality through our actions.
Psychologists argue if our childhood references mixed with certain chemicals in the brain decide at birth who we will become as individuals or if all these deductions are useless and we are merely destiny’s child. We really don’t know how we face the innumerable challenges that life throws at us.
The Bhagvad Gita says ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ – I am the Creator (Brahma). It is within my powers to create and destroy, to amend and repent, to rejoice and sorrow. We can choose to hide ourselves in the farthest possible corners of darkness or get stunned in the bright light.
Reading several interviews of Amin Sheikh, following him and the Café on social media, I thought I had figured what he was doing. He had been a much abused child from the streets of the illusionary megapolis, with a painful past, refuted love when he got it as he didn’t recognise it, finally accepted it, later travelled to Barcelona, saw how poor people were welcomed inside eateries there and returned to his hometown, Bombay (now Mumbai), to set up a café where slum children would be the staff and any slum child could eat for free. An honest and simple approach to life – give back what you have received.
It was only during the hosting of the #projectinterpret workshop ‘Freedom and Food’ at the café on India’s 72nd Independence Day did I fully realise the impact of Amin’s work. He welcomed us with a warm smile into the brightly painted, cosy café. Gopala kept chatting with us, gave free chocolate muffin to my 4-year-old niece who found it so yummy that immediately they struck a friendship, then she borrowed the crayons there and churned out several artworks.
Gopala and the rest of the staff shifted around furniture for the workshop and made the whole space relaxing. During the workshop, the Spanish volunteers working for Indian NGOs narrated how any thought of olives, red tea or mother-made salad reminded them of home else they felt comfortable at the café where they spent all their evenings and weekends, being here didn’t make them miss home. Participants from Jaipur and Kolhapur narrated their food adventures. Aditya admitted how as a child he’d nearly set fire to the kitchen. But we learnt about Russian cuisine from his family heritage. Together, we all laughed and created new memories through food, made possible by Amin.
People can keep fighting over what Kierkegaard and Nietzsche said, if existentialism exists or not and politicians can keep framing new definitions. While Amin Sheikh carries on spreading his smile and love at his ‘Bombay to Barcelona Library Café’. He insists it is all about sharing and caring as the more we share the more we receive. When you leave the café he wishes everyone safe going, else, he asks, how will you return?
Yes, Amin not only I but many more of us will return to your café. Because you have created an Inclusive Society – where all are welcome. This is where I found the real meaning of independence and freedom.
Bombay to Barcelona Library Café
Golden Nest Society Apartments, 3 and 4
Mapkhan Nagar, Marol, Andheri East
Mumbai, Maharashtra 400047
Whoever you are, even if you are confused about who you are, there is one place you will be most welcome ❤
PS: Amin or his Café have not requested me to write about them so this should not be considered as their marketing strategy.