Determination and hard work when coupled with a little help from friends and well-wishers can help anyone tide over difficult times. That is the case of Shaina Banu, a transwoman, who despite all odds kept her eatery in Egmore, Chennai, going and now the social media has stepped in to help her.
In March last year Banu, who earlier had a push cart, started a Transgender Tasty Hut which initially did well but due to Covid-19 hardly had any footfalls. Talking to the media she disclosed that with assistance from the Madras School of Social Work she started a canteen near their gate. In the beginning, teachers, students and staff thronged her eatery.
“College students and faculty members enjoyed my bread omelette, momos, and pani puri. But that significantly dropped during the second wave. I hardly earned Rs 150 a day as compared to my earlier income of Rs 500 to Rs 600. This is my only means of livelihood, and I have to take care of my mother. I have no one to fall back on,” she told the New Indian Express.
People stopped coming to the outlet and even though many would pass by it, nobody wanted to try out the snacks and beverages that were offered. It was then social media got into action.
Writer and social activist, Shalin Maria Lawarence took up Banu’s case in one of her recent posts on Twitter. Besides this, Banu also appealed to people on her Facebook page.
Following this, the message and images of Banu and her stall went viral. Netizens stepped in and not only spread the word but also started visiting the stall.
"Earlier, people would pass by the store and pretend like they didn't notice it or me. I even introduced meals comprising mixed rice and biryani but there were no takers. But today, I empty two to three milk packets a day to prepare tea and coffee. Quick bites are fast-moving in the evenings,” she told the media.
Now she plans to offer dishes for breakfast. Keen on helping she wants to start restaurant and employ transgenders. “Many of us from the community enjoy cooking. If colleges and organisations step up and set up a canteen for us then it could be a great place to start with. We want to be treated equally and not denied opportunities,” she shared with NIE.