by Bibbi Abruzzini
KATHMANDU, Jan. 19 — Have you ever tried eating in a restaurant with no lights on and being served by blind people?
A new restaurant in the capital city of this Himalayan nation is serving meals to customers in complete darkness with blind and partially-blind waiters and waitresses moving around in pitch- black surroundings.
“Dinning in total darkness and served by blind people is a unique experience that changes your perception of the world. It reverses your point of view,” Vishwo Ram Shrestha, manager of the restaurant named “The Dark Restaurant,” told Xinhua in an interview.
In a sense, the diners become the blind inside the restaurant, and the blind, who usually rely on the help of others, become the guides.
The restaurant pushes the boundaries of sensory experiences; when sight is eliminated, other senses grow more intense. Hearing, touch and smell take over, with every sound, movement and taste amplified.
“It’s a fantastic experience. Eating in pitch darkness gives you a different feeling. While the food is just in front of you, you keep on looking for it,” Biju Khadgi, a customer, said.
The biggest revelation is that customers seem to get full without knowing how much food they have eaten or how much is left on their plates, one customer said.
Shrestha said some of his customers found the experience hilarious and some were just being curious.
But according to Shrestha, there is more to the restaurant than food.
He said with its unique format, the restaurant has a noble mission, which is to provide jobs to visually-impaired persons.
“Blind and partially-deficient people get no support from the Nepali society. This must change. The main aim of the restaurant is to raise awareness and to create employment opportunities for blind people,” Shrestha said.
The restaurant venture, initiated by the Nepalese Association of the Blind, creates a bridge between the blind and people with normal vision through a sort of interconnection process.
The process also enhances self-confidence among the blind food service workers. They view their job as a kind of psychological nurturing as they usually depend entirely on support from their families or community members.
“When deprived of light people use their sense of touch and smell and this is what we are doing in the restaurant,” the 26- year-old Gogan Pariyar, one of the three blind waiters working at “The Dark Restaurant,” said.
Pariyar said he also works as a physical therapist on days when he is not on duty at the restaurant. “It’s my way of healing people,” he said.
“I like working here as I get to know different people. My dream is to become a singer. I love rock music. I mostly listen to Nepali bands,” Sudan Tandukar, another blind waiter, said.
Waiters get 500 Nepalese rupees (approximately 5 U.S. dollars) and a free meal for their service.
Plans are afoot to open new branches of “The Dark Restaurant” across Nepal, namely in Pokhara, Bhaktapur and Lalitpur, to create job opportunities for visually-impaired and disabled people.
Similar restaurants with blind waiters and waitresses have already been opened in Europe and the United States but the one in Kathmandu is the first in Nepal.[db:内容2]
by Bibbi Abruzzini