Jumat, 21 September 2007

Diners offered new way of looking at food

Students of the Wyata Guna Social Center for the Development of Blind People perform on Sept. 7 at the Blind Resto in Pasir Kaliki Square, Bandung. (JP/Arya Dipa)

Diners offered new way of looking at food

Arya Dipa, The Jakarta Post, Bandung

Students of the Wyata Guna Social Center for the Development of Blind People performed in early September at the Blind Resto in Pasir Kaliki Square, Bandung, to celebrate the cafe's inclusion in the Indonesian Museum of Records (MURI).

The young actors call themselves Palagan, a name taken from a battlefield in a shadow puppet story.

"There is still a yawning gap between our dreams and our reality. Every day is a struggle, which is why we have assumed the name of a battlefield," said Suhendar, 30, a graduate of the center.

The visually impaired performers in Palagan are aged between seven and 15. At the Blind Resto, they acted out the story of a Peeping Tom who was caught in the act but never brought to justice.

They also sang songs from a range of genres including pop, dangdut, jazz and traditional Sundanese music.

The talents of the students from Wyata Guna came to light thanks to the simple idea of Ari Kurniawan, the owner of the Blind Resto, which opened six months ago. At the restaurant, guests dine in total darkness and are served by blind waiters.

"I got to thinking one day about how unaccustomed most people are to being in the dark. The blind are extraordinary as they can do everything, including waiting tables in a restaurant."

Ari's idea got a warm response from MURI, which has recognized it as the first restaurant in the country to have blind waiters. "We are appreciative both of its marketing potential and its contribution to society," said MURI's founder Jaya Suprana.

Suhendar, who has been visually impaired from birth, said it was hard for people like him to find work despite the existence of an equal opportunity law that stipulates 1 percent of jobs in the private sector must go to people with disabilities.

Firli Abdullah, 22, who works at the Blind Resto, said he had previously played guitar in a band. "I happily took up the offer. It is good to see blind people being given a fair go," Firli said.

Arie said the staff he employed were able to navigate the pitch-black restaurant without any difficulty.

The only think Firly cannot do is to tell whether diners have finished their meals and it is appropriate to clear the table. In this situation, he usually gets help from his fellow waiters, who wear infrared glasses and therefore can see in the dark.

"Guests are usually surprised to find out I am blind," Firli said.

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