place where women can pray, take a break and party

Shaista Fatima/ New Delhi

It was in 2016 that Atia told her future husband, Fraheem, “Listen…I’m going to rent a space in the Batla House market for women to offer namaz.” Fraheem supported the idea. “It’s doable but maybe not sustainable,” he replied.

Atia and Fraheem got married in 2018 and the idea of ​​having a private space in a public environment for women has only grown stronger over time.

Sunday long read

Today, Burqa-clad Atiya says, “Shopping is a daunting task for Muslim women, as we tend to miss the call to prayer due to ever-changing timings and lack of mosques for they can pray”.

Interestingly, it was during the covid-19 induced lockdown that helped the couple see their dream come true. “Sheeru – a cafe for women only” was born.

Located in Delhi’s predominantly Muslim neighborhood in Jamia Nagar’s Batla House shopping mall, this cafe is a beacon of hope for many women who find it difficult to sit and eat with and next to men.

Bushra, a housewife, says: “I came here for the first time and I love this place…I can offer my prayers here, breastfeed my child and just sit and eat without any male gaze.. .It’s peaceful….”

A woman praying inside Sheeru Cafe

Batla House is a mini Chandini Chowk where aisles and aisles are filled with women of all ages, “We launched our first outlet on July 9th and Alhamdulillah (thank goodness) the response has been pretty good…this what surprises me is that it’s the friends who visit the shop”, explains Atia.

Atia says the cafe is usually full of girls who go to school and college until the afternoon, it’s the housewives and older women who throng in the evenings.

The menu at this ladies-only cafe is simple. Atia says, “From now on, pizza is everyone’s favorite dish, next comes burger and coffee is the staple…we’re trying to understand the taste buds of the masses…”

Atia’s parents – her father is an orthopedic surgeon – moved to Saudi Arabia after she was born.

“I have been oscillating between Delhi and Arabia since my childhood. According to my mother, I have this inevitable love for Delhi and maybe that is why I am the only one among my brothers and sisters who has stayed here… »

Party time for women at Sheeru Cafe

So, is Sheeru inspired by Saudi Arabia’s women-only cafes or mosques? To this, Atia replies: “Well, somewhere, yes… but I strongly believe that the presence of women should be felt and recognized in all sectors…”

In an article Whose fault is it that I missed my prayers? Muhammad Raziul Islam Nadvi raised the issue of women missing their prayers while shopping or being away from home.

Atia, 30, is an architect by profession. She works as a designer at a company called Minimal Muslim, while her husband Fraheem, 32, runs the cafe. Atia takes care of the design and social media platforms for Sheeru Cafe.

Beautiful interiors of Sheeru Cafe

“My architectural background helped me a lot in building this space, from decorating to printing menu cards and brochures for promotions.

On the day Sheeru opened, she says, “It was the day before Bakr-Eid… and I felt like I needed a customer or two, so I went down to the street and distributed leaflets. We had about 9-10 customers that day, especially late at night around 10-11…I was amazed…it was beyond my expectation…”

A women-only cafe is a risky business idea and it took tremendous courage to take this step. Atiya says, “Even back home, the old people said you can’t have a business just for women, aurtein bahar khana nai khati hain (women hardly go out to eat), actually in mosques too there is no place for us women to sit, relax and offer our prayers.

Atia says it’s not just about prayers. A woman goes through many problems, from cramps during her period to breastfeeding. She says, “I believe contemporary times require contemporary solutions…I want Sheeru to be a must-stop for all women, regardless of age or religion…”

Female customers enjoying a meal inside Sheeru Cafe

Now, after running it for three months, Sheeru sees steady attendance from women, but it was no easy task: “We’re not street smart yet…while doing our promotions, we have encountered many problems, many pitfalls, a poster, and a banner that took hours to make and then put up in eye-catching areas was shot down by rickshaw pullers and turned into their covers, we got away with it therefore stuck to brochures as a mode of advertising…” Atia told Awaz-The Voice. as she laughed out loud.

Today, social media such as Twitter and Instagram are a go-to choice for young entrepreneurs like Atia and Fraheem to promote their businesses and Sheeru Cafe is none the less: “Slow and slow we are getting good clientele, we let’s get a lot of referrals… almost every day i can see the post being shared, info on instagram and twitter is increasing day by day…”

Atia says there is a lot of excitement among the young people, “The reactions Sheeru Cafe is getting range from a naqabi woman (veiled woman) to those without a head covering. Religion is also not a barrier there. I thought, why notnaqabi women are interested… but they are.

Speaking of women’s safety, she says, “During my bachelor’s degree, I was totally interested in public spaces and wanted to do my master’s in urban design. Reading about urban studies, I realized there was no concept of spaces for women and children, which is so surprising and disappointing…”

Sheeru is currently managed by a four-person team which includes Fraheem, Atia, Nahida and Sania. In due course, Atiya and Farheem hope to establish Sheeru cafes at other locations in the locality and beyond to Lajpat Nagar and other markets in Delhi, Lucknow, Aligarh and Hyderabad.

The Sheeru Cafe poster

Sheeru is more than a business for the couple. “This is more of a service than a business, our doors are open to women of all identities…they say when you’re bored that’s when you have the greatest idea, so everyone the artists there, whenever in a creative block, come here and work in a bonhomie cafe…”

Atia believes that there is a disparity in the treatment of the basic rights of men and women, she says: “When it comes to women, moral policing is often at its peak, but the basic details are often Today the rules are created to fit the personal agenda of the social hierarchy and therefore there is a need for justice…I think Sheeru is an attempt on our part to make women feel that their presence counts…”

It didn’t take long for Sheeru to bond with her customers, Atia says: “Nahida told me that the other day the mother of a crying baby came to the cafe and nursed her child with the promise of come back one day with free time….I told Nahida not to ask these women to order anything…women who need to relax are more than welcome here…”

READ ALSO : Whose fault is it that I missed my prayers?

Atia says this cafe is more of a service, “I want Sheeru to become a center for women for everything… I see this place as a place for women where they can move and talk about their issues, I so want that women in this area to come out and speak for themselves, from political events to cultural events to literary events, I want to organize them all… I strongly feel that change will only come when there are local organizations to support the cause and I feel if you want to do it, you will end up doing it….

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