Dec 3, 2008

Lifestyle - India;Sex workers turn hoteliers

Preethi Nagaraj

MYSORE: This moderately spacious hotel in Mysore, close to Mysore Palace, has no flashy interiors, no exhaustive menu (in fact, it only serves south Indian breakfast and meals), no uniformed waiters speaking fine English.

But, its sparse menu offers clean, ethnic and quality food. Ashodaya, a small bistro opened in one of the conservative areas in Mysore, is an enterprise by 12 male and female sex workers and transgenders.

The hotel was declared open by the Commissioner of Police, Dr S Parashivamurthy in Mysore on Tuesday, which was observed as World AIDS day.

"I am sure I would spread a word about this place when I go home," adds Angela Corrs from UK who was happily indulging in the very Indian dish-puri and fried dal. She pauses for a moment to answer DNA's query, "Yes, I know who run this resto and why. This effort sends out a strong signal that if sex workers really want a dignified life, they can have it."

"This is certainly not the kind of hotel we'd look around, but we want to join these guys' humble effort for a change for good," says Robert, another foreign custom enjoying the spice morning food.

Opened as part of World Bank's entrepreneurial initiatives, this hotel is named after Ashodaya Samiti, an organization of male, female and transgender workers in the City.

Samiti already runs a community kitchen where sex workers can have free food since they suffer discrimination in hotels in many cases, because of their profession.

With an investment of Rs 4.5 lakh, Ashodaya Hotel does a turnover of Rs 3000 per day and the profit is being used for activities of Ashodaya Samiti in nearby Mandya after setting aside money for monthly expenses.

Says Sreeram, Deputy Director of DISHA, which is a part of Ashodaya Samiti, says the sex-workers-turned restaurateurs have an extremely customer-friendly approach which foretells a successful run.

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