Published: 31st August 2021
Here's why this scholarship for LGBTQ students in the hospitality business is the coolest thing around
This baking scholarship from The Lalit Suri Hospitality School is unlike any other scholarship. Any self-identified LGBTQ+ individual who is a high school graduate can apply
Ever since the partial scrapping of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, the LGBTQIA+ movement has gained some momentum. The major issue they've been tackling is the lack of proper sensitisation and equal opportunities. And then there's also educating members of the LGBTQIA+ community itself to help them stand on their feet and earn a respectable livelihood for themselves. The Lalit Suri Hospitality School, a premium hospitality institution in India, is trying to address both through a scholarship for individuals from the LGBTQIA+ community. Started in 2019, the Aditya Nanda Scholarship is a scholarship in Food Production and Bakery. It has had only a few applicants till now but, as they say, every drop counts.
Any self-identified LGBTQ+ individual who is a high school graduate and is aged below 25 years can submit their application for the scholarship. So far, most of the applicants have been trans individuals. "Education is a basic right and incredibly important to lead a respectful life. We want to help this marginalised community stand on their feet and, with this scholarship, we hope some will earn a comfortable living. It will also help remove phobia that is prevalent in society about transgenders and others in this community,” said Keshav Suri, Executive Director, The Lalit Suri Hospitality Group, whose brainchild this scholarship is.
Zayn Khan, a transman from Delhi, was the first to be selected for the scholarship. He tells us that he's always been into baking and this scholarship provided him a safe space to express himself sans the judgement. "When I was in Class VIII or IX, I first understood that I was not like the others around me. I was confused. I didn't understand what I felt and did not know how to say it. Most of my teenage years were spent in depression," said Zayn. "This course was a great experience. If given a chance, I would go for it all over again just for the sheer experience. The classes were inclusive. There was proper sensitisation and the students did not see us in a different light," he added.
Vansh, Zayn's batchmate and a transman too, got to know about the scholarship through social media and applied. "I have not been discriminated against much, at least not to my face. But this was a different experience altogether," he added. Vansh is interning with the hotel in Delhi and attends to the guests directly. "I haven't faced any issues there either. There has been better sensitisation over the past few years. And that, I feel, has changed the way people look at us. Their perspective has probably changed," he said.
Sensitisation is a gradual process and it takes meticulous care. D Vimal Kumar, Principal of the Faridabad-based school, agreed. "We have been an inclusive institution right from inception," he said and added that the institution has had gender neutral washrooms and hostel facilities right from the start. But there are students who might need a little more sensitisation than others. "There have been cases where some student was not comfortable sitting with a trans person. But we encourage our students to inform us if they are not comfortable and then we talk to them about it, discuss the issue and try to sensitise them. We also conduct regular seminars and workshops to sensitise both the faculty and the students," added the Principal.
But is it a tad easier because it's the hospitality sector and a lot of the work is about relationships and rapport with the people around you. We wonder if that make it easier to be more accepting. "It possibly is but that does not mean the other sectors cannot adopt this. It's the intent that matters," said Kumar, who has an academic career of 17 years in the hospitality sector.
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