Share distress and have chai at your price

Kothanur, Bengaluru: “ A young college student came to us and shared his distress: he was so discouraged and depressed that he wanted to jump in front of the running train,” says a volunteer at Chai 3:16. This is the first case in which Chai was able to save a young person from ending his life. But Bangalore nonetheless has gained the distinction of being the suicide capital of India.

A study by the National Institute of Mental Health and neurosciences (Nimhans), Bangalore, says 10 per cent of suicides in Bangalore are committed by youngsters between 10 and 14 years. There are a number of reasons that force an individual to take such an extreme step. They could be severe stress, competition at work place, and economic insecurity.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, in 2010 the number of suicides reported from Bangalore was 1778 and it has been growing. The Bangalore police reported that the number of suicides has always been over 2000 since 2011.
Chai 3:16, a 400-seater café in Bangalore, tries to reach out to college students who are depressed, lonely and suicidal. Chai means life in Hebrew and 3:16 refers John3:16 which talks about eternal life. Chai aims to foster, aid, and equip children and college students to develop and grow in Christ-like character. It’s goal here is 80 per cent  listening and 20 per cent talking. The volunteers who work here as waiter/waitresses are given instructions on how to talk to young people in distress, what questions to ask, and how to build a relationship with them to make them feel valued and loved. “It takes an average of a week and a half for a student to open up. Some share their problems on the very first day, itself,” says Blessy Kinglesy, volunteer. Chai 3:16 mostly hosts the crowd of  the nearby  Kristu Jayanti College. Psychologists also visit the place occasionally and guide those in need of help.

Chai 3:16 is founded by world record holder of the fastest to travel to every nation in shortest time, Benny Prasad. He has travelled to 257 countries including Antarctica in six years and six months. Being the first child born to a scientist at the National Aerospace Laboratories aerospace laboratories, he was expected to turn out like his father. But his inability to excel in studies caused embarrassment to his family and being asthmatic added to the misery. Finding no fulfilment in life, Mr. Benny Prasad became depressed and contemplated suicide at the age of 16, providence guided him to a new purpose in life and helped him travel across nations.

Shiney Wincet, a part-time volunteer, says: “It has helped me as an individual to guide youngsters and talk to them.” On an average, 70 student visit the café daily. Chai works as a café from Monday to Thursday serving tea at a price decided by  the customers. On Fridays, they organize a concert. Saturdays are for movies, and on Sundays they have church service. “I have gone there thrice. The volunteers are really welcoming. They make you open up and share. I don’t go there anymore as the volunteer I bonded with has left but I have her contact details,” says Parvati Ramesh, a journalism student from Kristu Jayanti College.

While Parvati was able to open up, Nazlee (single name) just visited once for she doesn’t have any major issues she would like to talk about. Roshini Ross, from Kristu Jayanti found herself comfortable talking about her problems. It took her only a week. “I bonded really well with the volunteers from Brazil. They were nice people. They actually understood our problems. But I haven’t gone since they left.” Asked if she found it difficult to bond with new volunteer every month, she said it was not a problem as she could get to know more people and make more friends.

Khushboo Aneja

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