Food for a better living
Reva and Suresh were resting on the sands of Juhu beach slurping the green, pink, orange juice of the
‘gola’. Neha, their eight year old daughter was occupied in embedding the orange colored paper flag and
pebble ‘tof’ (cannon) on the ‘Sinhagad’ that she had just made. With the drizzle and dimly lit
atmosphere, they little away from all the mob and merriment. Sunday, for them is a perfect day for a
family outing, minus all the appointments and food to cook.
Reva and Suresh run a small family business with Suresh’s mother’s help. They supply healthy
homemade dabbas (tiffin) within their locality of Andheri-Juhu. As a child, Suresh had lost his father. The
mills shutting down rendered millions jobless and their families homeless. Striving hard for a source for
livelihood, his father gave up on his life. Suresh recalls his mother’s plight. Three decades earlier, middle
and high class women had started becoming career oriented. Women in freshly starched cotton saris
with bare minimum jewelry, exiting their 1 /2 BHK apartments, around 9.30 am, was a common sight.
His mother being illiterate was rejected at every single office. She had to resort to household jobs at
wealthy families. “My aai is an excellent cook. Oh! The puranpolis and modak she makes!” exclaimed
Suresh. Back then middle class families regarded employing a cook against community principles. The
women of the home were obliged to cook meals for the family. “Aai started odd household jobs and
babysitting children for working women. Sometimes the lady of the family used to be too tired to cook.
Aai happily lend her hand in cooking and it trickled the taste buds at their homes.” Alas, the applauds
ended with the dinner on the table.
And then, times changed, for better. The super-fast pace of Mumbai, rat race for a perfect job and
man’s urge to earn big bucks has brought in a radical change. Aai, because of growing age, could no
longer go to people’s homes to wash utensils and sweep floors. “Locking herself in the 1BHK chawl that
we lived in, she entertained herself cooking for the neighbor’s sons as they left for white collar jobs.”
Soon the working men started paying her for the delicious, homemade and healthy tiffin that kept them
at optimum energy level all day. Suresh too, learnt from his mother the fine art of cooking and together
they established ‘shidori’. It now feeds over 200 working people every day. As children lurk off to their
offices and grandchildren to their schools and friends, loneliness crawls upon the home. The laughter
and fights at the dining table get replaced by cold loneliness and grandma feels too gloomy to cook for
herself. ‘Shidori’ cooks for her too! The mother at home and the son in in cabin now eat the same food,
soothing the mother of the connection made. Family gets a wholesome tasty meal.
Times change, lifestyle change but Indian-ness can never change. Nothing soothes the stomach more
than homemade food. Reva Suresh and Neha dusted the sand off their clothes as the sunset. Their
family weekend was well spent as they headed off to relish the chowpatty pani-puri….