Force-feeding fasting youth: Maharashtrian food returns to Sadan via a self-help group

Menu: varan bhaat, sheera, sukhi bhaaji, rasa bhaaji

Written by Dipankar Ghose | New Delhi | Published: July 29, 2014 1:43:06 am
The kitchen staff are all from Maharashtra.  Source:Ravi Kanojia The kitchen staff are all from Maharashtra. Source: Ravi Kanojia

Days after Shiv Sena MPs angry at not being served Maharashtrian food force-fed a chapati to a fasting Muslim catering superviser, cuisine from the state has reached dining tables at Delhi’s New Maharashtra Sadan.

A self-help group called Mahila Arthik Vikas Mahamandal, or MAVIM, has begun to serve “authentic” Maharashtrian dishes to residents at the Sadan. The team, made up of 17 cooks and busboys, all of whom are from Maharashtra, is led by Prabha Rawat, who was recommended by some MPs from the state.

The Indian Express reported on July 23 that 11 Shiv Sena MPs, protesting the quality of food and facilities at the Sadan, had forced a chapati on Arshad Zubair S, an employee of IRCTC, the Indian Railways subsidiary that was catering then. IRCTC had pulled out of the contract within hours, shooting off a letter to the Maharashtra Resident Commissioner, and had not returned to the Sadan even after the state government apologised.

From July 25, however, the canteen has started serving again — and this time it has dishes like varan bhaat (dal-rice) and sheera (a Maharashtrian dessert) on the menu. Kitchen and serving staff are encouraged to mingle with guests, and to speak only in Marathi.

“Because we have such a small team, we make only a few dishes. I was born and brought up in Mumbai, and I know Maharashtrian food. I have worked with MAVIM for several years. While the main dining hall is not open to the public, we have been contracted by the state government to cook for residents of Maharashtra Sadan, including parliamentarians,” Rawat said.

The vegetarian thali, priced at Rs 100, has a sukhi bhaaji (dry vegetable), rasa bhaaji (vegetable curry), varan bhaat, chapatis and sheera. The non-vegetarian thali costs Rs 50 more, and has all of these plus a non-vegetarian dish. “This is normally chicken, cooked in Kolhapuri style, or based on a guest’s request,” Rawat said.

MAVIM, which is headquartered in Mumbai with offices in every district of Maharashtra, is the state government’s nodal agency to implement women’s empowerment programmes through self-help groups.

“Women across Maharashtra form community groups where they cook food and produce ingredients, and these are sold to provide self sustenance for women across the state. There is a small group based in Delhi as well, and we were given the contract for the old Maharashtra Sadan earlier this month. But since the kitchen there was under construction, the Sadan asked us to help out here initially, and now we have been told that we will continue to serve guests here until the tendering process for a new caterer is completed,” Rawat said.

A senior official of the Sadan said on Monday, “Some MPs who reside in the Sadan recommended Rawat. After the incident of July 17 not only did we have no food, but also no crockery or utensils because all the kitchen equipment was IRCTC’s. We initially asked guests to eat at the Civil Services Officers Institute across the road, and made arrangements for them in the VIP section of Andhra Bhawan. Then Mrs Rawat came to our help, and her team took over on Friday, to cater till the time a caterer with the proper manpower can be brought in. The tender process takes three months.”

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