“I have six missed calls as I speak,” says Kusha K, who has been cooking and delivering food to over 40 Covid patients for the past few days. “My heart is breaking, people are calling and requesting me but I am cooking on my own at home with limited help. I am trying to serve as many people as I can… but I don’t have a commercial set up,” says the Kalkaji resident.
Home chefs who have volunteered to cook and serve Covid patients have been flooded with distress calls from entire families who have tested positive or from those living alone. “I am not able to cope with all the requests as I can cook for only 15 families. I think we will have to even reduce that number as I am not able to manage,” says Farha Khadija, a resident of Indirapuram who is catering to her locality.
Panchsheel Enclave resident Mrinali Haryal has been cooking for over 50 families but she too may have to limit her orders. “I am getting calls every two minutes from all over Delhi, I think I can cater to only 15 people. I cannot hire additional help given the times,” she says, adding that more home cooks need to come up in each locality and cater locally.
“I get more than 100 calls and families are crying, everyone is panic-stricken,” she said.
For Kusha the calls start coming in from 6 am and continue till midnight.
“When I pick up the phone now, it’s hard to keep my emotions in check when someone shares how they’ve lost their mother and father is left alone… I keep adding one more person to my list,” says Kusha.
Milli Singhal, who runs a food venture called Vatsalya, had started making food packets for migrants last year and moved to preparing thaalis for Covid patients in September. “In February, requests for Covid thaalis stopped completely… In March we were catering to about 40 people. But the agony and desperation now is shocking. I receive about 450 calls a day,” she says.
With three kitchens in North Delhi, Singhal, with help from her mother Madhu Jain and other family members, is catering to 200 people.
However, cooking and managing deliveries is becoming difficult for home chefs to manage alone. “Due to the weekend lockdown, delivery riders are few and food isn’t reaching on time. There is a lot of confusion,” says Haryal.
Singhal is asking families to coordinate their own deliveries. “Meanwhile, procuring disposables is also getting expensive as demand and prices have increased,” adds Kusha.