Meet the 72-year-old Kerala woman who’s been cooking, delivering food for years

Sarojini Amma has never taken a day off from her food business as the 72-year-old woman can’t afford to lose a day’s earnings.
Meet the 72-year-old Kerala woman who’s been cooking, delivering food for years
Meet the 72-year-old Kerala woman who’s been cooking, delivering food for years
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Kozhikode resident Sarojini Amma’s day begins at 2 am and ends at 8 pm. If you look at her schedule, it’s hard to believe that she is 72 years old, and almost single-handedly cooks, packs, and delivers meals for 15 families every day.

For 55 years, Sarojini Amma worked as a house help and cook to make ends meet and support her family. Her foray into delivering food happened four years ago when Sarojini Amma’s elderly neighbours, who could not cook, asked if she could prepare and send them meals. She readily agreed. And today, she makes many families happy with her home cooked meals.

"Our family was extremely poor ever since my childhood. I worked as a domestic help in multiple houses to earn a living since I was 17,” Sarojini Amma begins. “After my husband died, we were struggling again. Though I have two sons, and the elder one had a job too, he met with an accident a few years ago and has been unable to walk since. So, I have to look after their family too.”

While her son lives in Kunduparamba in Kozhikode, Sarojini Amma lives in Chalappuram, at the home of her employer, Vijayakumar. She says she will always be grateful to him and his family for letting her run her food cooking and delivery venture from their kitchen. "I came here 20 years ago. These people who hired me allowed me to start food delivery after my neighbours asked. Very few people would allow their house helps to use their facilities like this. I make sure I don't cause them any trouble," Sarojini Amma says.

Now, after she wakes up at 2 am, Sarojini Amma finishes her bath and prayers and begins cooking by 3 am. By 8 am, she is ready with her morning deliveries. She takes the tiffins with breakfast and lunch to customers in an autorickshaw, and finishes her delivery by 9 am, concerned that the food should reach her customers on time. And by 5.30 pm, she starts making deliveries for the dinner meals.

Sarojini is also grateful to Koya, the auto driver who helps her make deliveries in his vehicle. "I am so old that sometimes I forget to take a side dish. When I reach at customers place and realise it, he very calmly ferries me back to pick up the forgotten item," Sarojini Amma says.

She serves vegetarian varieties of breakfast and dinner according to the customer's need. For lunch, she usually makes rice and curries. For dinner, some people request chapatis, which Sarojini Amma obliges with. Each meal is priced at Rs 50, with some breakfast varieties priced even lesser.

“During festivals like Vishu or Onam, I prepare sadhya too and deliver to houses too. I am happy when people say they like my food," she says.

For the last four years, Sarojini Amma hasn’t taken a day off from her delivery work, delivering food on festivals as well. However, it is not because she isn't tired. It's because she has no choice. "It is my livelihood. If I take a day's break, that day’s earning is lost. Then my family and I will struggle to make ends meet," she says.

Further, there are medical expenses that Sarojini Amma must meet as well. A heart patient, she needs medicines worth Rs 2000 per month, apart from the expenses required for her ailing son.

"Yes, I am tired. When I feel exhausted, I cry. But I cannot stop in life. There are many who depend on me. I cannot fail. I will continue working until I fall," she says.

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