Puja programmes require special food which pushes up demand for cooks

The Navaratri festival has created more demand for cooks, fruits and vegetables. Yet, the prices of vegetables remain steady though prices of fruits have gone up for the festival, according to a wholesale vegetable merchant.

“Navaratri means more demand for cooks as many temples in the coastal belt serve food daily for nine days. But cooks are in short supply as the younger generation is not coming forward to take up cooking as a profession,” said Chandrashekar Holla of Vamanjoor who leads a group of 15 cooks.

Mr. Holla said that due to shortage of cooks he divided his team into a batch of three or four and took up cooking in different temples and houses which arranged special puja. “As many women are not coming forward to marry cooks these days,young boys don’t want to take up cooking as a profession,” he said.

Referring to the demand for cooks, Mr. Holla said that Mangaladevi temple for example required at least 15 cooks during Navaratri against the normal four or five cooks.

Girisha, a member of the 12-member cooking team from Karkala, said that many people in houses arranged special pujas like “chandika yaga” which demanded cooks for serving special food to guests. His team leader hired the services of some part-time cooks or his friends to assist in cooking in several places. Such part-time cooks or assistants demanded from Rs. 400 to Rs. 800 a day, he said.

Harinarayana Asranna, a priest at the Durgaparameshwari temple at Kateel, said the temple had 10 regular cooks who prepared food for 3,000 people daily. As more devotees visited the temple during Navaratri, the temple would have to serve food to at least 6,000 people on those days daily. It needed more cooks. “On Lalitha Panchami day, the temple hired the services of 60 extra cooks from outside as there was heavy rush of pilgrims,” he said. Mr. Asranna said the temple hired at least 40 extra cooks on the last day of Navaratri as there would be more devotees.

According to M.M.K. Mustafa, president, Central Market Merchants’ Association, prices of fruits were up as festival season began. For example, the wholesale prices of sweet lime which stood at Rs. 28 a kg. a few days ago had shot up to Rs. 32 a kg. Wholesale prices of orange had shot up from Rs. 28 a kg. to Rs. 45 a kg., he said.

A. J. Shekar, a member of the association and a wholesale vegetable merchant, said that there was demand for ash gourd, pumpkin and cucumber during Navaratri.

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