Homes and gardens

One kitchen in Kozhikode and two in Malappuram cater to multiple families

Dishes packed for delivery at the common kitchen in Balussery, Kozhikode   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

“Every day, at 7.30 am, breakfast and curries for lunch are delivered at my doorstep. I have to cook only rice and dinner at home,” says Rakhi MP, a bank employee from Ponnani in Malappuram district.

Hers is among eight families that depend on a common kitchen in the vicinity.While two such kitchens function at Ponnani, another one opened in Balussery, Kozhikode district, on October 1.

Rakhi MP, a bank employee from Ponnani, collecting breakfast and curries from the common kitchen

Rakhi MP, a bank employee from Ponnani, collecting breakfast and curries from the common kitchen   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

“I feel as if a huge burden has been taken off my shoulders. If my children want something special I am happy to cook now that I don’t have to go through the drudgery of cooking daily meals,” says Sindhu P, a lower primary school teacher from Balussery.

The menu changes every week. For breakfast, there is idli, dosa, puttu, idiyappam, pathiri, appam, upma, poori… with side-dishes. Three curries are prepared for lunch, including a non-vegetarian dish, either fish or chicken.

‘Ponnani model’

The first kitchen, now called the ‘Ponnani model’, was opened in January 2020. It was the brainchild of Rakhi’s husband, Ramesh Valiyil, a bank employee, and his friend, PK Khaleemudheen, a lawyer. “We saw how women have to rush through their daily chores every morning. The grind continues once they are back home as well,” says Ramesh. They started looking for someone to provide daily meals after Rakhi was advised complete rest because of health issues. Soon word got around and like-minded families joined.

Khaleemudheen adds: “It was meant to reduce the time women spend in the kitchen.” His wife, Majida AM, also a lawyer, says: “We both have to attend to clients at home and it is not easy to juggle kitchen and work. By the time I reached office, often, I was not in the right frame of mind to focus on my job.”

Husband and wife Sundaran Thandalath and Priya came forward to run the kitchen. “The motto was ‘Adukkala ozhivakku, adukkala thozhilakku’ (Avoid kitchen, make kitchens a source of income). Now 38 families depend on his kitchen. As the number increased a few of us moved out and found another common kitchen,” says Khaleemudheen.

Umadevi M packing the container at her kitchen  where she cooks for eight families in Ponnani

Umadevi M packing the container at her kitchen  where she cooks for eight families in Ponnani   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

At present, they take food from a kitchen run by Umadevi M and her mother-in-law, Thankam E. “I used to do catering for families and offices on orders. Now, I am serving food for 33 members of eight families. We both get up by 3.30 am and wind up by 8.30 am for this. After that we have time to take up other catering orders,” says Uma, 37.

Vegetables, tubers, yams and leaves from the backyard often make it to the menu, she adds. For example, banana blossoms, banana stems, drumstick leaves, amaranthus… Per head cost is ₹ 70, including delivery charges. Uma says that she now earns ₹20,000-25,000 a month. Each family has given her a multi-tiered tiffin carrier for curries and a container to pack breakfast.

A dream come true

The community kitchen at Balussery has been a project in the making for many years now, says Girija Parvathi, a retired teacher, who along with another teacher, Nanikutty, coordinates the activities. “Some of us teachers had brought this up at a teachers’ association meeting back in 2012. It was also discussed at Pennakam, a women’s forum that was formed as part of our women’s library. The idea got the much-needed push when we held an online meet about the Ponnani kitchen where Majida shared their experience.”

(From left) Girija Parvathi, Lousi KP, Sheeja, VP Asya, Padmini, Preetha RD and Bincy SK are among those behind the common kitchen in Balussery of Kozhikode district

(From left) Girija Parvathi, Lousi KP, Sheeja, VP Asya, Padmini, Preetha RD and Bincy SK are among those behind the common kitchen in Balussery of Kozhikode district   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

The kitchen run by VP Asya, 50, is for seven families (26 members). While she does the cooking, her neighbour, Padmini, helps with cutting vegetables, grating coconut and other work. Families of Asya and Padmini also have the same food.

“I used to cook in a hotel earlier and that experience came in handy. More families have approached us but we want to take it slow. Expenses per head will be finalised only by next week once the kitchen turns one month old,” Asya says. Although the kitchen is closed on Sundays, there is a plan to run it once a month.

VP Asya cooks breakfast and curries for lunch for seven families at her kitchen in Balussery

VP Asya cooks breakfast and curries for lunch for seven families at her kitchen in Balussery   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

The initiative has received bouquets and brickbats. “Some members have been criticised by their colleagues, both men and women. There have been comments on social media about how we still depend on a woman to run the kitchen, referring to Asya. But the point is that it is her profession and she chose to do it,” says Girija.

Khaleemudheen observes that a few members backed out after they faced opposition from senior members of their families. “Women are expected to cook, whether they are employed or not,” he adds.

Preetha RD, a lab instructor at Government Engineering College, Vadakara, stresses that this is not a move to do away with kitchens. “It is all about getting some ‘me time’. Age is catching up with me and I needed this break. I now get time to read and do things that make me happy,” says the 51-year-old. Lousi KP, an employee at Taluk Hospital, Koyilandy, avers that she no longer has to skip breakfast in the rush to reach her office on time. There is ample time to exercise too, she adds.

Khaleemudheen says that there is a plan to open 10 such kitchens in and around Ponnani soon. “Post the pandemic, several women have come forward to open such kitchens. We have also got enquiries from groups in Thrissur and other parts of Malappuram to start similar kitchens,” he says.


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Printable version | Dec 4, 2021 10:47:33 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/homes-and-gardens/one-kitchen-for-multiple-families-kerala/article37091371.ece

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