The Samridhi Ethnic Food Restaurant at Kavanattinkara Tourist Complex near Kumarakom run by eight women got Kerala Tourism one of its three Gold Awards of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA). A part of the State’s Responsible Tourism (RT) Mission, it was commended for its work in empowering local women.
Samridhi is popular among tourists , “they pop in any time of the day for a typically Kerala meal or a traditional snack,” says Raji Rajan over phone from Kumarakom. Set up in April 2011, by the RT Mission with Kerala Tourism and Kudumbashree, it initially had 10 women selected from Kudumbashree units from 10 nearby wards. Two left due to family commitments and health issues.
“We are very happy that our work has been commended, we are glad that guests appreciate our work and food!” she says. The women underwent a six month training schedule with Café Kudumbasree on how to run an establishment, cooking included. The others in the group are Geetha Sahadevan, Vijayamma Sarlappan, Shiny Vijimon, Kavitha Kiranlal, Shyla Shaji, Sheela Manoharan and Rajani Suresh. The oldest among them is 58 and the youngest is 43.
Sustainability is a pillar of the RT Mission, and to that end most of the produce used is locally sourced from farmers. The menu is naadan, the only non-Kerala food, a staple nevertheless, is chapathi. “Puttu-kadala, idli-dosa, palappam, Kerala meals, karimeen polichathu, fish curry made in the typical Kumarakom style, chapathi-chicken curry...tea-time snacks such as pazham-pori. vattayappam, kozhukattai, and ada,” Raji lists the menu.
The day starts at around 6-6.30 am when all of them reach the restaurant which is open 24/7. The women live around three to four kilometres from there. It used to be a KTDC Motel Araam, before it was leased to these women.
The first guests start trickling in a little after seven. Each member of the group has duties assigned, which changes based on rotation; only the two chefs are permanent. Since there eight of them, off days are not difficult. A monitoring committee is in place, guided by K Rupesh Kumar,co-ordinator State R T Mission. It takes the decisions and reviews complaints, if any. The women run the show, and the revenue generated is theirs to keep. Earlier, she says, had they encountered a foreigner they wouldn’t have known how to communicate or interact with them, “Now we know. We have picked up some English so we are able to communicate easily.”
A secretary is chosen, from among them, for a period of two years who has to look after the running of the business, accounts and such.
“Before Samridhi going up to Kottayam, which is barely 10-15-odd kilometres away was daunting. We have no such fears now, we even went as far as Delhi to participate in a food festival — its a three-day train journey, one way. Running this business has empowered, and of course helped us financially as well. But, most importantly it has toughened us mentally and made us confident. Our world view has changed,” Raji adds.