Overcoming many odds, these women become financially independent through paratha making
By Nandini Srinivasan
Give a man fish, you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.” This is the success story of a group of women determined to lead a self-reliant life after overcoming many odds. The initiative has given them the hope of becoming financially independent.
While the COVID pandemic changed life forever for many, for some, it opened up new avenues. Even as hundreds of hands stretched out seeking help, scores of hands reached out too, pitching in whatever they could to help them lead a decent and independent life.
While many such families in rural areas around Mysuru silently lamented their fate, Koog-U, a voluntary organisation, held their hands and has been helping them slowly get back on their feet.
Thanks to the efforts of Koog-U, today these rural areas have decent schools with clean toilets, thatched roofs replacing tiled ones, young girls saved from child marriage completing their schooling and most importantly, setting up of ParathaKart, an initiative that is helping many women ravaged by the effects of the pandemic to reconstruct their lives.
Dr. Nandini Keshava, a neuro-physiologist and a Bharatnatyam dancer is the force behind this initiative. She and her husband were witnesses to the havoc caused by the pandemic around Hadinaru village near Nanjangud where they have their farm.
Many families lost their breadwinners, several affected did not have access to proper medical care, and no ambulances to ferry the critical to hospitals. Dr. Nandini, along with the help of well-wishers on social media and extended family and a few doctors, swiftly swung into action and pitched in to distribute food and medical kits, ambulance service, oxygen cylinders and other related facilities.
Children rescued from child marriages
A young girl, who was being forced into child marriage, was rescued at the right time and today with the guidance of the organisation has completed her schooling. Counselling to parents has helped several other girls continue their education.
For women who lost their husbands and were utterly clueless about how to move forward, Dr. Nandini was a godsend. She strongly believed that merely donating money or food kits will not help them in the long run and that they needed an initiative that would help them sustain and grow. She came up with the idea of ParathaKart, where the women could prepare and sell parathas.
There are already several hotels and shops selling parathas. So how would this move catch up and how would it be different? “Yes, there are paratha sellers in every area. But I was looking at helping these women prepare them in an organic way with all raw materials sourced from their own labour and make it taste just like home-made ones,” Dr. Nandini told Star of Mysore.
Women grow vegetables
Dr. Nandini and her husband spared half an acre of their farmland near Hadinaru village where the women grow vegetables needed to make the stuffing for the parathas, they even grow wheat (or procure them from other farms), make the wheat flour in traditional ‘chakkis’ or mills.
Radish, carrot, potato and fenugreek leaves are all grown and used. Since cauliflower cannot be grown during rain, they buy it from outside. The parathas are small in size (almost half the size that you get in hotels) but filling and tasty. Moreover, they are hygienic.
They are sold in packs of five and delivered neatly wrapped in banana leaves and tied with a string of banana fibre. The ‘ParathaKart Warriors’ as Dr. Nandini calls them, ensure that they are 100 percent eco-friendly and it’s a simple offering minus frill.
A tractor on the farm has also helped youths earn their livelihood. A group of youths were trained to drive it and till fields. Today, they are being hired by other farms to till the land.
Enabling them to earn
Mahadevi, who was one of the first beneficiaries of this initiative, beams with pride at her new-found vocation. “We are a group of 11 now and make around 300 to 350 parathas daily on average. Each one of us takes back around Rs. 700 every day and that has really put our lives back on track,” she said. “I was devastated when my husband died and with two small kids, I thought it was the end. Thanks to Koog-U, we are leading respectable lives now. As we move forward, each one of us plans to take a few more women under our wings and branch out,” she added.
Poornima, another beneficiary said she earns enough to provide for her family. “Each one of us is planning to take another 11 women under our wings and expand the business,” she added.
Dr. Nandini said she is indebted to Dr. Pratap Reddy of Rotary Central Mysore and his team for all the help they have extended in the school redevelopment and for providing a well-equipped cart for the paratha-makers. Inner Wheel Club of Mysore Central has also extended their help in replacing thatched roofs in tribal areas.
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Rotary Mysore Central donates cart, mixer, water purifier
Koog-U Foundation and Rotary Central Mysuru initiative — ‘ParathaKart’ — opened adjacent to Loyal World at V.V. Puram this morning. Rotary Mysore Central has donated the cart, a mixer and a water purifier. Journalist Rashmi Koti, Corporator Bhagya Madhesh, Koog-U Foundation Co-Founder Dr. Nandini Keshav, Rotary Central President-Elect N. Umesh, Secretary Sachidanand Hegde, Past President Vivek Attavar, office-bearer Samarth Vaidya and Rotarians Soujanya, Ram Mohan, Chandrika Sudheer, Meera, Art Promoter C.R. Himamshu and others were present.