HYDERABAD: Mard khaana banaye tho kala hai. Aurat banaye tho farz hai” chides Sridevi in the film English Vinglish. It loosely translates to “If a man cooks it’s an art and when a woman does, it’s her responsibility.” Shivani Verma, the chef and owner of Granny’s Art Cafe in her own way challenged this cliche. “We all grow up with the conditioning that the women of the house cook and if and when the men cook, it’s a reason to celebrate,” says Shivani who grew up eating her grandmother and her mom’s food.
Love conquers hate
A heartfelt story and a very specific incident is what made her turn cooking into a livelihood despite hating it earlier. “To be honest, I never liked cooking. I never even went into the kitchen before,” narrates the 33-year old who now runs the kitchen at Granny’s Art Cafe. “My grandmother on the other hand loved cooking and sought happiness in feeding us. And oshe cooked like a dream! When she passed, I started to miss her and the food she cooked so I started experimenting in the kitchen. One day my father ate what I cooked and said, ‘You cook like your grandmother’. And that’s when I decided to dedicate a restaurant to her memory,” she says.
More than a business
“It’s probably in a woman’s nature to be nurturing,” she says thoughtfully. “It’s never been just a business for us. We have people who have been coming in for a meal everyday since a year. We get requests off the menu too. Even the interiors are what we made ourself and designed,” she chimes. And when her customers praise her food, she feels just a little more closer to her dear grandmother she admits.
It’s still a man’s world
Although Shivani has seen the ups and downs of the business, and has been managing her business with her own intellect and strength now, she admits that in the real world it can be scary. “I was a reserved person before I started the business but the job has taught me to be more assertive,” she says adding, “It’s a problem to get employees, vendors and chefs to take me seriously. They have a condescending tone and an demeaning attitude towards a woman in charge.
I as a reserved person was scared out of my wits because of this. But as time progressed I realised that this is how it’s going to be and that I have to make my stand and be strong.” Shivani wants to send out the message to all the women trying to make their mark in a man’s world: “Don’t be afraid. People will drag you down and make you doubt your capability just because you are a woman. But believe in yourself and don’t let them get to you.”
— Srividya Palaparthi