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A taste of grit

79-year-old Sulochana Venugopal’s savouries are a hit in south India and abroad . An abandoned Sulochana was taken home by Malar Mathi, who helped her set up business.

Published: 08th June 2018 10:46 PM  |   Last Updated: 09th June 2018 05:29 AM   |  A+A-

Her specialties include kara sev, boondi, thenkuzhal, ribbon pakoda and mixture|Photo: Rakesh Kumar

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Prevention is better than cure.’ This is the success mantra that keeps me going. Who knew that I would be selling murukku, by the roadside, when my ambition was to pursue something in the filed of moozhigai. I have six children — three boys and three girls. When I was 38, my husband passed away due to brain fever. For 17 years, I taught widows to sew as part of my social service activity.

The sole purpose of my life was to give back to people and society. It paid me peanuts but I was content with the purpose of my work. As a hobby, I also read up about traditional medicines. It further motivated me to prepare my own medicines for almost 20 years now. Unfortunately, I had to go through a dark phase when none of my children were willing to take care of me after their marriage. This was despite the fact that they were all well-settled and well-educated. We’ve come across stories of children abandoning parents in old age homes. I am one of them.

Why should I live in a place that curbs my movement and happiness? Life has been full of hardships and struggle since I moved out of the house. There were days when I had to stay in bus stands for shelter. But that did not shake me even a bit. I also planned to join the church and serve the elderly. Somehow things did not work out and I started searching for jobs and ended up cooking in a few households. I’ve seen and been with different kinds of people and everybody happened to be fond of me. On one such day, I came across Malar Mathi and her daughter at a bus stand.

To my surprise, they offered to take me to their home. Now they are my family. I don’t know if I’ve adopted Malar as a daughter or if she has adopted me as her mother. Malar was another single mother struggling to give her daughter a good education. Our stories were similar. Both of us were alone despite having a family. We’ve been having each other’s back since then. An unsteady income has always been a problem and it continues to be.

Malar had been selling homemade snacks for the past eight to nine years. So I decided to use my cooking skills to help her out in the kitchen. Earlier, based on orders she used to sell samples to every shop. It became a tedious job and then we decided to move around in a tri-cycle and sell in different areas. We tried at many locations but managing the crowd was not an easy task. Eventually, we settled down at this place. Our whole shop under an umbrella consists of just two chairs to sit and a table to keep these dabbas. Malar packs everything and carries it around in her scooter, and I ride pillion.

People envy her courage. We come at around 11 am and leave by 9 pm. It’s been one-and-a-half years and the business has been going smoothly. People from Bengaluru, Mumbai and even America like our snacks mainly for the crispiness and use of less spice. The families even ask us to courier it for them. Our business has reached so far purely through word of mouth. We’ve also employed two women to help us. Our specialties include kara sev, boondi, thenkuzhal, ribbon pakoda and mixture.

Everything would’ve been a dream if not for Malar. She is a bold woman and I’ve learned a lot from her. Everyone was surprised by the fact that I continue to remain unperturbed by the ignorance of my children. Except for my knee pain, I’ve never had any problems in life. My dream has been to open a moozhigai shop, take our murukku shop to great heights and employ transgenders when we have the money. You must always believe in your own capabilities. Never use old age as an excuse but an opportunity to re-live your dreams that you once had to let go off.

Where to find her
Sulochana’s shop is outside Prima’s Bakery in Second Avenue, Anna Nagar. For details call: 9176545188. A box of any snack variety costs `60.

More from Chennai.

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