“You don’t have a stable job right?” – a question that has been hounding me since the time I quit my job which is over 1.5 years now. However, the fact that I have started as an entrepreneur goes quite unnoticed resulting it being termed as a mere “leisure activity” or a “time-pass” that most homemakers with moderately affluent lifestyles should supposedly have!
It really pains me to think that every time I make an attempt to explain to someone who’s known or even unknown about my current pursuit which is offering my home-cooked meals to the ones who solicit the same, they dismiss the same as my current favourite leisure activity that would soon wane into oblivion. And I am not surprised that most home bakers, home chefs or small business owners (mostly women) are questioned on their pursuits which apparently appears as a hobby and not something that is equivalent to anyone with a 9-5 job.
As a married woman in the Indian context, it is sacrosanct to follow the husband’s pursuits and activities which includes the unavoidable pain and anguish of being constantly uprooted from a particular place to another if he has to travel for work. And I am no exception. We got married in Kolkata, had our daughter who by the time she turned 1 we had to initiate our first move to Mumbai for greener pastures. This move was not an easy one as it was the first of its kind for me; being separated from my parents, closed ones made me really disillusioned for quite some time. This was coupled with the sole responsibility of raising a toddler who was equally disoriented in the sudden absence of a larger family! Though my husband stood rock solid the void within me only widened with the passage of time.
The fact that I was no longer a “performing asset” ushering in some monetary gains was always an eyesore for some who unabashedly disregarded my contributions as a homemaker or a mother. This really saddened me and at times pushed me into uncertain, ambiguous darkness. However, as always my husband stayed by me through thick and thin. At the middle of our second year in the city of dreams, I came across an opportunity that seemed like the ultimate oasis in the desert. Without much deliberations, I lapped it up considering the fact that my daughter had already been a year old in the playschool which she was enjoying too.
This time too I could not really escape the hawk-eyed critics and cynics (well now I term them like that) who questioned my responsibility as a mother and also complained how heartless I was to leave my daughter in the supervision of my mother and a baby sitter. Their constant taunts of how my relationship with my daughter eventually would develop to be sometimes made me question my decision however I did not relent. I continued my job for the next 2.5 years with the complete support of my family that comprised of my husband and parents. Here too I was not spared; the fact that my parents lived in with me ruffled quite a number of feathers, not to forget how our Indian society celebrates a son when he takes care of his parents but admonishes the same act of a daughter. But this did not deter me from my path. My job was becoming extremely rewarding besides being an example of perfect work-life balance when it was another bolt from the blue-my husband came across a far more fulfilling career option which not only meant better prospects but also a relocation from the existing city! CHENNAI it was!
This time, the move not only ushered in apprehensions but also an extreme sense of frustration and anger. It resulted in frequent emotional outbursts and terrible mood swings. The sense of being uprooted from a secured place was never as heart-wrenching as this. I was at the peak of my career when I had to give it up all and start afresh without quite knowing what my next plan of action would be! I could not yield to the commonly accepted practice of “do as the husband does”; for me, the move was shattering. I did not have a job and I had moved to a city that was quite an alien in every respect. It took me quite a while to figure out how things would shape up for me even though I had the complete support of my husband.
With each passing day, my frustration and anger increased in leaps and bounds. This was coupled with multiple job offer failures and the eventual disappointments that followed them. There came a time I had to resort to frequent psychotherapy sessions which became my only way to win back my sanity. And I did. It did take time but I came around. Within a span of 3 months, I started my Instagram page “talesofaglutton” (currently named “food of JOY-flavours of Bengal) exhibiting my gastronomical adventures. A social media page that began with a simple intent to showcase my love of food soon became a rage in Chennai food scenes; not to forget the contributions of some amazing human beings on this journey who further propelled this mundane activity to a real-time one.
This followed some amazing restaurant and brand collaborations and I took my baby steps as an entrepreneur as a “Home Chef” a term that has quite revolutionized the culinary world. From literally no one I soon became a name to reckon with in the Chennai culinary space; being the only Bengali home chef was icing on the cake. Soon I was successfully hosting tables at home for both foreigners and locals when out of nowhere a global pandemic, a life-threatening condition named Covid-19 hit the world! With this everything came to a standstill!
But this time I did not let the negativity hinder my motives, for now, I was far more motivated to be swayed by anything or anyone. I took the pandemic in my stride and started living with a renewed zest of life. Even though my husband contracted the infection I did not let hopelessness and grief take the better of me instead I took it up as a challenge to fight the disease and come out victorious too. And I did. This was also a time when as a family we stood by each other selflessly. As a unit, we battled it all out.
With the eventual unlock down, and with restaurants/take-aways starting afresh, I announced my weekend food venture-“Joy’s Weekend Indulgence” offering my food once again; but this time with the necessary precautions and adherence to apt government norms. Soon this became a household name resulting in a high demand service every weekend. With various print media showcasing my story besides other women in the same venture I could taste success once again. And soon a national recognition as one of the top contributing home chefs across India by The Food & Beverage Association Of India followed. The cynics did not spare me once again, many saw this as a “desperate” means of survival, some dismissed me as a “petty” homemaker trying to go all out there. But I had now manoeuvred to steer clear of criticisms. An undying spirit of not giving up helped me fall in love with life once more.
Today I stand a happy woman, doing exactly what my heart craves for without making baseless compromises or sacrifices that we women are supposedly taught from quite an early age. Today I am unapologetically happy and satisfied with the way my life has shaped up eventually; I may not earn a million bucks but at the end of the day I go to bed peacefully.
May this personal account of mine inspire more women out there, for whom every day is a struggle; for whom narrating their story is a task; for whom social gratification is a distant dream. It is essential for all women to do what rocks their world irrespective of societal judgements. It is important to understand that every contribution matters- a mother’s, a home maker’s, a working professional’s, a small-time baker’s; and what matters the most is the joy that you derive out of these pursuits.
So, never be hesitant to tell your story even when no one else is!