Once a cook, 74-year-old grandmother now runs one of Odisha’s favorite food services

“I cook well and I like to do it, so I decided to make it my job when the situation called for it. So, I have been working for 40 years,” says Santoshini Mishra, 74, who runs a catering business in Sambalpur, Odisha.

Her journey began when she had to cook so people could make ends meet. Even though it was at a time when women were not allowed to work outside the home, she used to go out and cook in different houses to take care of her family.

Today, she is still there but has turned it into a catering company with 100 employees under her command.

Whether it’s a wedding, birthday or any other function, most of the townspeople prefer the delicious food prepared by “Santoshini Mama”, which means “grandmother” of Santoshini in the city. Sambalpuri language.

Finding hope through cooking

Her husband, who ran a cookware store, was the sole breadwinner in the family. But he had to leave his company due to illness and all the responsibility fell on Santoshini’s shoulders. But she wasn’t ready to quit or complain.

She assumed all family responsibilities on her own and took care of her entire family, including raising her children and caring for her husband. “It wasn’t easy,” says Santoshini, who lost her husband almost 10 years ago.

“At the time, most catering businesses were run by men and I faced a lot of opposition from my family and society. It was even difficult to find a girl for my son, because no one was ready to marry off their daughters to a family where the hostess worked as a caterer. But I never gave up my work or my hope,” she explains.

Santoshini says she has a special love for cooking as it has made her financially independent at times when she was struggling.

“My mother is very passionate about cooking, even at this age. It was his cooking skills that helped our family find financial stability and it gave us a better life,” says his son Sanjeev.

Currently, the Santoshini team has about 100 employees, most of whom are women.

Wedding seasons are always hectic and she has to organize at least three to four weddings a day. They serve vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes like Paneer Butter Masala, Paneer Tikka, Mushroom Masala, Veg Biriyani, Chicken Biriyani, etc.

She says. “I like to do all the work myself, from organizing everything to overseeing the kitchen. But sometimes when there are too many orders to fulfill or it gets hectic, my two sons help me out,” Santoshini says. , adding that she wants to work as long as she lives.

Read this story in Hindi here.

(Editing by Yoshita Rao)