The ongoing Covid-19 crisis has tested the resilience of all Indians. People across all sectors have faced job loss, pay cuts and austerity.
But amidst the gloom, some green shoots are emerging in unexpected places. Take Anusuya Amma from Bengaluru, for example. After 20 years of working as a house help, she has begun a fresh start by starting a new venture – a Bhajji-Bonda stall (batter-fried chillies and potatoes).
Ansu Amma, as she is fondly known, decided to make the transition to cope with a crisis in her life.
“I was working at seven households before the lockdown came into place, most of whom dismissed me. I needed money,” Ansu Amma says.
Along with Ansu Amma, her family members also suffered a similar fate. “My husband works as a driver, and the job came to a sudden halt during the crisis. My two daughters are married, and their wedding loan has to be repaid. My son works at a garage, and the shop was temporarily closed,” she narrates.
“There were many ideas, but I wanted a solution that was feasible and where my husband would also be able to support,” she says.
After some inquiry and planning, Ansu Amma decided to set up the stall. “There is no Bhajji-Bonda shop in the second lane of Kasturinagar, East Bengaluru apart from some other snacking joints. So I finalised that place,” she says.
Ansu Amma then found an abandoned cart and sought the necessary permits and approvals from the authorities.
“I did not have any money and could not borrow more money from the bank as I already had a loan,” she says.
“I decided to seek a loan from one of the households I worked in. They gave me Rs 10,000, and they trusted me as I am serving them for seven years now,” Ansu Amma told The Better India.
With that as a start, the 50-year-old collected another Rs 25,000 from various sources and bought the necessary equipment, a smartphone for online payments and the raw material.
“The investment money is not enough, but I am managing the joint now,” she says after almost a week of starting the business.
Ansu Amma says she was quite fearful at times about how things would work out. “But I decided to jump in the water and learn to swim,” she adds.
When asked if she will be able to make some profit and solve her financial crisis, she replied, “I am not sure how well will I do. But, I will repay the loaned amount. I will continue to work at the remaining houses in the morning and sell Bhajji-Bonda’s in the evening. My husband will also run the stall.”
Anuja Date, a researcher in Bengaluru, who lives in one of the households Ansu Amma works, says, “Ansu Amma discussed the ideas with us and asked for technical help. She only needed advice on licences for the cart, permissions, buying a smartphone and using Google Pay services.”
Anuja says Ansu Amma did her homework well. “Her husband used to work at a restaurant earlier, and he could use the experience now. Also, the location of the stall is good,” she adds.
Anuja’s husband Prasanna Chafekar, an architect, says Ansu Amma’s story is inspiring. “These hard times have pushed many individuals to their limits. The lady came up with the idea and implemented it. She got it done with the courage of taking the risk and took control of her life and becoming independent,” he adds.
Prasanna adds, “Whether privileged or not, you have to take the risk and discover those wings of courage and become independent.”
(Edited by Vinayak Hegde)