“I was all of two months old when my parents decided that selling me off for Rs 20,000 was the most viable solution,” says Tajinder Mehra (26), a resident of Delhi.
Born with only one hand, Tajinder, a resident of Delhi, has had a very difficult and chequered life to say the least. Having always been ridiculed and put down for not having one hand, Tajinder says that life has taught him to be tough.
Having contested in Mr Delhi four times, he has won the competition thrice in the past and despite all this found himself without a job during the lockdown owing to the coronavirus pandemic. Tajinder tells The Better India about his difficult childhood, and how he decided to start a non-vegetarian food stall to make money.
“My Bua (aunt) rescued me”
“Given that I was born with only one hand, my parents had made up their mind that I would not be of any use and would never be able to earn and fend for myself. They thought of me as a burden and did not want to take on that lifelong responsibility,” says Tajinder. It was his paternal aunt who found out about what had transpired and decided to bring the baby home and raise him as her own.
Despite it being a financial strain on her own family, Tajinder’s aunt took care of him and educated him as well. Tajinder says, “I have completed my 10th class exam and though I was keen to study further, the financial condition at home was not conducive for that.” As he tells me this, there is no regret in his voice. He says that for him, looking after his aunt, who saved his life, is of utmost importance.
A passion for bodybuilding
Early on, everything was difficult for Tajinder, from even performing day-to-day tasks, but he says, “It soon became a habit. I could either continue being sad and dejected about my life or do something about it – I chose the latter.” Tajinder says he was always very keen on visiting the gym and building his body. Almost a decade ago, he started working out at home and once he felt confident, he found a gym near his house where he enrolled.
“There was a government gym near my house, and that is where I started from. Even then my friends dissuaded me saying I could not do it. After I worked out there for a while, I enrolled at another private gym,” he says. It was his coach Dinesh at the gym, who trained Tajinder and also urged him to apply for the Mr Delhi contest. In 2016, the first year in which Tajinder participated in the competition, he won the Mr Delhi title.
Winning in 2016 gave Tajinder a much-needed boost and he continued training and competing.
He won the title again in 2017 and 2018. His professional success aside, his financial condition at home was worsening. Tajinder was under pressure to start making money and contributing to the expenses at home. He says it was this that pushed him to take up a job as a fitness instructor.
COVID-19 thwarted all plans in Delhi
Like for people world-over, COVID-19 brought with it a whole new set of challenges. Tajinder says, “With the lockdown being imposed, gyms shut and that meant no income for a very long time. Even when things started looking up, the last place people were looking to go were gyms and so I found myself without a job and no income.”
In September 2020, Tajinder decided to set up Chicken Point, a food stall. “I cannot say that I enjoy cooking, but I needed to find a way to earn an income. What I did enjoy was eating,” he says. With that in mind, Tajinder borrowed Rs 30,000 from his trainer, and started the food stall in Karam Pura, Delhi, with his friend, Sarabjot. Tajinder sets up his stall from 5.00 p.m. every evening and wraps up by 10.00 p.m. on most nights.
Some of the things that he says people enjoy eating include, Tandoori chicken, Afghani chicken, fried chicken and even chicken tikka masala.
One can get a half plate of one of the items for Rs 150 and a full plate for Rs 250. “It took us time to settle down and get people to our stall. Just when we started doing reasonably well, the number of COVID-19 cases in Delhi started increasing, and now we are back to struggling to get customers,” he tells me.
On an average, Tajinder and his partner, Sarabjot, make about Rs 8000 each month from the food stall. “It’s no where close to what we need to run our homes, but it’s something,” he says. Tajinder is hopeful that sometime in the future he can open his own gym, he adds, “That is what I want to do. I am good at it as well.” If you would like to visit his food stall and support him, you can reach out to him at +918851859190.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)