For 87-year-old Usha Gupta the second wave of COVID-19 brought with it pain and loss of great magnitude. After having battled COVID-19 for 27 long days at Batra hospital in Delhi, her husband, Raj Kumar, passed away. Her marriage of over six decades ended in a split second and life as she knew it, was over.
Both husband and wife had tested positive and were admitted to the hospital together.
It was while Usha was in the hospital that she saw the helplessness that patients and families around her were experiencing.
While they were in hospital, there were two instances when the oxygen outage happened, and unfortunately during the second outage her husband’s health deteriorated.
“I saw so much misery around me. Lack of oxygen was one thing but it felt like we were in the midst of a war. Everybody was in a panic mode,” says Usha.
She adds, “After the loss of my husband I felt lost and such a deep sense of pain. I saw how badly COVID-19 was impacting families, especially those who were not financially sound.” In an attempt to help others in need, Usha did what she could best – cook scrumptious meals.
Her granddaughter, Dr Radhika Batra, a Delhi-based paediatrician was the one who nudged her towards doing something for COVID-19 relief work. “Having grown up eating the yummy food that nani [grandmother] makes, I knew that it would not just keep her occupied but could also enable her to help those in need,” says Dr Radhika. That’s how ‘Pickled With Love’, a business of pickles and chutneys came into being in July 2021.
‘A Sense of Purpose’
The idea of launching a business of making pickles and chutney was mooted by Dr Radhika. A few phone calls later, Dr Radhika was armed with information about where to source bottles, get the labels printed and even fresh ingredients and everything else that the venture needed.
In a matter of two days the venture had a name and a logo and the chief chef, nani, was all set. The initial orders came from friends and family and before they realised it, they had sold close to 180 bottles of pickles and chutneys. While nani is helped in getting the mangoes cut and prepped, everything else is done by her. “I make a batch of 10 kgs [of mangoes] at a time, and once we are through with that I make another. This has given me a sense of purpose,” she says.
She adds, “Every rupee counts, and I am glad that in some small way I am able to make a difference.”
Each bottle of 200 gms costs Rs 150. With this little venture, Usha has been able to raise close to Rs 20,000.
Speaking about the pickles itself, Usha says that they started with three flavours – khatta aam (sour mango), grated mango chutney and gulabi meetha achaar. Once people tasted this and started enjoying them, requests for pickles and chutneys started. “The mixed vegetable pickles and the imli chutneys are bestsellers that people keep coming back for,” says Dr Radhika.
Each pickle or chutney bottle is sent out with a pretty ribbon and a handwritten note by Usha. The best part is that Usha is happy to customise orders.
Usha has also written a cookbook titled Bhartiya Shakahari Vyanjan, which has easy to make recipes and is a great ready reckoner for anyone looking to try their hands at cooking.
Dr Radhika says, “She even has a recipe to help people make a perfect cup of tea or boil rice.”
She adds, “If love could cure COVID, he [nana] would have recovered a long time back. There was not a moment that nani left his bedside when they were admitted in the hospital. All this when she was recovering from COVID herself.”
If you would like to reach out to Usha and place an order for her pickles or her cookbook, click here or call on +91 98736 43639.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)