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‘Lost My Foot But Not My Will To Live’: How My Kari Dosa Cart Is Fueling My Dreams

Veena Ambarish faced a life-altering bus accident that took her right foot, post which she battled depression and suicidal thoughts. Undeterred, she pursued an MBA. Later, she started 'Kari Dosa' food cart in Bengaluru, to be her own boss, and to set an example of resilience.

‘Lost My Foot But Not My Will To Live’: How My Kari Dosa Cart Is Fueling My Dreams

In 2013, Veena Ambarish found renewed strength and purpose to live as she waited in line to collect a certificate confirming her physical disability. Before that, she was lost and depressed, even attempting suicide after a life-altering bus accident took her right foot and led to a six-month hospitalisation.

At only 17 years old, she observed others around her facing more challenging situations, yet managing to smile. Inspired by their resilience, she made a firm decision — she too could pursue the life she desired and achieve her dreams.

Veena, a Class 12 science student at the time, changed to the commerce stream because she realised she couldn’t endure long hours standing for science practical classes. Eventually, she completed a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree, followed by a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree, and worked a few jobs as a sales officer in banks, post which she switched to IT as a software tester.

Long hours at a desk job, sitting for more than eight hours and tending to a family of five, including two young children — a boy aged six and a girl aged four — proved too difficult. She yet again recalibrated, chose to be her own boss, and decided to turn her love for food into a business.

She set up a dosa stall in Bengaluru in April 2023, christening it ‘Kari Dosa’, a delectable treat found in Tamil Nadu, especially Madurai, where the dosa is slathered with an omelette and a mutton curry on top.

The food stall now sees long lines in the mornings, with people patiently waiting to savour different dosa varieties, starting with a plain dosa for Rs 10, to mutton kari dosa, chicken kari dosa, prawn kari dosa, and more.

Run by the affable 30-year-old, people turn up from different parts of the city to have this scrumptious treat, leaving with a smile and a full tummy.

Turning around life at 17

Veena runs 'Kari Dosa', a food cart in JP Nagar, Bengaluru
Veena runs ‘Kari Dosa’, a food cart in J P Nagar, Bengaluru

Veena led a happy, busy life before the fateful day in July 2012. She was a Class 12 science student and a Bharatanatyam dancer preparing for her arangetram (debut on-stage performance once a student finishes training in classical dance) the next year.

On the way to college, she was crossing the road when a BMTC (Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation) bus jumped the signal and rode over her right leg. “The bus first touched me and I fell down, after which a tyre rode over my right leg. Luckily, I was wearing heels that day, due to which, some of the pressure was absorbed by it. I don’t even remember what happened after that,” Veena tells The Better India.

Her right leg was so badly affected that she had to spend a lot of time in the hospital. Doctors tried different ways to help salvage her foot, but three surgeries failed, and finally, a skin graft was performed.

“Since I was a growing child, attempts by doctors to use flesh from my left thigh to rebuild my foot failed. They tried unsuccessfully three times and found that nothing worked. They finally grafted some skin and told me that I had to live with it. It’s still very delicate and I have to bandage it daily before stepping out. I was bedridden for six months,” she adds.

Veena runs Kari dosa food cart in Bengaluru
Veena brought ‘kari dosa’ to Bengaluru after noticing it wasn’t easily available.

After leaving the hospital, Veena managed to walk for two years with a walking stick. At first, it was incredibly hard due to severe pain. She underwent three surgeries with spine anaesthesia, resulting in spine problems and a weakened backbone. This period marked her lowest point as she worried about her future.

“My life revolved around dance. Now, I could no longer dance or pursue science. I felt depressed and wondered what would happen to my hopes and dreams when I couldn’t even walk three steps without wincing. I attempted suicide too,” she says.

Her wake-up call came in the form of a visit to the Victoria Hospital to collect her physical disability certificate. Here, she met a lady who didn’t have both feet and had travelled to Bengaluru from Tumakuru, with an infant in tow. Veena watched in awe as that lady fed her baby and played with him.

“My troubles felt inconsequential in front of hers. She was happy and even managed to cook. She got her baby from so far away and led a regular life. So I thought why couldn’t I? I too could and would do everything I ever wanted,” she says.

Back home in January 2013, with hardly two months for the board exams, Veena started going for tuition classes, assisted by her father. She managed to pass the exams with a decent score. Since going to college in a city like Bengaluru would be difficult, she shifted to Puducherry to her grandmother’s place and pursued her degrees there.

After her post-graduation, she switched jobs from banks to IT but the stress of a desk job was too much to take.

“I had a project with a South American company, which meant office work from 9 to 6 followed by meetings at 9:30 pm which often got over by 1 to 2 am. The stress on my leg led to infection and hospitalisation for 15 days. That’s when I decided to quit the job in February 2023,” she says.

Serving a taste of Tamil Nadu in Bengaluru

After quitting, Veena decided that she could follow her passion for food and open her own stall. Staying in Bengaluru since childhood and for work, she hadn’t found a single kari dosa place, which she craved. So when she thought of serving something that wasn’t easily available in Bengaluru, she thought of this.

Kari dosa, traditionally made with mutton kheema, originated in Madurai, Tamil Nadu.

She worked on perfecting the recipes and tastes for two months before launching her food cart in J P Nagar, Bengaluru. Initially, her family wasn’t in favour of her starting this food enterprise that requires physical labour and standing for long periods of time, but she was resolute.

“I wanted to create my own brand and achieve something. I wanted to push my limits and do something new every day. If I could do a desk job for eight hours daily, why can’t I stand for four hours?” she says.

From a cushy job in an air-conditioned office, Veena now slogs it out on the streets of Bengaluru, in the hugely competitive street food market.

She starts her day at 4:30 am every day and sells kari dosas made with chicken kheema, prawn thokku (curry) and mutton kheema. A plain dosa is priced at Rs 10, while the mutton kari dosa costs Rs 150. The stall is open from 7:30 am to 11:30 am.

Veena managed to eventually convince her family. She says her husband, a fitness trainer by profession, is her biggest cheerleader. He helps her set up the cart daily while she manages all the shopping, cooking and serving herself. She faces a lot of challenges with standing for over four hours a day, but she pushes through as her mind is happy, she shares adding that she finds happiness in the satisfaction of her customers.

“Pain is everything. You have to tolerate the pain and find ways to overcome it. Look at people who are in worse situations and thank your stars for your life. That’s how I look at it. We can’t achieve anything without going through a struggle. Life is about overcoming hurdles,” she adds.

Veena lives by the mantra: “No matter how hard life hits you, be stronger than before.”

You can visit Veena’s stall at Cassia Block, JP Nagar 7th Phase and reach out to her here.

Edited by Pranita Bhat

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