Read the story of an inspiring woman who redefined resilience.
It is quite an endearing sight, watching Ms. Anita Choudhary ride her fuschia-coloured scooter, laden with hot-boxes, into Bhashker Chowk, as the sun begins its downward descent. She offers me a sweet smile as I approach her, perhaps her first customer today. As she begins arranging the array of delectable momos she has brought from her kitchen at home, I begin asking her questions about herself. At first it is hard to concentrate on her answers because of the delicious aroma filling my nostrils, but soon I am captivated by her story.
Anita ji came back to Rourkela, her maika, in March 2015. She’d gotten married in 2010, shifted to Jamshedpur to live with her husband and his family, had two daughters, and lived an ordinary peaceful life. One morning she was informed that her husband was no more, and till today she is not sure of the cause of his death. ‘Mere pairon tale zameen khisak gayi’ she tells me, with moist eyes. Her in-laws refused to take responsibility of her, or her 11-month and 3-year-old daughters. Utterly and completely alone, and still in mourning, she shifted with her daughters to Rourkela. She admits that she considered ‘jumping off’ along with her children, but fought that thought, and tried to make the best of her situation.
“Main dukhi thi, bebas thi, lekin main datti rahi”. She had no income; some neighbours reached out and helped her with ration and some money for rent. What was troubling Anita was the question - how would she nurture and provide for her daughters? She wanted to give them a good life, a good education. She’d toss and turn around at night, racking her brains, trying to figure out what she could do that would help her earn well, as well as spend time with her daughters. “Main hi unki ma aur papa ban gayi” she says with a slightly choked voice.
As she plates a dozen momos for me, she regains some of her lost cheer. She says, “Mujhe momos banane aate the, main kaafi achche banati thi - sasural mein sabko shauk tha”. She began searching for chowks in Rourkela, where she could sell her momos. Not having money to rent a stall proved to be an obstacle, but here she thought creatively. She made use of the resources she had. She started her business from the seat of her scooter. On her first day, she felt nervous, unsure whether people would stop by her scooter, where she’d laid out her goods. Slowly things picked up pace, and by word-of-mouth, more customers started visiting her ‘stall’. A few of her neighbour-shopkeepers knew her story, and encouraged their customers to buy from her. The people of Rourkela became roaring fans of her momos. She even gets party orders now!
She’s been selling her momos for five years now, her fan-base steadily increasing. The best part is, she gets to spend most of her day with her daughters, and is happy in the work she does.
I have wolfed down 12 momos by now, and I daresay I can fit in a couple more! Licking my fingers, I thank her for her momos, but more importantly, for her story. As the sky begins to darken, more crowds swarm her stall - some of them regulars - and I quietly slip away.
Her resilience, her rationality in a heart-breaking situation, and her decision to make use of her pre-existing skills is truly remarkable. I hope I have ingested some of her strength in the momos I so happily ate. I hope the scent of her courage has wafted its way to you. She has truly given us food for thought; I hope we all learn something today.
Watch Anita ji narrate her awe-inspiring story in this video!