It happens

A Welcome Bohra Repast

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The community’s leader, the Syedna, has started an unusual catering service

HH, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (TUS), spiritual head of India’s Bohra Muslims, has given a new twist to the word ‘community kitchen’. Post-Ramazan, all Bohra households across Mumbai have started receiving tiffin boxes. Uniquely, those who choose to pay for it can do so, while others can avail of it free.

“For us, the idea was very simple. To feed another person is considered sawaab, a good deed. Why not send a tiffin to each household—those who can afford it, pay for it; those who can’t afford it, well, that was the aim of the whole thing in the first place,” says a staffer at the Syedna’s office. While Bohras, a trading community, are largely well-off, there are households where the monthly income is just centimetres above the official BPL. Instead of spending on inflation-ruled food prices, they can use that money for other expenses, explains literature from HH’s office.

For Bohra households consisting of working couples, elderly grandparents and harried mothers, this gesture brings welcome relief. Tasneem Burhanpurwala, a resident of Bhendi Bazaar, says, “We are a family of six and while the dabba (tiffin) is not sufficient for the whole family (we have opted for a two-person quantity tiffin), it gives me the freedom to relax a little. I can cook at my own pace as opposed to having to cook and get the kids ready for school and attend to other household tasks, all in the first three hours of the day.”

As of now, most families have opted for small tiffins on a trial basis, and the kitchens themselves are garnering resources to scale up operations so that even larger families will no longer have to cook supplementary food. It hasn’t been all smooth sailing though. “I would cook brinjal or dal gosht and have the same thing turn up in the tiffin! It was funny watching my husband’s face as he tasted two versions of the same dish—of course, I didn’t ask him which one he preferred,” laughs Munira Plumber, a Mahim resident. The food itself is typical Bohri fare.

Each jamaat (parish) has been given autonomy over the menu, pricing and time of service. So while some may receive lunch and others dinner, and the price may range from Rs 1,100 to Rs 3,500 per month, the essentials of the tiffin remain the same—chappati, rice, dal/curry and a vegetable dish.