After years of cooking for her family, Tasneem Fakhri has recently found freedom from the daily drudgery, thanks to the ‘’community kitchen” that reaches two meals a day right at the doorsteps of the around 40,000 Dawoodi Bohra homes across the city. Women like Fakhri can now engage themselves in more constructive activities.
“The idea was the brainchild of our religious head Dr Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin, who wanted women to be free from kitchen chores to concentrate on other filial, social and religious obligations,” says the 46-year-old Fakhri, who is now a part-time seamstress.
The scheme works on a simple principle — families contribute a fixed monthly amount towards the food cooked by trained staff members of the community kitchens in their respective localities. The meals are then delivered either by dabbawalas or by volunteers from the community. “In South Mumbai alone, there are 15 such kitchens in the Bohra-dominated localities of Fort, Colaba and Bhendi Bazaar. Then there are several more in the eastern and western suburbs,” says community member Saifuddin Kopty.
The community kitchens don’t discriminate between the privileged and the underprivileged sections, who too get the same “good quality and hygienically-prepared” food. “Some rich households contribute more so that the needy can get their meals at a subsidised rate or even free,” says Quresh Bhaimia, another community member.
The tiffin or, as the Bohras like to call it, ‘barkati thali’ (dish of Allah’s bounty) have several courses, including starters, entrees and desserts. Community members say the kitchens operate across India as well the places in the world with a sizeable Bohra population.