‘Mrs. Harbhajan Kaur’ sells her homemade specialty 'Besan ki Barfi' along with other range of seasonal products like Achars, Chutney, Sharbat, etc & takes orders on-demand.
Q1. Tell us about Mrs Harbhajan and her family?
She hails from Tarn Taran, a small town close to Amritsar - where she grew up and completed her school education till Standard 8 (that was the maximum during those times) in that town and for the remaining years - one had to go to Amritsar and study. Unfortunately, girls in those times were not given such opportunities. So she learnt her way through and got involved in household chores, learnt knitting and especially cooking.
Since she was an avid foodie and still is - this was her favorite thing to do. Having as many as 8 siblings it was a huge family to feed but they were very content with the limited resources available. Food was of prime importance in their household, with the focus of making everything at home from scratch and having a great time as a family.
Her father had a mill/factory and was also a great foodie/cook. Her mother was a housewife and was a great companion. She got married at the age of about 20-22 years old. Her husband was in the government services and was posted in Amritsar around the time they got married.
Q2. Did cooking, Indian sweets specifically always attracted her?
Yes, like I said she was an avid foodie and took an active part in everyday cooking.
Besan Barfi (Indian Sweet) is her signature dish and yes this recipe has been inherited by her father and ages to over a 100 years or so. She learnt it in her teen years as it was made regularly and on special occasions. She has now been making this for over 8 decades.
Q3. How old was she when she started this business? What inspired her to take this challenge?
She started at the age of 90 and over the years, one could say she would have made over 500 kgs of Besan Barfi easily among her othey key seasonal products such as Sharbat, Jams, Achars, Chutneys & Halwa etc.
Well, back in the days, foodie really meant eating home-cooked simple yet delicious food. Hence she inherited a lot of recipes from her family and continued the legacy in her own way. She has been instrumental in binding the family across generations through her food items which is not only limited to the signature Besan Barfi but much more including season's specials.
One fine day, closer to turning 90 she happened to have a candid conversation with her youngest daughter, Mrs. Raveena Suri about how life had been so far and if there was any unfulfilled desire. Sometime during this conversation she (Mrs. Harbhajan) expressed her desire to not sit idle at home and perhaps make a living for herself. She wanted to know how it feels being independent.
Her daughter suggested that she should do what she's been doing all her life happily and make the world taste her delicacies. It started off with one or two fortnightly pop-ups within Chandigarh. Her stuff sold over the counter instantly and she received so much love.
Thereafter, orders started pouring and we fulfilled them all from our hearts and our home kitchen.
Q4. What are her proudest moments?
Her proudest moment by far was the first earning at the local pop-up. That feeling was beyond explanation. Apart from making her offerings to the almighty, she treated her daughters at the old school 'Indian Coffee House' and fondly remembered her husband who had been instrumental in her journey.
Women empowerment really uplifts her. Given the circumstances and situation during her era, women were not given many opportunities. The last few years have been literally her bonus years and she is living up to it and conquering whatever is coming her way.
Her family joining her to do this and continue the legacy gives her maximum pleasure in addition to the overwhelming response and feedback from her now extended family of customers.
Q5. Was age a challenge?
Yes, she does face challenges given the physical labor required day-to-day and the fact that it's all hand made and in-house. Fortunately, she has a good support system. For us the priority is her health as well as focusing on customer orders. Some days honestly, it isn’t all rosy. But we sail through and with the encouragement she receives, the next day is always better than the previous one.
Q6. What advice would she give to someone starting out?
It’s better to wear out, than rust. Do not waste your precious time....once lost it is lost forever!!! Make the most of and don't lose heart. Success comes when you step out of your comfort zone!
Her simple motive in life is to never give up. Try one, you might fail. Try again you might not achieve it all together, but definitely by the third time, you will find success. One day you will succeed.
Q7. What is the part of her life experience would she alter if she had the chance to?
Coming from a small town, in earlier times girls unfortunately were not imparted formal education beyond a certain age (approx. 14-15), which she expresses has been a void in her life. She would have ideally wanted to be fully qualified and perhaps learnt this profession further. But I guess it's destiny. This time of her life is perhaps the best learning phase.
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