41/365 The Caterers (New Delhi, India)

  41/365 – The Caterers

In the small alleyways of the “real” Delhi are small shops and kiosks owned by refugees. They come from places like Bangladesh, Somalia, Burma, and like the women pictured above, Afghanistan. 

Today I had the opportunity to meet the caterers. With heads covered in scarves of various hues, the women sat in mismatched chairs lined up against the walls, looking down at their hands.  When, from time to time, they would look up to catch a quick glance of the three foreigners who sat before them, faint smiles would dart across their shy faces. 

Uprooted from their homes and the only lives they had ever known, they now live in squalor as they try to find a way to survive in a country that is not their own, in homes that they cannot afford. But knowing that they have children to feed and shelter, they make the best of it and set out each day to try to find work. 

In the past year, with the help of a local agency, the women have started pooling their collective cooking skills into a business with promise. Given that they’ve never worked in teams before or had to rely on others for their welfare, they have encountered some challenges along the way, but they’re working through them and with each new event that they cater, they empower themselves a little bit more.  

Although most of them were soft spoken, their strength was evident as they spoke with pride about being able to pay their own rents, care for their children, and buy their own supplies for upcoming catering orders, no longer having to rely on assistance from others. 

Having grown up in a family that relied on catering to help feed and shelter us, I felt an immediate kinship to these incredibly resilient women.  As I tasted the various dishes that they laid out with such care for us, one after another, sweet and savory alike, my stomach quickly filled up and so did my heart.  

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