CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE INDIAN ENTREPRENEUR SOUL - MANJU


Story of Manju :



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I was quite tired by the time I reached my hometown. It was a 3 days long journey; I had taken by train from Bombay to reach my native place. The station was like any other railway station in India, dusty and bustling with people ( of all ages, all types ). Often I used it, during my transits to and fro the town. Outside the station, would be the parked or moving cars, autos, buses all screaming and honking in cacophonous unison, and as usual emitting out the deadly grey smoke from their rears, which did nothing good for my lungs.

Annoyed at the pollution, I pulled out my handkerchief over my nose and walked the narrow lane outside, carefully. The familiar sight of the railway station surroundings greeted me. The booking counter, the hanuman temple nearby, the shoe shops, the magazine stalls, the army trucks that were always parked and the line of food stalls adorned the area. And yes, these food stalls had a special memory attached to them as well, especially one in particular. It was Manju and her food stall.

As I walked more near the station road, I came to where her eatery was located. Seeing it, I did feel a sense of pride for her. That woman was incredible and had done it all, on her own. Very few people especially women coming from poor humble backgrounds, have such grit and determination to achieve success. And yes, Manju was a successful entrepreneur today, standing on her own two feet, independent. It wasn’t easy though. To attain success, she did have to meander through a tedious path of pain and consistent hard work. Nothing comes easy and Manju knew it all too well.

Many years ago, when I was still in school and living in my native land ( before shifting to Bombay that is ), began the story of Manju and her entrepreneurial journey.

Manju was cruelly abandoned by her husband within 2 years of their marraige. He had eloped with his long time mistress. Manju was not aware of it and the news had come as a big bolt of shock to her. Her husband was a construction labourer, who brought enough to the house. But with him suddenly gone, Manju was all alone to fend for herself and her son. Her own family was quite poor, so she didn’t want to go back to the village and burden herself upon them. She couldn’t go to her in-laws too. What was the use, she thought, after her husband had run off with some other woman? They’d hardly accept her willingly, and were not that well off either.

So, Manju decided to stay back in the town and looked for work to sustain herself. She was a school dropout and didn’t really have any special skill for jobs. So, she went around and took up domestic help work in various families. She cooked, cleaned and sometimes even did lower level work to make ends meet. However, Manju was not satisfied. This was not what she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
She knew cooking quite well, so she made her mind not to take those maid type jobs anymore and left them all. It was risky, but she knew in her mind, she had to utilize that one talent of hers and try making it a success. It was quite difficult though. For starters, she didn't quite have enough money needed to start the business, plus, she barely had saved anything from cooking at people’s houses.

Looking for a job, quite frustrated at not knowing how exactly to go forward with her little aim, Manju came to cook at our house when my mother had fallen ill. Manju’s son was 6 years old, whom she was bringing up all alone, all these years. For a while things were going okay. My mother, who usually did cook herself, had fractured her hand, so Manju was an ideal help till she recovered.

One day Manju came up to my mother asking for a loan. She said, just working as cook in someone’s house would never be enough to bring up her son, educate him properly in a good school. She tried working in few other homes too, but it was not enough.

“How much will you require and what are you planning to use it for?” My ever helpful mother asked. Her hand had also recovered and she was okay if Manju wanted to quit.

Manju said the amount, which wasn’t much. She was planning to open a mobile food stall, as she had no other talent besides cooking. She promised to return the loan amount when she earned enough.
My mother gave her the money and told her not to hurry and take her time in returning.

It was a big step Manju was taking. At first, she felt bit uncomfortable, preparing the food at home and then pushing the mobile cart to the nearby railway station platform. The station always saw a big rush of people, and generally all her stuff would be sold off within a few hours. In the beginning, she sold vada- pavs, sabudana vadas, omlette pavs, sandwiches and few other snack items that she’d prepare early in the morning. It was tiring to do all the work herself since early morning, so she called her sibling from her village to help her out. Her younger sister joined her and with her help, Manju was able to expand the menu. People who ate at her place often started visiting regularly and thus became her regular customers. Often they’d recommend their friends to her little eatery.

As days passed, her little business flourished and very soon she was able to repay the loan that she had taken from my mother. From just a mobile food stall, Manju was then able to rent a proper stall now, and in time she hired few more help as demand grew. She also started serving meals like lunch and dinner in that stall which made it very popular. The menu expanded, so did the business and also the profits.
Manju’s son was admitted in a decent school, which was always her aim and he did well in his studies. She would beam in pride at the mention of her son. He may have even reached college by now.

Standing outside, I looked at her stall. It was lively and colorful. I noticed, it was extended and looked bigger, almost like a restaurant.

Seeing me, one lady rushed outside saying, “ND Bitiya!
I instantly recognized her. It was Manju. She was very excited seeing me, “Never expected to see you. Are you on vacation?”

I nodded. She saw the luggage that I carried and asked confused, “Coming or going?”
“Coming! I just reached Ghy, will stay a while. I dropped by to say a quick hello. But don’t worry I’m not done yet. I’ll come again to taste your delicious meals, maybe later in the evening or tomorrow.”

“You are always welcome Bitiya, after all it’s because of your mother’s help I have this shop.” She smiled warmly as I made my way home.


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Copyright 2013 © Nandini Deka
CHICKEN SOUP FOR THE INDIAN ENTREPRENEUR SOUL


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19 comments:

  1. nice read. I remember reading something similar a while back. Way to go!

    www.subzeroricha.blogspot.in

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  2. Loved to read how Manju struggled all odds out to make things better in her life !!
    Nicely narrated !! Super Like ! ! :)

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    1. thanks for reading @mysay :-)

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  3. Courage to fight is the secret behind success ! TFS.

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  4. Nice read indeed..... Best of luck......

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    1. thanks for reading Debopam :-)

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  5. Nicely narrated. Best of luck:)

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  6. A good deed always fetches good will in return. Best of luck for the contest , Nandini:)

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    1. thanks a lot for reading @Rahul :-)

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  7. Way to go, Manju. Good luck with your story, Nandini.

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  8. Nice Read Nandini :) !! Good luck !!

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  9. Nice Story. All the best.

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  10. Well, entrepreneurship is all about taking risks n having the guts to fail.. She had it. So she did it.

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  11. Well, entrepreneurship is all about taking risk n having the guts to fail.. She had it, so she did it. nice write up..

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