Celebrating the Artisans: Food Mela

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For the artisans, their own enjoyment is last on the list of their priorities.  That is why at MarketPlace we make a point of prioritizing recreation. Every year we have two events dedicated to fun, community and celebration for all the women. In the past it has been either a picnic out of the city or Artisans’ Day where the groups performed skits, dances or songs. This year on March 12, the women celebrated with a food mela, or food fair.

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A great deal of planning went into the event.  Each group had a stall offering their own home cooked food. Because the mela was held in a hall with no cooking facilities, they had to plan menus which did not need to be hot or require last-minute cooking. The groups held meetings to coordinate their menus to avoid overlap.

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The groups also had to estimate how much to make, taking into account that there were 8 stalls and lots of choices. They also had figure out how to price their items – too high and they would not sell much, too low and they would not break even. In addition, they had to provide plates, spoons, napkins, etc. Teams were formed to order tables, set up the hall, distribute the food tickets, and, of course, clean up.

Each artisan was given coupons worth Rs 150 to spend as she liked. And the delicious variety of the foods offered at all the stalls made the choices difficult! Nirmaan served chaat (street food) like bhel puri and pani puri, savory snacks combining vegetables, tangy sauces and puffed rice or crunchy shells.

Sahara offered Chinese-inspired food, including soup and fried rice.

WARE served vegetable sandwiches, dahi wada (crunchy fried wheat balls in thick yogurt sauce) and gulab jamun, balls made from milk solids soaked in sweet syrup.

Ghar Udyog cooked South Indian idlis (steamed rice and lentil cakes) and wadas (savory gram flour donuts) accompanied by sambar, a spicy soup.

Raanphool Mahila Mandal served vegetable patties, karanji (a flakey pastry made from coconut and chickpeas) and revala cake, a traditional rice cake.

Arpan prepared two different flat breads: puran poli, sweet flatbread with a filling made from lentils, and zunka bhakri, a savory bread flavored with onion and spices.

Aashyana offered milkshakes, made from a delicious local fruit called Sita’s fruit, and Kheer, a rice pudding with cardamon and nuts.

Shramik Mahila Mandal served Poha wada, a fried patty made with flaked rice and jeera puri, a puffy bread seasoned with roasted cumin seeds.

A lot to digest!

We all learned a lot from this experience. For one thing, either the Rs 150 given to each woman was too much, or the food was underpriced. RMM and SMM accommodated for this by offering boxed food which could be bought to take home. They had originally packaged their food carefully to survive their long trip into the city, but it made it a great take-away product. There were clearly not enough dishes in the sweets and dessert category. After eating their fill of the spicy, salty and savory foods, everyone went to Aashyana for a taste of the milkshake and kheer, always a popular dessert. Because they had specialized in desserts, they had a lot to offer and ended up as the day’s top seller!

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After we were done eating, we cleared the floor for dancing. Everyone had a ball as they twirled and swayed in folk dance, traditional, or Bollywood style.

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One comment

  1. I feel such an affinity with all Indian. I am so thankful for the women/catalog from which I have ordered clothes for some 30-40 years. I love the cotton fabrics, the patterns, the colors, etc. & am forever hopeful that the women will succeed & continue with their work.

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