The dependent housewife who rose up to own food joint

Shilpa at Halli Mane Rotti

From zero rupees a day to Rs 300, 400, 500, 1,000 to 5,000 and sometimes even reaching an earnings of Rs 8,000 a day, Shilpa of Halli Mane Rotti in Mangaluru has a story to share, of selling the humble rotti made from rice, jowar or raagi (bajara) flour. From just an SSLC pass to a guest speaker at several managements, engineering and other institutes, her journey has been phenomenal.

Smilingly preparing to start her cooking for the evening, Shilpa says, "Having a conviction in oneself, never say 'die’ attitude and not depending on other’s help should be the mantra of life’’.

She is a survivor. A single mother deserted by husband, with a slight disability in her hands, 35-years-old Shilpa Shilpa today is a role model for many Mangalureans.

Hailing from Hassan, she couldn’t pursue her studies due to financial restraints. Father’s small farmland wasn’t enough to feed a family of four. Just when she was wondering about the future, she met Mangaluru-based iron ore transporter Rajashekhar. It was a chance meeting that led to marriage and shifting to Mangaluru. "We were very happy, he had a very successful business and was loved by all his colleagues. He asked me to bring my parents and brother over so that we could all lead a good life,’’ recalls Shilpa.

Her woes started ten years ago, when Rajashekhar failed to return from one of the usual business trips to Bengaluru. Everyone including the cops tried to find him. It took a toll on her health, with depression setting in. She lost everything as her husband’s business was taken over by others without giving her any share.

"One day I realised that my parents, brother and three-year-old son could barely procure one meal a day. That’s when I decided to take my life in my hands,’’ reminisces the lady.

She did odd jobs such as a receptionist while her brother Chiranjeevi dropped out of college and got a job of a watchman. A couple of years later, Shilpa decided to start some business as their combined income wasn’t enough to run the family.

"The only thing I knew was cooking and that too our Hassan food. I looked around and realised that though Mangaluru offered every cuisine, there was no outlet of Hassan food which has a different taste. Our everyday food is rottis made from rice flour and the raagi mudde. Our masala makes vegetables taste different," she says.

Shilpa decided to start a mobile food joint (Halli Mane) for which she needed a vehicle. All she had was Rs one lakh kept in a fixed deposit of her seven-year-old son. She bought a new van on EMI basis, after breaking the deposit. She sold her gold to convert the van to meet her needs and to buy the essentials.

Chiranjeevi is her main support. As her weak hand lacks the strength to knead or make rottis, the brother makes them. She roasts them and makes the vegetable curry, chutney and the non-veg dishes. The first month was bad. But Shilpa decided that they would try for one more month. That’s when things started changing.

The Halli Mane rotti is open only in the evenings. Her clientele range from office boys to corporate houses. From the past four years, she hasn’t increased the price. One can have a sumptuous any two rottis, chutney, a bowl of gravy vegetable for just Rs 30 and a non-veg dish and two rottis for Rs 90. Raagi Mudde, and rice is offered only on particular days.

Recipient of many awards, Shilpa who at present is taking treatment for a serious spine problem, a birth defect exaggerated due to long hours of standing to cook, says: "Don’t try to emulate others. Recognise your own talent and develop it. Because I offered what I am best at, I succeeded."

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