It is 9.30 in the morning. A small kitchen in Juhu is buzzing with activity. Vegetables are getting peeled and chopped, dough being kneaded, spices ground and dabbas packed. The scenes may seem ordinary, however, are special. Arpan may be one of the many dabba services in Mumbai, but what makes it stand out is the team behind it. Initiated in April 2015 by Mumbai-based Yash Charitable Trust, it employs around eight members between the age group of 22 and 37 years with developmental disabilities. Purpose: to deliver wholesome, homemade food to Mumbaikars! The happy bunch manages everything - shopping for grocery, cleaning, peeling, chopping, cooking, packing the food, billing, delivery, and receiving payments with the help of supervisors.
Food for a purpose
While most organisations work with children with disabilities, there are very few who are involved in finding suitable work for them after school. “The idea is to provide them with a platform, which would enhance the quality of life,” says Sushama Nagarkar, Managing Trustee of Yash. By providing them with real work experiences in the community that they live in plus rewarding them with a stipend was therefore the best call.
What makes the folks at Arpan stand out is their carefree attitude and zeal for life. Their love for homemade food also needs a special mention. “I love to cook!” says 29-year-old Aarti while chopping veggies. Apart from cooking, she keeps herself busy with music lessons post work.
Aarti, who is also Nagarkar’s daughter, is among the many who are committed to their job. Most of them commute to their workplace using public transport. The day typically starts by buying grocery and vegetables followed by cleaning and chopping and finally cooking. Since most of them are not comfortable cooking on gas stoves, food is made using induction cooktops and rice cookers.
Menu, delivery and logistics
The dabba prepared by Arpan has a vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian option. While the former typically comprises a vegetarian dish, dal, chapatis and rice, the latter comes with chicken or egg. Currently the delivery service is available in Juhu, Santa Cruz, Khar and Bandra. If the location is close by, the staff deliver the dabbas themselves. However, if it’s far-off, they get assistance. Nagarkar informs around 30 tiffins are dispatched on a daily basis. Priced between Rs. 120 and Rs. 180, Arpan is open on all days excluding bank holidays. The menu changes daily and is planned on Saturdays for the entire week.
If you are ordering your lunch from Arpan, you can expect mainly north Indian dishes such as dum aloo, Punjabi pakoda kadhi, bhindi do pyaaza, kadhai chicken, mushroom matar, dal fry, rajma, matar paneer and black dal.
Arpan also makes packaged products like ginger-garlic paste, fried onions and fresh sprouts by order.
Fresh packaged foods are sold by order.
Challenges and future plans
One of the major challenges faced by the team at Arpan is the lack of space. Although the team is willing to welcome more members, however due to lack of space, this has not been possible. “The goal is to be financially viable. Though this is not profit oriented, we do have to cover the costs. But, the accomplishments make the challenges worth facing,” admits Nagarkar.
Arpan is not just a platform that encourages adults to be independent, it also supports the local vegetable vendors by using their produce on a daily basis.
The bigger purpose
At the end of the day, Nagarkar hopes to change the mindset of people towards these adults. “I would urge people to come up with ideas of inclusion for these people in community services,” she says.
You can call 9892418057 to order your dabba or check out their website.