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Here comes dabbawali of Bhagalpur

An entrepreneur of sorts, she has been providing homemade food to students not just for monetary gains, reports Kumar Rajesh.

india Updated: Nov 23, 2006 21:09 IST

She may not be famous as the ‘dabbawalas of Mumbai’. She also does not expect to be invited by Britain’s heir apparent Prince Charles neither her work to be mentioned in the ‘Forbes’ magazine.

Nevertheless, she is committed to providing lunch boxes filled with wholesome, homemade food to girl hostellers from afar pursuing studies in the town.

Meet Mani Verma, a Home Science graduate from Patna University.

An entrepreneur of sorts, she has been providing homemade food to students not just for monetary gains, but more out of ‘motherly affection’ for girls, who come here from far off villages and remote areas to make a career for themselves.

What started as concern for a close relative to provide hygienic, homemade food during the late 1990s, soon turned into a desire to serve others like her.
Moved by the plight of students living in private lodges near a college here, Mani took up the work on a larger scale in 2000 with a motley staff of three persons.
Her 11-year stint (from 1982 to 1993) in Anganwari training centre under the Indian Council of Child Welfare (ICCW) at Munger, came handy. She later shifted to Bhagalpur for her son’s education, who is pursuing engineering course in SIT (Jaipur).

Addressed as ‘Amma’ by the girls she serves, the entrepreneur says that the idea to provide food through the ‘dabba’ system took germ after seeing a mushrooming of private hostels near Sunderwati Mahila College here where many girls were forced to reside apparently due to inadequate number of seats in the college hostel.

Through a relative studying here and facing a similar situation, she came to know that students often fell ill due to the unhygienic food they were forced to eat.

"Bahar kaa khana chahey woh achchey hotel ya dhaba ka hi kyon na ho, roj roj khaney say health kharab ho jata hai” (Eating outside food whether from good restaurants or small hotels leads to health problems), said Meet Mani Verma.
She was providing lunch and dinner to students at a ‘no profit, no loss’ basis.

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First Published: Nov 23, 2006 21:09 IST