Pop-up Delhi kitchen where women from war-torn nations serve ‘magic’

New Delhi: At the Bosco Centre by UNHCR, a group of women who fled war and instability at home Iraq, Afghanistan, Congo, Nepal, Somalia have gathered. They have set up food-stalls in this ‘pop-up’ kitchen, a kind of a temporary arrangement.

The chéfs, who hail from five disparate countries, are each other’s next- door neighbours in Delhi’s Khirkee area. The complexities of a multi-ethnic society has made Khirkee a flamboyant centre of food, flavours and heritage. “The food culture here is forever in flux,” said 40-year-old Sreejata Roy, an artist.

At this edition of Pop Up, with language barriers between the chefs and the guests, the conversation is considerably scattered, filled with moments of deep comprehension and is eventually limited to the transaction of food.

It’s intriguing to wonder how these women converse with one another in such a situation. The answer, however, lies in the neatly decked tables of cuisines from five countries that are almost like a relic of their heritage. It tells us that magically enough, these women speak in their own unique syntax the language of food.

And just like that, food becomes the conduit to their hearts with deeper conversations about personal origins often manifesting into painful narratives of displacement, migration and the burden of nostalgia that comes with it. Food then becomes a common thread that entwines the fate of these women as they try to locate and adapt to new food habits.

A young woman in the crowd whispers to her friend, “This is magical,” and merrily munches on Afghani pulao. On the other side, a quiet smile on the face of a Somalian woman as she humbly accepts the payment for another plate, is perhaps an indication that she too feels the same. The magic.

 The pop-up kitchen is an attempt to provide migrant women adjust in this different land and to earn a livelihood as a lot of these women have no or minimal source of income. The idea is also to create an online museum of food through archiving recipes, traditions around eating, and other things like songs about food. -Sreejata Roy, an artist

Defying the language barrier

  • It’s intriguing to wonder how these women converse with one another in such a situation.
  • The answer, however, lies in the neatly decked tables of cuisines from five countries that are almost like a relic of their heritage. It tells us that magically enough, these women speak in their own unique syntax the language of food.
  • Lately, some Afghani women have started learning a little bit of Hindi and English at Bosco. However, communication for them largely thrives on facial expressions, the universal language to understand one another.