All of us, without exception, love home-cooked food. Our heart is with ghar ka khaana and Jayanti Kathale knows that very well; which is why she started Purna Brahma catering service in Bangalore specialising in authentic regional cuisine, especially Marathi cuisine. What differentiates her food from many others in this space? “It’s the love with which I make the food,” she says with a smile, adding that even a Michelin Star chef will find it difficult to match her.
Jayanti was a project manager with Infosys before she quit her well paying job to follow her passion. Born and brought up in a joint family, Jayanti came to Bangalore in 2004 while working for Bristle cone which later became a part of Mahindra consulting group. When she was working here, Jayanti started selling homemade Modak through Orkut. Things were good for a year and business was slowly picking up as word spread about her delicious modaks in the community. But it was soon cut-short as destiny had other plans for Jayanti.
In 2006, her husband got a transfer to Australia and Jayanti also moved there with him. However, not one to lose heart, she continued spreading joy among the Indian community in Australia with her homemade sweets and native cuisine. She was also working in a small company called ImpactData. After she came back from Australia in 2008, Jayanti continued making her favourite Maharashtrian food. Later, after the birth of her child she joined Infosys as a project manager.
She, however, did not stop her catering business. "During Diwali when the demand picked up, we started home delivery. We had an interesting model, if it was a young couple who was ordering, we would ask them to pick up the order from our place. But if it was an old couple we would deliver it to their house. Not only that we would also spend some time talking to them,” says Jayanti.
It wasn't until a heart-wrenching incident that made Jayanti and her husband pursue this side-business of theirs with more conviction. Recounting the incident, Jayanti says it showed them how intrinsically the food we grew up eating is linked to our wellbeing.
"One day an old man called us and said he would like to come over and pick up some Diwali snacks. We told him he needn’t trouble himself and that we will drop it at his place. He anyway came home. When I opened the door he walked straight in and demanded to know why I had shifted the puja room, referring to me as Aparna. He was also upset that I did not offer him water or food. Puzzled, my husband and I tried to tell him that he had come to our house to pick up Diwali snacks. We managed to calm him down and heard his story. He was a retired IAF officer and had two sons who were married and living in the US. It was 18 years since he had seen his sons. He started crying when he told us this. Have you gone there? I asked, ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘We went there but it doesn't suit us, so we came back. My wife has been making laddus for the past 40-45 years for them, now she is bedridden from arthritis. I have heard you make them at home so I came to buy some for her,’ he told us.
“We drove him home and were even more heartbroken to see his wife. Whenever the doorbell rings she assumes her son has come. My husband told him they should go to the US at least they can be with their sons. But he said where would they leave his 106-year-old mother-in-law? That night we could not eat anything. We decided that we will try and bring some happiness in the lives of people by providing them traditional food to fill an emotional void." Jayanthi says with tears in her eyes.
To make sure that people who live away from their families have access to traditional food, Jayanti decided to start Purna Bramha. "It was the bonus time in our companies. My husband asked me if I wanted a diamond necklace or a new car. But we decided to instead start Purna Bramha with that amount,” Jayanti reveals.
They started Purna Bramha in June 2013, and got a cook from their native place. What makes Purna Bramha stand apart from the others is the way they celebrate festivals and different cultures, be it Valentines’ Day or Raksha Bandhan. Every day they have a thali which is based on a cuisine from a specific Maharashtrian region.
Talking about the lessons from her journey, Jayanti gives the following pointers:
1) Always chase your dreams. Never give up come what may.
2) Never lie, honesty always pays.
3) Always have someone to fall back on.