If you were to browse the e-commerce sites for exciting books for children with special needs, you are most likely to find books on managing kids with special needs, or how to cater to them as they grow. You may even spot a few special storybooks, but nothing more.
What won’t turn up is Jyoti Mathur’s My Cooking Recipe Book for Special Children. As the title suggests, it is a recipe book for children with special needs. It comprises recipes that do not require a stove or electric equipment, but dishes the kids can put together by combining a few ingredients with someone’s help or even on their own.
Jyoti Mathur is a mother, author and restaurateur. HerStory spoke with her to know more about the many hats she dons.
Children with special needs
A mother to a child with special needs, Jyoti realised that her daughter was always interested in cooking, and so one day, while hunting for a book with recipes her daughter could cook, she realised that there were none. It prompted her to write one, not just for her daughter, but also for other children with special needs, who may be interested in cooking.
Jyoti sent the book to many schools for special kids such as Amar Jyoti, Green fields (special section), and it was well received by children and their parents.
As a mother, she faced challenges, especially when her daughter was small, but she says, “With time, things got better and I am thankful to my immediate and extended family who were, and are always there for us.”
Flick a Dish
Jyoti’s other pet project is Flick a Dish, a café and a takeaway restaurant she started in March 2015 in Delhi’s Lajpat Nagar, where favourites on the menu include Nani ke aloo and Dadi ki chai.
“The concept was developed as a takeaway joint and serves our family recipes that have been handed down for years in our community, i.e. the Mathur family. Born into a Mathur family and married into one, the recipes will soon be passed down to my daughters as per our tradition.”
The red bright walls of the café give it a cosy feel. Kitschy objects that adorn the wall alongside family pictures, coffee-table books, vintage tablecloths, and antique teapots add to its charm. The USP of the place is the special masalas exclusively prepared by the Chef.
Jyoti who is 52 says, “My husband encouraged me to do this. Since my daughters have grown up and don’t need my attention, I decided to pursue this. The journey so far has been a learning experience. Things have picked up slowly, but the overwhelming customer response has been our primary motivating factor. Each day is a new experience with new learnings that help us develop our relationship with our customers.”
Jyoti and her family have been working hard and her husband and daughters have been pitching in too. “It has not been easy, but we believed in our dreams,” says a beaming Jyoti.
Born in Delhi and brought up abroad, Jyoti says she had an exciting childhood that was filled with travel as her father worked with Air India. She shares, “I have lived like a princess, visited different countries, experienced new cultures and learnt new languages.”
It was during her father’s posting in India that Jyoti decided to pursue her love for art and language and study French . She went on to top the academy. Soon after, she got married and settled down in India. When her second daughter, a child with special needs was born, her family became her priority and all her attention and energies were focussed on the home.
Challenges and learning
Jyoti’s biggest challenge was the transition from an easy-paced routine to a demanding one at both home and the café. But it’s a role she has eased into.
With the multiple hats she has donned, she says her biggest learning has been, “To continuously introspect and improve as a person, and thereby improve upon human interaction, which is very important.”
Despite being busy with the café, she also plans to use it as a place to take cooking classes for special kids, and help them learn basic techniques and easy-to-make recipes. “It is something I am planning to roll out. Let’s see how successful it is,” she says, looking forward to the new challenge.