Tiffin Aaw: Srinagar couple delivers hygienic, home-cooked food to encourage healthy food habits

Hailing from Srinagar, Rayees Ahmad, along with his wife Nida Rehman, started their dream venture Tiffin Aaw with the motive of serving hot plates of healthy, home-cooked meals

During the clampdown after the government abrogated Article 370 in August 2019, a 31-year-old man from Srinagar decided to start Kashmir’s first tiffin service.

Hailing from the Valley, Rayees Ahmad, along with his wife Nida Rehman, started their dream venture Tiffin Aaw — meaning “meal has come” — with the motive of serving hot plates of healthy, home-cooked meals. 

The concept of starting this kind of service for the first time in the valley struck in Ahmed’s mind in November 2019, three months after the abrogation of Article 370. 

“During the bone-chilling foggy night when all restaurants were closed in the city, I got a call from one of my friends saying he had not eaten anything since morning due to the lockdown and requested if I can arrange something for him,” Ahmad told SocialStory.

“I entered the kitchen, packed the food in a Tiffin box, and left to drop the order at his office on my two-wheeler,” he recalled, adding “After collecting the Tiffin box a few days later, an idea struck my mind; this is something I need to do.”

Aaw Meals strongly advocates an eco-friendly approach and delivers food in biodegradable packs

Ahmad recalled that on the first day, he delivered about 25 boxes – packed inside a cardboard box and wrapped in a blanket to keep them warm. Today, they deliver upto 150 boxes a day.

When he stepped inside the hall, the employees applauded him for his initiative and efforts to bring food on time. “It was an emotional moment for me. I cried after seeing their warm response. That moment gave me my identity,” an emotional Ahmad says.

At present, he delivers in Srinagar but is optimistic about expanding it across the valley. 

Tiffin couple of Kashmir

Ahmad — also known as “Kashmir's Swiggy Boy” — prefers to call himself the “Tiffin man of Kashmir”, and claims his food is 100 percent homemade without any preservatives, taste enhancers, and colours. 

“Another reason why I decided to start this venture is incidents of increasing stomach cancers in Kashmir due to unhygienic and adulterated food sold in Kashmir. I have made it clear that if anyone ever detects any harmful ingredient like taste enhancers, artificial colours, preservatives from our food, that will be the last day of my venture,” he says.

Besides his business, he is also focused on developing healthy food habits among people. 

“I do not want people to skip their lunch. I also do not want them to eat unhygienic and harmful food. On the other hand, I do not want to harm the environment by packing food in plastic packs, which is why I am delivering food in biodegradable packs,” says Ahmad, with a smile.

In fact, those who do not know cooking or are busy in the office can now order healthy, hygienic, and home-cooked food to their doorsteps.

Distributing food amidst COVID-19

In 2021, during the second COVID-19 wave, Ahmed received a call from a Kashmir-based doctor in Delhi asking to cook food for their elderly parents as he was out of the city. “That prompted us to resume our services,” he said. 

Aaw Meals focuses on serving healthy traditional food to promote better eating habits among people

Both Ahmad and his wife Nida started receiving distress calls from COVID-19 patients or their attendants, who were unable to cook food for them. 

Earlier, Tiffin Aaw was known for serving traditional delicacies, including ‘alle yakhin’ (bottle-gourd cooked in yoghurt), ‘gogjare te zombere thool’ (dried turnip and boiled egg), and ‘nadur te palak’ (lotus-stem and spinach), among others. But for the COVID-19 patients, they started preparing healthy food for the patients in consultation with the doctors.

Following all the SOPs, a group of 10 people led by Ahmed and his wife were cooking and delivering food during the COVID-19 led lockdown. The husband-wife duo was dropping orders at various city hospitals, hostels, quarantine centres, and banks. 

“We both delivered the food in our car while wearing PPE kit and following proper COVID-19 SOPs to ensure the security of others,” Nida (32) tells SocialStory. In 2020, “Tiffin Aaw” was delivering food to doctors, attendants, and patients during the pandemic, but it was a paid service at the time.

Future plans

Before this venture, Ahmad was running an advertising agency for 15 years. Banking on his years of marketing experience, he kickstarted Tiffin Aaw on February 3, 2020. Ahmad gets orders through direct phone calls or messages on Tiffin Aaw’s respective social media handles. 

At present, Ahmad is planning to start the Food for Kashmir Tiffin Aaw Foundation — an initiative to provide free home-cooked food for needy people, including the poor and patients. 

“We are launching this initiative from next month, and we are hopeful that we will get good public support for this,” says Nida.

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Edited by Suman Singh