Imake really good idli-sambhar,” beams Pritam Lakra as he bustles around the kitchen in a flat in south Delhi’s Vasant Kunj. A month ago, the 23-year-old couldn’t tell a spatula from a rolling pin; now, he can whip up over 40 dishes, from Punjabi to south Indian and Chinese to Italian. “My rotis don’t always turn out soft and round,” he admits sheepishly. “Back home, we eat mostly rice.”
“Home” is Darjeeling, where Lakra was an errand boy at a local grocery store. When the local church announced that a Delhi-based company was looking to train people as domestic help — cooks, chauffeurs and maids — he jumped at the opportunity. The company brought Lakra and others like him to Delhi, where he’s getting a crash course in the culinary arts. Once he’s deemed fit for employment, Bodhicrew will find him a job at one of the 200-odd households that are on its waiting list. He’s assured an income considerably higher than what he would have earned at Darjeeling and, more importantly, Bodhicrew will keep an eye to see he continues getting a fair deal here in Delhi.
Bodhicrew is the brainchild of Manab Chakraborty and Vivek Kumar Kaushik, both veterans in the social enterprise field. While Chakraborty heads a microfinance company Mimo Finance and also runs an NGO, Partners in Prosperity, Kaushik is the founder of non-profit organisation, Edwell Society. The two met when Kaushik was overseeing a project on the ultra-poor and decided to work with this most impoverished lot. Their finding: the really poor in the interiors of the country migrate to urban centres in search of employment. But they don’t have employable skills and end up becoming part of the urban poor. “So, we decided to do