Published: 20th January 2020
Born with Down Syndrome, Aditi Verma's culinary journey is your daily dose of inspiration
We talk to Aditi Verma to trace her journey so far and the hard work that went into establishing Aditi's Corner in Mumbai. Combined with her gritty story, the good food is what draws people here
It's been four years since the opening of Aditi's Corner — a little café in Navi Mumbai — that serves some pretty wholesome and soul-warming Maggi, we hear. And we instantly believe this claim when we meet the owner and chef, 25-year-old Aditi Verma. Despite being born with Down Syndrome, Aditi has loved her quaint café as do the people who frequent the joint. She says, "For me, cooking food is nothing but happiness. When you love the work that you do, then you will be happy."
As someone who was born a little 'different', Aditi had been through her unfair share of tough times growing up. However, sticking by her side and providing her with all the hope and strength she required were (and still are) her parents. Narrating her story of struggle, she says, "Down Syndrome is a condition that delays the physical growth, mental health and intellectual ability of a child. I started speaking and walking a little later than the average child. People at school used to tease me for my looks — for having a big face and big eyes. It was getting difficult for me day by day."
Her parents, who understood her plight, soon shifted her to a special school. "That's when things changed for me because I met people who were similar to me. Even the teachers listened to us patiently," Aditi says, adding, "As my father was in a government job, he was transferred from one place to another. When we shifted to Mumbai, I was enrolled at Swami Brahmanand Pratishthan Centre for Special Children where I learnt most of the important subjects, including Math, language, dance and drama. At the age of 18, I took up vocational training courses where I learnt cooking, food display, making handicrafts, buying commodities on a limited budget, managing finances and other key skills. It was like this course was tailor-made for me. Now, I use this knowledge to run my café."
When chef Vikas Khanna visited Aditi's Corner (Pic: twitter)
But even before all this, Aditi developed an interest in cooking and learning new recipes via YouTube videos. "During my free time, I would switch to YouTube and look for different recipes there. I would try cooking these dishes and those at home always gave me positive feedback. It struck me then that I wanted to start something of my own. My parents were so sweet and encouraging of my idea to study a business. By the end of 2015, they gifted me the café that's in the CBD Belapur area of Navi Mumbai and in January 2016, Aditi's Corner came to life. It has been four years since I started my café and the journey has been fantastic," she says.
Today, Aditi's Corner serves at least 50 customers per day and that's not including the online orders she recieves through food delivery apps. Apart from her famous Maggi, she also makes vegetable sandwiches, pav and egg bhurji, buttermilk and other such comforting food. From cooking the food to serving her customers to cleaning the tables — Aditi does it all by herself. She has one other person who helps her by delivering the food or buying groceries whenever required. When we ask her to recall her best moment at the café, she says, "I will forever treasure famous Indian chef Vikas Khanna's visit to my café. I never imagined that he would visit and congratulate me for the work I have been doing. Apart from this, I was invited on the Meri Maggi YouTube channel and interviewed by actor Renuka Shahane."
This young entrepreneur has achieved a lot in the past four years and this is only the beginning of realising Aditi's dreams. She wants to open her own hotel where she can not only serve food to people with love, but employ people like her who have Down Syndrome and other issues so that they can also earn for themselves.