Published: 07th March 2020
Everyday Sheroes: Here's how Megha Kantilal Kanabar charmed Hyderabad with her spicy vada pav
In our run-up to International Women's Day 2020, we have curated stories of women who aren't extraordinary — but our world may just stop going around smoothly if they decided to call it a day
At 7:30 pm, when we proceeded towards the Chachaji bandi permanently docked opposite Dimmy Pan Palace on Penderghast Road, a crowd was already gathering, waiting to bite into the buttery and hot vada pav that the bandi has grown to be famous for. And in the midst of the sizzle of a hot buttered pan, rustle of paper plates and voices of people placing their orders was the matriarch, Megha Kantilal Kanabar. And though the group of people gathered around the bandi did overwhelm me, Aunty remains unfazed as she juggles multiple orders and says to me, "Shall we begin the interview?"
So, while she made fresh vada pavs and slathered dollops of assorted chutneys, Megha began by telling us how she came to Hyderabad in 2003 after the death of her child, quitting her job as an F&B Manager at Fidalgo Hotel, Goa (where her husband was Head Chef). "I had to begin again somewhere and this is where I chose to begin," says Megha Aunty, who was born and brought up in Nagpur. For someone who did not know Hyderabad from Secunderabad when she first arrived, she has since captured the hearts and palates of people from Telangana's Twin Cities, as residents of both visit the colony specifically to satiate their craving for her vada pav.
"Starting out is always a struggle, no matter how good your dish is, but the high point is that if you make it well, the love of people will take you very far," she says Megha Kantilal Kanabar
With the help of the Gujarati Samaj and the good folks at DV House, Megha was able to get by. But the truth is, she believes, "When people don't have anything, they need to help themselves." So, that's what she did. She and her husband took up jobs, worked hard, set up the bandi and yet, the struggle wasn't over. "GHMC members, area leaders, rowdies — there were many who threatened us. A few even asked us what Gujaratis are doing in Hyderabad. This is India and we can go anywhere, why should anyone stop us?" boldly asks the Commerce graduate from PWS College, Nagpur, sounding exasperated while a few customers listening in to her story nod in unison. And it is during these times of strife that the ultimate motto dawned on her — Jo dargaya, woh margaye (The one who is scared, dies). "We are not uneducated, we know the law. I stood my ground, kept selling and after what felt like a long time, people started appreciating what we were offering and it is their love that has got us this far. It's because I dared that I, today, sell over 500 vada pavs a day," she says as she adds freshly cut onions, sautéed chilies and two chutneys to every vada pav.
The famous vada pav aunty | (Pic: S Senbagapandiyan)
So, what makes Megha’s vada pav so famous? "I make it with love and sincerity," she says with a smile. As an aside, she says that she uses the choicest ingredients to make her famous dish — Bombay besan, dates for the khatti meethi chutney (not just tamarind and jaggery) and so much more. She plans on introducing misal pav, another dish that Hyderabadis would do good to savour. She is also flying to Gujarat for another business which she chooses to remain tight-lipped about. "All I hope is that women realise their power and exercise it," says Megha Aunty as she bids us goodbye while continuing to serve vada pavs with a side of love.
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