At The Bombay Canteen while we went all the nine yards to have a sourcing consultant on our team who helps us procure indigenous produce, our everyday local sabzi needs have been met by dear ‘Daaji’ for almost 3 years now. Saraja Yashwanth Shinde is lovingly called Daaji by his employers, family and back home in his village. Originally from Sangli, Daaji went to school until the 9th grade. He recalls that during his time growing up, it was never a mandate to complete school to bag yourself a job. A well-wisher from his village offered him a job at a clothing mill in Bombay which is what brought him to the city. While that didn’t quite work out as planned, he was offered a job to work with a vegetable vendor in Bombay’s Crawford Market.
At the young age of 20, Daaji started familiarizing himself with local names of vegetables and fruits, the prices they went by based on the time of the year and also seasonal changes. After 12 years of working here, he felt confident enough to start his business. Daaji today has been his own boss for almost 30 years now. We asked him what convinced him to stay in this line of work, he says when you know something at the back of your hand and when work doesn’t’ feel like work, that’s when you know. For him vegetable supplying felt like that, effortless in a way. Today he supplies to some of the most reputed restaurants across the city. But this job is not easy as he makes it sound.
At the age of 60, Daaji still wakes up every morning at 3 am to go to the Vashi APMC market to buy vegetables. He then travels to the other side of the city to Byculla, where he segregates his vegetables and then goes out to deliver at 9 am. Post Covid-19, he has 4 people working under him but Daaji personally delivers all our requirements. Even though our ordering quantities have drastically reduced for cost efficiency, Daaji knows that this association with us is for keeps.
When you look at Daaji, even though his face may give away his age a little, his stature and strength is that of a 20-year-old. He still carries heavy sacks of vegetables all by himself. Not a lot of people know this, growing up Daaji was an Indian wrestling player who has represented his zilla, city, state and country. He has in fact also won first place at representing Maharashtra. This quite frankly explains why!
Even today, Daaji watches his diet and health with utmost attention. Daaji now is training his son in wrestling as well and coaches him every day.
Daadji gave us his recipe to a healthy life!
- 100 grams of dry fruits (for breakfast)
- 1 glass of sugarcane juice (in the morning)
- Plain rotis with a simple vegetable prep with one glass of buttermilk (for lunch)
- 4 -5 bananas paced out through the day
- 2 glasses of a fruit juice at night
He truly swears by this way of eating and recalls that there hasn’t been a day where he has skipped work due to ill health. Maybe we all can take little bit from this no?
We asked Daaji about people’s general eating patterns and he talks about the wave of ‘English vegetables'. It’s the age of broccoli, bell peppers & blueberries and that's what people demand as well. He says no one really prefers simple vegetables like the humble methi or lal math because people are clueless about how to cook them, let alone eating them!
So Daaji doesn’t feel the need to convince them otherwise.
Every day that Daaji walks in to deliver our vegetables, he has the brightest smile on his face and it really lights up our hearts. He plays an integral role in our Hunger Inc village and we are truly grateful for everything he does for us.