All my associations – with people, places or moments start with the kitchen. This was no different. It was almost 2 years back that my association with Mums Who Share began. A small email from my good friend Priti initiated me into a group of Mums who would cook food in their kitchens and go and distribute the food among the construction workers in a pre-fixed construction site every Thursday mornings. Along with home cooked meals the workers would also get Pita Breads, chilled juices, one fruit like apples, oranges or bananas, biscuits, fruit yoghurts etc. ‘We cook, We Give, We care’ bragged these Mums and they did exactly that – they cooked, they gave and they shared!
My first Thursday of being a Mum who shared was an eye-opener. My contribution was very little – 25 juices of 250ml/each, probably from my stock meant for the Z-SISTERS’ school snack. I accompanied the Mums to a dusty construction site in one of the many on-going construction sites around Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR). The food was collected mostly at the Ground floor parking of Bahar 4. Cars with individual Mums dropped in various food items. There were collected and stacked into two or three 4-wheel drives along with pots and pans filled with hot home-cooked salans/gravies of Chick peas, Potatoes or an occasional chicken preparation and all the other items like plastic disposable containers, plastic spoons etc that has been collected over the previous week. When we entered the construction site the workers would be instructed to stand in a line. A make-shift tent would be put up in seconds. Thish Thash! Car-keys would be used to slash open the plastics or the cardboard cartons containing biscuit. Slash, slash! Mums would start handing over the food. Jaldi Jaldi – Juice lelo Bhaisaab!/Fast Fast, Go Mister take the juice next… The first Mum hands over the Plastic Plates, bowls and spoons. Onto the next Mum – Pita Bread. Onto the next Mum – Khaboos/Arabic Flat Bread. Onto the next Mum – Chickpeas. Onto the next Mum – An apple or an orange or a banana. Onto the next Mum – A fruit yoghurt. Onto the next Mum – Chilled Juice/Coke can. Onto the next Mum – A biscuit pack. Khalaas/Done? Jaldi Jaldi/Quick Quick! Dusra/Next? All executed in an organised manner, planned to precision. Come hail (or should I say heat here?) or storm (or should I say Shamal/Dust storm?) every Thursday would be the same.
My initial contribution was just 25 juices. But I must have served around 250 workers that day. It was also Diwali, one of the biggest Indian festivals. I felt as if I treated everyone. Though I felt very good but I forgot about this Thursday affair immediately after my first day of volunteering. A month later I remembered suddenly about this. Hopped in once again to help and helped distributing food to around 300 workers. It was Ramadan. Had the same sense of déja vu – felt good again but forgot about this Thursday too! Memory became clear again on Christmas. And after a wild New Year’s Eve, my vision suddenly became clear and memory stopped failing. I don’t know what happened but I became a part of Mums Who Share.
Life through dark Prada glasses and driving around in 4-WD
Living in Dubai has it’s charm. You live amidst bling. Life seems to be comfortable. Shopping Malls profess to sell everything. Here festivals are centred around shopping. You have Dubai Shopping Festival. Tourists throng the beaches even when the temperature outside can house a sauna. We drive around in our shaded cars and see our lives through our dark glasses. School runs, personal aspirations and career goals, week-end socialisings, showing off my beloved city to the guests who join in, either on transit or on visit – describing my life as merely ‘hectic’ would be like describing the peak Dubai summer ‘warm’ when the temperature rises to a sweltering 50 degrees (as shown in the car dashboard and never officially). Initially, I would cook a kabuli chana/chick pea preparation and would accompany the Mums to the construction sites. Then slowly I shifted to contributing 50 chilled juices. Then one day I was told by a worker to bring in chilled Coke cans, not juices! So I began giving Coked cans. But that lasted only for a while. I didn’t feel good contributing towards these chilled ‘real treat’ as the workers would call the coke cans. Then I shifted to fruit yoghurts and it’s been a long time that I haven’t been able to accompany the Mums to the construction sites on Thursday mornings as the timings coincide with Li’l Z’s nursery pick up time. Also, I have resorted to a more make-shift convenient arrangement. Every Thursday the local grocery store send 50 fruit yoghurts to a Mum who stays near me. The fruit yoghurts reach Asra chilled and just in time as she leaves for the construction site. No more storage space needed in my Refrigerator or hers as it was required earlier when I would buy yoghurts on my weekly grocery and store them in my Refrigerator and send them over to Asra’s on Thursday mornings!
I do whatever suits me. Others Mums do whatever suits them – time, food items or volunteer physically. Each does whatever one can. When I felt that cooking a dish was becoming a bit stressful for me, I stopped. When I felt that accompanying the Mums to the construction site was becoming difficult for me, I stopped it. When I felt that dropping the juices all the way to Bahar 5 was becoming too much, I stopped it too. When I felt buying something and storing them in my Refrigerator was becoming too much I stopped that it once again! Every time I figured an easier way out.
What I didn’t stop was severe my ties with Mums Who Share, all because there weren’t any obligation. Just a commitment towards a good cause which has grown from feeding 10 workers to feeding currently almost 400-500 workers every Thursday. Today Mums Who Share organises special drives during Ramadan, Diwali or Christmas when they have managed to donate Blankets, Special Care packs containing personal grooming items, Watches, Rucksacks, Shirts and a lot more. My contribution is very little. 50 fruit yogurts every Thursday and a contribution towards 20 shirts or 15 Rucksacks or 5 watches or 10 blankets – or whatever it may be towards their special cause. What started off as stirring up a small meal in the kitchen has now become a weekly gratification. Lots of effort goes into making individual care packs for so many workers. I remember Big Z and Li’l Z helping me with making around 20 care-packs (our minor contribution) with ribbons and ‘Ramadan Kareem’ written on small hand made cards. Our children have accompanied us to the sites on holidays. They have helped us with our packing the individual care-packs. In-fact, there is a community initiative Kids Who Share which enables the children to be a part of the process of sharing as well.
It all started in the kitchen
Initiated by Saba H Qizilbash and Shahneela Ghafur in 2008, Mums Who Share began as a simple gesture of distributing food on Thursdays on the traditional belief that this would bring in blessings and goodwill for family and loved ones. So, every Thursday a few mums would take time out to cook and pack food to distribute around the neighbouring construction sites with the focus being ‘sharing’ no matter how big or little the quantity. Today, around 400 workers are fed every Thursday and special donation drives during festive occasions strive to collect stuff which might help the workers or bring about some cheers and lots of smile.
Around 8-10 Mums form a core group – Asra, Amal, Priti, Saba, Sara, Shahneela, Sobia, Priti. They chalk out the left-overs from the previous week (not food but all the disposables and beverages etc) and send out a mail with the quantity required for each items. A few additional Mums regularly volunteer in the site including french Mums like Dominique, Beatrice and Orian. Aunty Parhin & Monica frequent the site regularly as well. And there is a bevy of more than 100 dedicated Mums who contribute towards this Thursday distribution. Special mention has to be made to Renu, a Mum who had been part of this initiative for the last 4 years. Nowadays meals are not cooked by individual Mums anymore on grounds of maintaining hygiene and consistency in the food that is going to be served. A very generous lady who prefers to remain unnamed cooks Chickpeas for around 400 workers. Sometimes Biryani Rice or even an occasional treat of Chicken Biryani. This allows the group to gather juices, soft-drinks, biscuits, fruits, Pita Breads, disposable bowls and plates for more than 400 workers, every Thursday!
1 juice can, 1 biscuit pack, 1 fruit yoghurt – any amount helps!
I would love to hear your interpretations of the sporadic colours amidst the B/W photographs. All these photographs have been taken by the other Mums while I take credit for a bit of photo-shopping and choosing them. I wanted to share our story so that anybody living around is aware of this group, so the next time you have ordered too many soft drinks for your weekend party please give us a shout by visiting our Facebook page and we will be too happy to spring-clean your kitchen cupboard. The Gulf New’s Friday magazine featured us once. We are based around the JBR/Marina Area. We are the Mums Who Share!
Unblogging it all… Ishita