During the clampdown after the public authority revoked Article 370 in August 2019, a 31-year-man from Srinagar chose to begin Kashmir’s first tiffin service.
Hailing from the Valley, Rayees Ahmad, alongside his wife Nida Rehman, began their fantasy adventure Tiffin Aaw — signifying “meal has come” — with the thought process of serving hot plates of solid, home-prepared dinners.
The idea of beginning this sort of service without precedent for the valley struck Ahmed in November 2019, 90 days after the revocation of Article 370.
“During the frigid hazy night when all eateries were shut in the city, I got a call from one of my companions saying he had not eaten anything since morning because of the lockdown and mentioned in the event that I could arrange something for him,” Ahmad told.
“I entered the kitchen, stuffed the food in a Tiffin box, and left to drop the request at his office on my bike,” he added, “while collecting the Tiffin box a couple of days after, a thought struck my brain; this is something I need to do.”
Ahmad put the plan into action right off the bat, he delivered around 25 boxes – pressed inside a cardboard box and enveloped by a cover to keep them warm. Today, they deliver upto 150 boxes a day.
After one such day when he stepped inside the corridor, the employees commended and applauded him for his drive and endeavors to deliver food on schedule. “It was a passionate moment for me. I cried in the wake of seeing their warm reaction. That moment gave me my identity,” a passionate Ahmad says.
As of now, he conveys in Srinagar yet is idealistic about extending it across the valley.
Tiffin couple of Kashmir
Ahmad — otherwise called “Kashmir’s Swiggy Boy” — likes to consider himself the “Tiffin man of Kashmir”, and claims his food is 100% custom made with no additives, taste enhancers, and shadings.
“Another reason why I decided to start this venture is incidents of increasing stomach cancers in Kashmir due to unhygienic and adulterated food sold in Kashmir. I have made it clear that if anyone ever detects any harmful ingredient like taste enhancers, artificial colours, preservatives from our food, that will be the last day of my venture,” he says.
“I do not want people to skip their lunch. I also do not want them to eat unhygienic and harmful food. On the other hand, I do not want to harm the environment by packing food in plastic packs, which is why I am delivering food in biodegradable packs,” says Ahmad, with a smile.
Truth be told, the individuals who don’t know cooking or are occupied in the workplace would now be able to arrange solid, clean, and home-prepared food to their doorsteps.
Distributing food even with COVID-19 around
In 2021, during the second COVID-19 wave, Ahmed got a call from a Kashmir-based specialist in Delhi requesting to prepare nourishment for their old guardians as he was out of the city. “That provoked us to keep our service running,” he said.
Both Ahmad and his wife Nida began getting distressed calls from COVID-19 patients or their care takers, who couldn’t prepare nourishment for them.
Prior, Tiffin Aaw was known for serving customary rarities, including ‘alle yakhin’ (bottle-gourd cooked in yogurt), ‘gogjare te zombere thool’ (dried turnip and bubbled egg), and ‘nadur te palak’ (lotus-stem and spinach), among others. In any case, for the COVID-19 patients, they began concentrating on good nourishment for the patients after discussions with the specialists.
“We both delivered the food in our car while wearing PPE kit and following proper COVID-19 SOPs to ensure the security of others,” Nida (32) tells. In 2020, “Tiffin Aaw” was delivering food to doctors, attendants, and patients during the pandemic, but it was a paid service at the time.
Prior to this endeavor, Ahmad was running an advertising company for a very long time. Depending on his long stretches of advertising experience, he launched Tiffin Aaw on February 3, 2020. Ahmad gets orders through direct calls or messages on Tiffin Aaw’s separate online media handles. As of now, Ahmad is intending to begin the Food for Kashmir Tiffin Aaw Foundation — a drive to give free home-prepared food to penniless individuals, including poor people and patients.
“We are planning to initiate this drive starting next month, and we are confident that we will get great public help for this,” says Nida.