Zara Antoinette Kennedy
I am an aspiring journalist with an avid appreciation for the law and a chutzpah that's only seen in admirers of these disciplines. I am currently pursuing a triple major in English, Journalism, and Psychology.
Three engineers from Jammu and Kashmir's Udhampur have undertaken a creative venture to promote the local heritage and cuisine of the region. Over 20 individuals have been benefitting both directly and indirectly thus upholding an example for 'Vocal for Local' and 'Atmanirbhar Bharat.'
The trio quit their well-paying jobs at an MNC after the first wave of COVID-19 in September 2020, and opened a cafe called 'The Kalari Factory' to promote the local Dogra culture.
Among the various delicacies offered at the cafe, Kalari, a traditionally ripened Himalayan cheese native to Udhampur, is one of the cafe's finest. One of the region's authentic foods, this cheese has a mild mozzarella-like flavour and a stretchy, dense texture, and is made from cow milk.
Initially, the cafe served Kalari without any bread, but as the business grew exponentially, the cafe began selling Kalari sandwiches consisting of the cheese placed between two slices of bakery bread and shallow fried in a pan containing leftover fat from frying the Kalari. Tamarind chutney, chili powder, and salt are also added to enhance these flavours.
"We three are childhood friends and wanted to try something new and unique, hence the joint-venture," Shubham Sharma, one of the owners of the cafe told ANI.
"We are all Civil Engineers and were working outside Jammu and Kashmir earlier. We always wanted to start a business of our own and to give employment to others; we even had many ideas for the same. Gradually, when we shared our ideas, we mutually decided to promote our local Dogra heritage and food; the Kalari," he added, reported ANI.
Kalari is a traditional dish in several districts including Chenani, Ramnagar, Panchari, and Udhampur. Sharma explained that they had begun the venture just as the first wave of COVID-19 was subsiding and the government had relaxed lockdown guidelines.
Sandeep Arora, a partner in the venture, described their cafe as "special" to the ANI team. He said, "The locals generally ate Kalari separately and sometimes used it in sandwiches, but we wanted to do something different. We introduced more than 20 dishes of Kalari, and Udhampur welcomed all warmly."
While describing the design of the interior of the cafe, Sandeep said that the walls adorn the paintings from locals artists. The artwork highlights the Dogra heritage and also helps in promoting local talent. The artists are allowed to showcase their paintings free of cost and share contact details with customers who would be willing to buy the paintings.
He added, "Presently, we have 6 employees working for us at the cafe, and we have also adopted a village of 20 houses who prepare Kalari exclusively for us. Directly and indirectly, we provide employment to 22 persons altogether. Each of them earns handsomely, and had income during the pandemic too. Our mission is to promote the local heritage, local artists, and local food in tune with Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi's mantra, 'Vocal for Local' and 'Atam Nirbhar Bharat."
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