A Naga girl partners with her mother-in-law-to-be, wife of a bureaucrat, to make some good money during the pandemic
Avibu Seyie, who has just entered her thirties, and her 68-year-old mother-in-law-to-be Geeta Bhatnagar—the former calls the latter Mumaa—have joined hands to sell momos online and utilise the time the pandemic has provided them while confined in the latter’s Mayur Vihar flat.
The two couldn’t be more different. Avibu is from a small town in Nagaland and has had a stint as an air hostess with Jet Airways. She likes to write dark poetry, is very entrepreneuring with an artistic bend of mind and is open to trying new things in life.
On the other hand, a very sociable Geeta with a pleasing personality grew up in Delhi, is the wife of a bureaucrat married for more than 40 years, has lived in different places in UP because of her husband’s transferable job. They seem very unlikely partners, and that’s their strength. They understand each other well, and though these are still early days, have accomplished a lot together.
Avibu has been in a live-in relationship with Shashank Bhatnagar, younger son of Geeta, an engineer by training, an accomplished musician and a physical trainer. He has taken up the challenge to prepare a young man for a fitness competition who in the past has not been very kind to his body, to put it mildly.
Shashank lost his father earlier this year, a few weeks before the lockdown, when his parents were holidaying in Sri Lanka. He was hale and hearty and “could walk faster than me,” remembers Shashank. It was a rude shock for the whole family, a loss they are still struggling to come to terms with.
Geeta has been with Shashank and Avibu, since. Usually, Geeta spends a sizeable part of the year in California with her elder son who migrated to the US some 20 years ago, Geeta is a green cardholder. The pandemic has made it difficult to deal with the loss, as the family is confined to four walls and can’t meet family and friends. Shashank admires how bravely his mother has dealt with this unsurmountable loss.
With an air of satisfaction, he says, “It took time, but my mother and Avibu got along really well. They are very different but have a strong common ground.” And the two have varied skill sets that came in handy for them to start a lucrative business.
Geeta has a way with people, she makes people feel comfortable with her affable manners and engaging conversations. For the last two decades, she has been an avid and active Rotarian and is involved in a variety of social work initiatives. She has a big circle of friends, moved some 20 years ago to Delhi, five years before the retirement of her husband, as stability was imperative for Shashank’s higher studies.
Avibu is empathetic to Geeta’s plight, who’d often go off to sleep crying and would wake up feeling melancholic. Avibu makes crochet dolls and has taken her hobby to artistic levels. She gets orders to make ‘designer dolls’ and that keeps her busy for almost a quarter of the day. Avibu likes to work at night, without distractions, as the whole process “is fairly meditative” as she puts it.
So to cheer up Geeta, she would make it a point to finish a doll every night and place it on the dining table, so that when Geeta would walk out of her room, a new doll would greet her and would set her day rolling on a happy note. It worked.
Geeta has connected Avibu to his wide circle of friends and manages the administrative part of the business, and also the accounts, while Avibu concentrates on making momos. Geeta’s skill in cooking paneer, and rolling out dough for momos. They sent samples of their fusion momo recipe to Conosh—an online platform where a lot of people come together to interact and make new friends over food. They received an incredible response and their momo won them many admirers and friends. They also made good money from their effort. A good part of the money will go to Avibu’s doll project—where she will challenge herself to recreate intricate forms. She also plans to experiment with varied yarns, not just wool. Here too, Geeta’s help was very handy, so much so that Avibu dreads the day Geeta would travel to the US to be with her elder son.
As far as Geeta is concerned, her active partnership has helped her deal with her loss and sorrow. “I feel almost normal,” says Geeta. And this would have been not possible but for the very supportive and encouraging role of Shashank. As someone famously said, “The secret is to gang up on the problem, rather than each other.”
(Cover: TOGETHER: Geeta and Avibu make a great team of unlikely partners PHOTOS: Shashank Bhatnagar)