Kolkata: An 87-year-old woman who lives in the UK and travels to India in the winter to meet her daughters — her elder daughter lives in Kolkata and the younger in Chennai — finally set off for London via Delhi on Sunday after being stranded here for five months. But she hadn’t been idle all this while. Confined to her Alipore apartment due to reduced mobility, Kanta Devi Karnani cooked meals for lockdown relief workers.
Born in Ferozepur and married in Kolkata, Karnani migrated to London with her husband Viswanath in 1962. She now resides on Holders Hill Road in London’s Hendon with her sons. She was in Kolkata visiting her daughter when the pandemic struck and India was locked down just two days before she was to fly back. But even after the unlock was announced and bubble flights to the UK resumed, she could not fly home as flights between Kolkata and Delhi were discontinued.
On Sunday, she finally boarded a Vistara flight from Kolkata airport at noon to reach Delhi. She is booked on the British Airways flight to London at 1.50am on Monday.
Over the past four months, Karnani cooked pakoras, kabuli chana, kaali daal, aloo dum, paran puri rolls, paneer wrap, vegetable biryani, pita bread, pasta, lasagne and desserts, like badam halwa and mango kheer, for relief workers who provided aid during the lockdown and Amphan. She even made a handsome monetary contribution to the cause.
“The pandemic affected so many lives and livelihoods. I wanted to be of use and reached out to those I knew. One among them had started relief work in the city and the Sunderbans. That’s when the idea of doing something for those who were helping others came to my mind,” she said.
“There were times when we would be tempted to cut the trip short due to sheer exhaustion. Then her meals would inspire us to brave the odds. If an 87-year-old displayed such energy, how could we give up?” asked Jaydeep Mukherjee, whose team will miss Karnani’s cooking now that she is headed back to England.
Karnani dismissed her contribution, however. “I wish I could have been in the field with the lads. I’ve been a bit selfish, cooking kept me engaged. Otherwise, I may have died of boredom,” she said before bidding the city goodbye.
Karnani may not be back this winter, but she is determined to return in the next one.