top of page

Remembering Raju

Naima Ramakrishnan

His famous tomato chutney and idli sambar. The divine dosas that he cooked for the lunch mothers and for teacher meetings. The sindhi curry that he mastered, the sheera he perfected.

They will all have a place in our hearts.

But Raju’s impact goes far beyond the 35 years spent in the BIS kitchen.

Raju Selvaraj, Head Cook, was an institution, a well-known figure throughout the school, and a friend of three generations of the BIS family. “He remembered little things about everyone,” says Akshata Karkaria, one of the convenors of the kitchen committee. “He was the core of the kitchen.”

“Kitchen mothers came and kitchen mothers went - but Raju outstayed them all," says Anjali Karpe, Deputy Head. Adds Paricher Bhathena, Chief Accountant, “I don’t ever remember a day that he served food late. Whatever the circumstances, the food was never delayed, and never ran short for the children.”

Vijay, who worked alongside Raju in the kitchen, says, “I learnt so much from him. Everything about cooking, and how to talk so nicely to people.” Sonilika Karwanyun, kitchen mother, agrees, "Raju taught me a lot besides cooking. Like how to be tolerant and hide one's anger and irritation while dealing with so many mothers every single day, by listening to all and doing exactly what he wanted to in the end!"

There are many stories about Raju and his brilliance in the kitchen. Ms Karkaria remembers that while Raju was a wizard at Indian dishes with which she was unfamiliar, she introduced him to some Western dishes. He would always say “Bas ek baar mujhe dikha do, uske baar no tension!”

Ms Karkaria recounts the time that the lunch mothers ordered mulgapudi from outside. Raju was horrified and said that he would make the powder himself. After which he brought a whole kilo of mulgapudi for the lunch mothers, and made sure to provide a steady supply for the kitchen.

Jigisha Vora, a long-time kitchen mother, recalls working on the BIS cookbook with Raju. Recipes usually cooked for hundreds of hungry students had to be scaled down so that they could be cooked for six people. “Raju helped tweak a lot of recipes, and when we tried them out at home, they were bang on,” says Ms Vora.

Over the years, Raju worked with hundreds of lunch mothers. Sometimes, in irritation, he referred to them as “mother-log”, and was in turn nicknamed the “mother-in-law” of the kitchen. But there was a lot of affection, and Ms Karkaria says “he was really like family. I think I spent more time with him in the last few years than I spent with my own parents.” Ms Karwanyun adds, "We loved the pampering we got from him in the form of rawa dosas and bread upma."

Ms Karpe remembers her days as a new and tentative kitchen mother who was daunted by the enormous task ahead. “The fact that I was often washing and cleaning the coriander bunches or assigned to wash the huge quantities of grapes tells you that I wasn’t doing much ‘cooking’. Yet, guessing that I might have felt a bit of an ego-bash, Raju would tell me quietly, `Yeh bahut important kaam hai! Yeh theek se nahi hoga to baaki sub mother-log kuch bhi theek nahi karenge!’,” she recalls, adding, “Thank you for that, Raju! For the many years in the kitchen I believed I was making a very important contribution to the food that was served, even though the coriander seemed to disappear unnoticed in the depths of the dal for the day or the grapes looked a bit puffed up because they had been soaked too long in the water!”

For all those who worked with Raju, the thought of returning to a kitchen that no longer has his recipes, energy, and love of cooking is a sad one. Ms Karkaria says, “It will be very difficult to walk into the kitchen and not see his smiling face.” Vijay adds “I can’t imagine the kitchen without my guru.”

For, as Ms Karpe says, “There won’t be another Raju.”

Raju, BIS will miss you.

A big thank you to Ms Karkaria, Ms Karpe, Ms Vora, Ms Bhathena, Vijay, Ms Karwanyun

333 views1 comment

Related Posts

See All

1 Comment

Unknown member
May 01, 2021

Raju will always be fondly remembered ...not only for his impeccable sindhi curry, dhanshak and tomato chutney recipe but for his positive approach, his happy demeanor, his adaptability as things in the BIS kitchen changed and for his "smile and do" attitude. Raju BIS kitchen will never be the same.....

bottom of page