Nurturing the love for cooking at 86
An inspiring story of Harsh Saigal (Khyaal Community Member)
“My name is Harsh Saigal. I am 86 years old from Dehradun.
I was born and brought up in the Ambala district of Punjab. Times were very different in my childhood. In school, we had cooking and music classes. Once a month, we were given the task of cooking a meal consisting of roti, sabzi, dal, rice and dessert within 20 minutes! There was no stove either. We ran off and brought bricks with us, which we used to build a chulha, which we fired with dried logs. Other students built a traditional chulha from 3 bricks, but I built a longer chulha from five bricks! While others could only cook one dish at a time, I cooked two dishes at once and was ready within 20 minutes and was always first in class! I fell in love with cooking as a child.
Back then, SSC was still called High School and HSC was still called Inter. I was in the ninth grade in 1954. At that time I came in contact with the Hindi film industry. A movie titled 'Jhanak Jhanak Payal Baje' had been released. The distributor of this movie was a friend of one of our family members. Someone referred me to him and I got the job of a film agent at Jyoti Cinema in Ambala on a percentage basis. My job was to look after the ticket sales and maintenance of the movie theatre. With this job, I earned Rs. 4.75 per day. That was a huge amount in those days. I did this job for many years, from 1954 to 1986. Eventually, I became a movie distributor myself. My first movie as a distributor was 'Do Chor' by Dharmendra and Tunuja. I distributed many films like 'Anarkali, Nagin, Jumbo, Mera gaon Mera desh, khote sikke etc. The prices went up when Sholay was released. Then I moved to Bombay and continued to work as a distributor. I made huge profits. At the same time, I opened an electrical store, a furniture store and a motor parts store. I also opened a restaurant called 'Angithi' in Andheri Mumbai. It was a hit, but unfortunately it was demolished after 4 years due to overbuilding.
Once, in 2002, I had a few guests at home and as usual I served them my new recipe. After a few days, they called me and told me that they were going to Dubai for 15 days. One of their relatives had opened a restaurant in Dubai and asked me to teach the chef the famous Indian snack 'samosa". I was thrilled and agreed immediately! I went there and not only taught them how to make samosas, but also chat and other snacks. I displayed Indian snacks in the restaurant, which was very well received. I returned to India happy and satisfied.
In the meantime, I visited my son in Dubai, at least twice a year. There is an annual festival in Dubai called Global Village. The restaurant where I had learned to make samosas had also participated in this festival. But unfortunately it did not go so well. They called me again and asked me to come to Dubai immediately to help them run the stall. I travelled to Dubai again on the condition that no one would interfere with my work and that I would provide everything they needed. They agreed and my new adventure began. I went to the restaurant at 8:30 am and returned home around 1 am. This went on for 3 months. The restaurant, which was making a loss, made a profit of 50,000 dirhams!
In 2010, I lost my beloved wife, which made me very lonely. I lived with my son in Dubai for a while, but then decided to move to Dehradun. There I opened a new business with 2 cabs for hire. I stayed there alone for 8 years. I only had my cook for company, who still lives with me. I launched my YouTube channel named "Dadu ka Kitchen" in 2017. One of my friends helped me a lot with creating and uploading videos. I have arthritis and cannot stand for hours. It was a challenge, but I kept going anyway. My first video was the recipe for 'Peshawari Mutton'. I got a lot of good comments on my videos. I want to expand my channel. I moved to Mumbai a year ago and now live with my son. I continue to make cooking videos for YouTube. Sometimes my grandson helps me with the filming. My goal is to upload 2 videos a week so that I can increase my subscribers. I want to make it big on YouTube. I am 86 years old today and want to continue till my last breath. I always go with the flow and follow my heart. I would like to start my cooking classes soon.
My advice to my fellow seniors is that life is beautiful. Live and enjoy every moment and make the most of it.” - Harsh Saigal (Khyaal Community Member)