Women cooks, who used to earn a living by preparing food at marriage hall kitchens in Aurangabad, have been severely affected by the Maharashtra government's new order restricting the timings and number of people at wedding events in the wake of the COVID-19 surge.
These women say they are staring at a dark future as they are hardly getting any food orders now from wedding caterers and are unable to meet their daily needs.
They have now appealed to the government to provide them with financial assistance.
Hirabai Pawar (60), who is in this profession for the last four decades and lives with her daughter-in-law and granddaughter, told PTI that she never experienced such a crisis in her life.
"My daughter-in-law worked in a beauty parlour, but they are also shut now. Till last year, I used to earn Rs 200 to 400 a day, but now that has stopped. I need at least Rs 2,000 per month for my medicines," she said.
Another local culinarian Jyoti Kathar also said she has no work and is in a dire situation.
"My husband also does not have any income as the cloth shop where he worked is closed. Now, we cannot even provide milk to our two children as we have to curtail our expenses."
"They drink black tea now," she said.
Kathar said amid the COVID-19 pandemic, they also had to shift their children to a government school as they were not able to afford the high fees of their private educational institution.
Another city-based cook Jijabai Pawar (45) said she never went to school, but used to be proud of handling food preparations at big kitchens of marriage caterers.
"I used to take charge of things even if the caterer was busy with other functions. But, now my earning has stopped and our family comprising seven members is surviving only on the salary of one of my sons. A major portion of his income goes in paying our house rent," she rued.
Sharing similar woes, cook Sumanbai Suryavanshi (70) said she has been unable to pay her house rent for the last two months.
"We live in Sanjay Nagar which was declared a COVID-19 hotspot last year. We took all care and none of my family members have got infected so far," she said.
But, she is not getting any food orders now since the state government announced that marriage ceremonies may be conducted only as a single event not extending beyond two hours with a maximum total of 25 people attending the same.
Cook Anita Khajekar said earlier when she used to work at marriage hall kitchens, she would bring the leftover food at home which would serve as her family's meal for the day.
"Now, I neither have the job nor that food, while my grocery expenses have almost doubled," she said.
Another local cook Kantabai Kale (70) said they have been suffering since the outbreak of the pandemic last year, but the government has not provided them with any financial aid.
"We heard the government has decided to help various stakeholders. The government should also look after us now," she said.