Four years ago, an urge to make money prompted the then 90-year-old Harbhajan Kaur to start up her own food business that today sells her creations, mainly sweets, snacks and chutneys from the confines of her home in Mohali in northern India.
It was the summer of 1926 when Harbhajan Kaur was born in Tarn Taran in the northern state of Punjab - the same year that America discovered the world’s first automatic pop-up toaster and the honey-loving teddy bear "Winnie-the-Pooh" came into existence.
Today, Ms Kaur is 94-years-old and is still carrying on the legacy of the era she was born in that gave birth to creations that continue to stay relevant in today’s world.
- 94-year-old Indian woman sets up her own food business taking the culinary world by storm
- Harbhajan Kaur makes and sells Indian sweets from her home in Mohali, Punjab
- "Age should neither be a barometer of one’s achievements nor a barrier to what one can achieve," says Ms Kur
An idea that changed her life:
Speaking to SBS Punjabi, Ms Kaur says life was passing by when suddenly a tea-time discussion with her daughter back in 2016 brought forth the one regret she had in her life – the fact that she had never earned a single penny on her own accord.
“That discussion changed my life,” she says.
“I told her that I have lived, loved and had children but I have never earned a single penny on my own. To this, my daughter said, mum, you have been such a great cook. Everyone loves what you make. Why don’t you try selling them to people outside the family for money?”
“So, one day I prepared my special besan barfi (a milk-based sweet made with gram flour) and my daughter went to a local market in the vicinity and the trial went so well that we came empty-handed,” recalls Ms Kaur in a voice that sounds shaky but ripened with age.
Four years later, her business goes by the brand name ‘Harbhajan’s’ that specialises in the same besan barfi and other items like chutneys, pickles and munchies that smell of 90s nostalgia and ooze with flavours that will take you back to your granny’s kitchen.
We learnt that while Ms Kaur gets auxiliary help from her family and staff, she makes the basic recipes herself, undeterred by the underlying health conditions that come with age.
“I get a lot of help and support from my family members, but I like to do the basic cooking and mixing on my own,” she adds.
Recipe of success:
Her business though small scale has found love and appreciation from her clients, most of whom are local and others who place orders through her social media accounts that are operated by her great granddaughter-in-law.
While Harbhajan’s accomplishments have brought her praise from many, including business tycoon Anand Mahindra who called her the ‘entrepreneur of the year’ on Twitter, Ms Kaur claims she finds the greatest satisfaction when her work resonates with youngsters who are starting out their careers.
One of them is Melbourne-based chef Pukhraj Paul who started her own food channel on YouTube earlier this year. The 32-year-old says Harbhajan’s entrepreneurial journey has inspired her and taught her that “its never too late to startup.”
Harbhajan Kaur is an inspiration for many aspiring chefs like me who have the talent but are sometimes scared to showcase thinking they might fail
“She has taught me that success can come at any age provided you have the recipe or the courage to create one of your own,” says Ms Paul.
When we questioned Ms Kaur, how she receives the gratitude, she says, “with a dollop of love and a spoonful of humility.”
“I can’t thank my family enough for their support and people young and old for their love for me and my cooking."
I strongly believe age should neither be a barometer of one’s achievements nor a barrier to what you can achieve in life
“If you have dreamt, you will have to work harder to achieve that dream. To all young men and women out there, I’d like to say that go and do something that you can call your own,” she says.
Click on the player above to listen to the interview in Punjabi.
People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.
If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, stay home and arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.
News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus