Ratna can single handedly clean the 2 tonnes of boiled rice that Akshaya Patra’s Mangalore kitchen uses everyday. That amounts to approximately 50 bags, each one containing around 50kgs of rice. It is a part of Ratna’s job to make sure that all that rice is cleaned thoroughly before cooking.
She says people always ask her why she goes to so much trouble. Her husband co-owns a boat and is a successful fisherman, so why the need to work so hard?
“I tell them,” says Ratna, “that it gives me a great deal of satisfaction to know I do this for children. My work means a lot to me. This is something that is all my own, and I love my job,” she says with a radiant smile.
Before a mechanised rice cleaner was installed, she used to clean all the rice by hand, sifting through bag after bag in preparation for the following day’s cooking. It has become much easier for her now that there is a mechanised machine, but she explains that there is still a second round of cleaning to be done. “We have to make sure there are no particles at all in the grains,” she says. “Children won’t like finding them in the food. We have to be very thorough.”