Shelali’s Home-made Indian Cooking

It was great to catch up with Shelali at her home on Monday morning, especially as she had already started cooking and the aromas that were emanating from the kitchen were conjuring up many memories. I’m not sure why so many of my memories of India are provoked through wafts of cooking fragrances … maybe it’s just because the food is so good! Anyway, this provided a lovely backdrop to hear all about the Timebank trading between Shelali and Andrew.

Shelali joined Timebank when she arrived in New Zealand in June 2013. Initially, working in a voluntary capacity, was a good introduction to finding full-time employment and Shelali has volunteered at the Sustainability Trust and in an administration capacity at Timebank. Shelali’s help in signing people up for Timebank has been invaluable; interviewing prospective Timebankers, completing the reference and police-check procedures, setting up profiles and answering questions to do with registering and using the website. It was at my own interview that I first met Shelali, learning so much about the organisation and encountering the enthusiasm that people share about the concept and the numerous types of exchanges.

Shelali generally offers Indian cooking as her trade and it was one such offer that caught Andrew’s eye. Although Andrew has since moved to the South Island he said, ‘It was amazing, probably the best offer ever put on Timebank.’ From the end of June 2014, Andrew who was busy with work commitments, started to receive a weekly meal, which Shelali had cooked in her own home. This trade proved the test of time, lasting for about 6-8 months, although there were gaps whilst either of them were away from Wellington for short spells. Andrew really appreciated the cooking because, as he says, ‘I got to have delightful home-cooked Indian food, the sort of stuff you wouldn't find on a restaurant menu. This was because India has so many different regional cuisines and Shelali was usually cooking things from her home region.’

The dish of the day today is Pandengi Kajipu; literally translated that’s sprouts curry! Shelali ticks off the ingredients as: coconut oil, mustard seeds, red chillies, curry leaves, garlic, tomatoes, sprouts (which she normally soaks overnight,) coconut milk and salt … oh and that ‘secret Indian ingredient’ – garam masala made by Shelali’s mom … for that touch of magic! Shelali always explained to Andrew the ingredients she had included in each meal and, as he remembers, She was also very nice about warning me if something might be hot, although I reassured her that ‘hot’ was preferable.’ 

When I asked Shelali what had made her decide to offer cooking as her trade she admitted, ‘In all honesty I hated cooking.’ However, when she first met Shri, her husband, she found that neither of them cooked and she didn’t enjoy eating out all the time. She says that, slowly, she picked up on it and, increasingly, started cooking and baking for others. She soon realised that more than cooking for herself, it was cooking for others that made her happy. ‘There are just so many ingredients that you can make meals with, that I just never stop cooking…’ Like that old adage ‘sharing is caring’ that she learnt at school, Shelali believes that if you think you have a little bit more of a skill than is required for yourself, then you should simply share it with others.   

Shelali has really valued the sense of ‘togetherness’ at Timebank; she feels that whatever people’s background there are no judgements and everybody is accepted for who they are, with all trades being given equal priority. She has enjoyed engaging with people, giving a helping hand and making friendships.

Perhaps the last few words should go to Andrew, who writes, ‘I hadn't imagined such a situation when I joined Timebank, but I'm really glad that Shelali posted the offer and that I responded to it.


I think there will be a lot more people willing to respond to this trade in the future and maybe we might even find out more about ‘Mom’s garam masala!’