The acting-pickle girls

Oct 11, 2018, 08:30 IST | Snigdha Hasan

Sisters and artistes Prerna and Preetika Chawla take their heirloom pickles meant for friends in theatre to the rest of the country, and have fun while at it

The acting-pickle girls
Preetika and Prerna Chawla

It's hard to part with mum's food when you know that after the dabbas have been licked clean, you will only get the next consignment when you visit her, or she comes visiting. Pickles are a different story, though. Perfect additions to any meal, they are usually savoured in smaller quantities, have a longer shelf life, and therefore, allow for more generosity of heart.

That, and the fact that their pad in Mumbai is known as the "Dubai airport when you are flying Emirates" among theatrewallahs, where everyone invariably makes a stop, meant that the jars of homemade pork pickle that sisters and actor-producers Prerna and Preetika Chawla stocked in their kitchen would vanish before they knew it. And when their mother, Rithu Nanda, would visit them from Delhi, much of her time would be spent replenishing the pickle stock.

The pickles come in seven varieties
The pickles come in seven varieties

"There came a point when our friends started getting embarrassed for taking jars of the pickle, and offered to pay for the ingredients. Of course, our mother would have none of it," recalls Preetika, 32, the younger sibling. "But then one night, after we had returned home from our shoot and rehearsal, it dawned on me that we should perhaps start selling the achaar," she continues.

Pani Puris featuring a pickle
Pani Puris featuring a pickle

Pickle Shickle, christened so by a writer friend of theirs, was born in 2016, with its first outing at a pop-up. Soon, they added six more flavours — chicken, prawns, mutton, lotus stem, mushroom and jackfruit — to the menu, and recently, took their heirloom pickles online so an order can be placed from across India. With requests coming in from Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Bengaluru, and smaller towns around Kochi and Chandigarh, it seems like another good business decision.

Mushroom Pickle
Mushroom Pickle

While the sisters would make the pickles initially, based on the recipes they had learnt from their mother, they decided to hand over the reins to the expert herself when they went online. Preetika now divides her time between Delhi and Mumbai, and Prerna looks after the administration from Mumbai.
About the range of pickles, Prerna, 36, says, "As a family, we have always experimented with flavours," adding that their multicultural lineage has a big role to play in it. "Our Dadi comes from Multan and our Nani has Burmese roots," shares Preetika. They are now working on a Burmese crispy onion, garlic and chilli chutney, along with a bacon relish. In the coming years, they hope to set up a plant in the hills and provide employment to the residents of surrounding villages.

The venture at a pop-up
The venture at a pop-up 

So with theatre, web series and a food venture, it seems like a happy marriage of passions for the sisters. "Theatre is not something you do for money and fame. You do it for the love of arts. So, you need to supplement what you make of it," shares Prerna. Besides, food and theatre always go hand in hand, Preetika points out.

In fact, from its genesis to the feedback they have received from friends in theatre, the siblings credit the community for its role in the venture. "It was [actor] Mukul Chadda who was insistent from the beginning that he wanted to pay for the pickle. And Mallika Dua named our mutton variety Ghosht Busters," says Preetika. "Just the other day, I bumped into someone who said, 'Oh, you are the acting-pickle girl!' And that's what we have come to be known as."

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