I first came across Rintu Kalyani Rathod’s name in the news, in 2011, thanks to her creation of a chocolate Ganesha.
Her 35-kg baking marvel was not just something that people admired; she also made sure that it served a purpose. The idol was immersed in 90 litres of milk, which was then distributed among underprivileged kids as prasad.
Nine years later, Rintu has created several such creations and is now a professional baker, a teacher, has founded the Food Army and has successfully managed to use her baking skills to address some of India’s critical issues, like saving the girl child.
How did it all begin?
Rintu was a commercial designer by profession; however, after the birth of her son, she wanted to be a full-time mother. That, combined with her love for baking is what lead to her starting a home baking company called Rini Bakes – Bake My Dreams.
The idea of making chocolate Ganesha idol soon followed. “I saw the beaches filled with rotting flowers, accessories and Ganesh idols broken in parts scattered around after Ganesh Visarjan. Being a Ganesha devotee and an environmentally conscious person, I couldn’t see it and decided to do something about it,” she tells us.
“I wanted an idea which was not only eco-friendly but humanity-friendly as well.”
“I started in 2014 and could feed only 1100 children that year. Next year, I made a bigger idol using 35 Kgs of chocolate with no added preservatives and immersed it in 90 litres of milk,” she shares. Each year, Rintu aims to reach more people, firmly believing in the adage of being the change that you wish to see in this world.
“I want people to celebrate their festivals while also being conscious of how it’s affecting the environment. With a concept like chocolate Ganesha, you are following all the rituals correctly, without harming the environment in any way. At the same time, you are putting smiles on deserving faces by distributing the chocolate milk as prasad. In our country, where so many children go to sleep hungry, chocolate Ganesha comes as a bridge between them and the festivities. It’s a win-win solution for all,” she feels.
Using baking for activism
Making chocolate Ganesha is one of the many things that the designer-turned-professional baker does. Giving a new perspective to the idea of using the practice of baking to help a cause, Rintu has several projects that involve a sweet treat and a social message.
Take for example the Ganesha Rangoli. She had an idea to spread the message of celebrating festivals in a way that can actually help others and she decided to reach out to fellow bakers for help. Asking her community of 100 bakers to bake 30 cupcakes each, Rintu used the 3000 cupcakes to not just make a beautiful looking Rangoli, but also make sure that the cupcakes were then distributed to children in ashrams.
Another prime example of how an idea, along with a cake can really lead a social change is Rintu’s ‘Save the Girl Child’ cake.
When Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to the citizens to start the ‘Selfie with Daughter’ campaign to save the girl child, Rintu decided to use baking to help drive the message home. She made a cake in the shape of an abandoned girl child and named it as ‘Save the Girl Child’.
“As an artist, I convey my emotions through my creations and my medium is cakes. After seeing this cake, I had so many people asking me in horror, would you cut this cake? It’s a baby!”
My answer was “If you are feeling so much for the cake, why not think about actual girls and do something for them?”
Another one of her passion projects includes the Food Army. The group is committed to reaching out to the victims of any natural calamity with home-cooked food.
“Back in 2015, when Nepal was struck with an earthquake, I wanted to help. I, along with a team of housewives texted people on WhatsApp asking them for help,” she shares.
All it took was an idea to round up thousands of families ready to help. “In no time about 1 lakh theplas were gathered from all over Mumbai. Jet Airways helped in sending them to Nepal, and an NGO called Nari Bikash Sangha helped distribute them amongst various villages affected by the quake.”
This year, in the midst of celebrating Ganpati, and helping feed underprivileged children, Rintu urges women to follow their dreams, and believe in themselves. “I have always followed my heart and instincts, and that’s why I am who I am today,” she says.
Today, there are several people around the country who are making chocolate Ganeshas and feeding underprivileged children. For Rintu that’s a big win as it drives home the reality that all it takes to make a change is an idea… and cake.