Usually, when two sisters-in-law meet, they could be talking about the drinking habits of their husbands. But here, they talk about the tipplers of the town.
We are talking about the celebrity sisters-in-law who serve liquor at Thodupuzha Joance Regency bar. The two became famous after their story appeared in newspapers.
The teething troubles Raji (33) and Jyotsna (21) faced initially have given way to confidence and pride. Initially, after night duty, colleagues used to drop them in hotel vehicle. But now, they commute on their own.
It was the idea of Joance Regency's general manager Thomas Antony alias Shaji to try out women as waiters in the bar.
If Poomala native Bindu too is added, the number of women serving liquor at Joance Regency is three.
Raji and Jyotsna come to work in bar waiters' uniform. It was difficult in the beginning, as difficult as downing a straight shot of rum. Now it’s like any other job for them. And they believe that as a profession, more women should join this field.
How do they manage the customers? Majority of the customers behave decently. But one can’t take things for granted. After the first or second peg, some change their manners. The tone and tenor of their talk could change abruptly. Some ask their phone numbers. But they don't disappoint them – the hotel's reception number is given promptly.
At times, those who go overboard after downing a few drinks are admonished by fellow customers who give them a stern “control yourself, there are women here” reprimand. In another pre-emptive move, they also decided to deactivate their Facebook accounts.
Raji belongs to Koothattukulam. Her husband Jaison is an autorickshaw driver. Jyotsna is from Odisha and is married to Raji's brother Rajesh who is a chef in a restaurant in Palakkad.
The hotel management had given an ad in social media, including Facebook and WhatsApp, for the posts of women waiters. And, that's how their journey towards fame started. Jyotsna had the added advantage of working in restaurants in Thiruvananthapuram and decided to give it a shot.
All jobs come with their own problems. Bartending too had their set of issues. The full support they got from their family members and the hotel management helped them overcome such hurdles.
Initially, they were assigned work in the restaurant and then moved to the bar. Apart from Raji and Jyotsna, there are other women working in the housekeeping section and kitchen. The work times are from 12.30 noon to 10.30 in the night with breaks in between. In the beginning, the hotel management provided transport in the morning and in the night.
It was Jyotsna who had encouraged them to take this revolutionary step, says Raji. Raji, who has two children aged 10 and four, was earlier working in a t-shirt factory in Tirupur. Before that, she had been working in a five-star hotel in Thiruvananthapuram. This background helped her take the 'risk' of becoming a bar waiter. When her husband too came forward supporting her decision, she was game.
For the public, it was a sight to behold. People even turned up to watch them serve liquor in the early days. They chuckle when they recollect that their husbands and relatives were around the bar, “guarding” them. Once they came to know that there was nothing to fear, the family members gave up their “security”.
Even though Jyotsna is an Odiya, she speaks better Malayalam than Malayalis. They now have a fair knowledge of various brands of liquor and currently, take orders and serve liquor. They are also learning how to mix drinks. And now, they are not worried about staring eyes and gaping mouths. It’s their livelihood, after all.