Navamalar Naggappan is a woman on a two-prong mission.

First, as a former COVID-19 patient who craved for tasty food during her hospitalisation last year, but was deprived of the access, she now cooks and delivers customisable food for COVID-19 patients who are hospitalised or quarantined at home.

Secondly, she wants to raise awareness about the importance of getting screened early for the disease, while providing emotional support to patients and survivors.

Astro Ulagam spoke to the inspiring 39-year-old mother of one who wears different hats at the same time - as a lawyer, student, and home-based cook.

It all began in October last year when Nava and her whole family (including her mother, son, and sister) were admitted to the Sungai Buloh hospital after testing positive for COVID-19.

"Suffering from the loss of smell and taste, we craved for sour and spicy food. My mother, especially, wanted idli and fish curry, and nothing else.

"However, most of the home-cook delivery services we contacted only wanted to deliver for bulk orders, or did not want to deliver to the hospital for fear of catching the virus, eventhough we were willing to pay for their service," she recalled.

Help from relatives and friends was also hard to come by, and Nava also admittedly did not want to trouble them too much.

So, when she and her family were discharged last November, the first thing she embarked on was setting up D'Warren Kitzhen - a home-cooked food delivery service, which besides catering to non-patients, also prepares customisable meals to COVID-19 patients, both hospitalised and under home quarantine, at "reasonable prices."

Nava also does not impose any cap on minimum order for COVID-19 patients, as she "did not want to subject other patients to the hardship I went through."

Her orders are mainly received through her Facebook page, and according to her, the most popular order among patients are chicken rendang, as well as sardines and anchovies sambal.

While her normal food orders are delivered using rider services, Nava personally delivers food to COVId-19 patients as she feels "it's her responsibility."

Nava's 14-year-old son Thurgeswaran, after whom D'Warren Kitzhen is named, plays the role of assistant chef to his mother - buying and sorting the groceries at first, to the point of starting to cook some simple dishes himself now.

Unwitting Emotional Support Provider

As she cooked and delivered to COVID-19 patients, Nava also unwittingly found herself becoming an emotional support provider to relatives of COVID-19 patients, and survivors of the disease themselves.

"As my contact number is stated in my business Facebook page, they would chat me up after placing orders, and ask me what living with the disease entails and if life will return to normal after the infection passes.

"As someone who has been through the path, I advise them and tell them that catching the virus is not the death knell," she said.

Early intervention, according to Nava, is crucial when it comes to surviving COVID-19.

She should know better, as her mother was only screened for the disease five days after she started displaying symptoms, and she later ended up being on the third stage!

"Don't wait for you symptoms to worsen. Get yourself screened if you suspect you may have caught the virus, or when mild symptoms surface.

"Another thing is, COVID-19 survivors like me should have no qualms about speaking out about their experience after they have recovered, for fear of being stigmatised. As for me, I readily share what I went through to whomever who asks, as it may benefit them in some way," she said.

Apart from cooking and emotionally supporting kin and survivors of COVID-19, Nava is also a full-time practising lawyer, and is taking her Masters in Law.

Asked about how she manages to juggle so many things at once, Nava said it is all about managing time right, and having passion for what one does.

"I work from home now due to the pandemic, so that makes it easier. I have always enjoyed cooking since I was a teenager, so that too does not seem like a chore.

"I believe that food can cure/improve any illness, at least from the mental sense of the word. Until now, my siblings credit me for our mother successfully surviving the COVID-19 predicament, as I did not forbid her from any food that she wanted to have." Nava quipped.

Those who would like to reach out to Nava, can do so by checking out the D'Warren Kitzhen here, or WhatsApp/call her at 011-27572374/ 012-3761213.

Photos source: Navamalar Naggappan