For Katelyn Junus, this has become one of the busiest times of the year.
With the Hindu holiday Diwali just around the corner (the festival runs Nov. 12–16, Diwali itself is Nov. 14), the owner of “grazing box” company Posh Thali is preparing beautiful and tasty creations for celebrants. The boxes include a selection of traditional holiday snacks and diyas, oil lamps used to mark the holiday.
For Junus, it’s special being home in Halifax. She left the city in 2011 to study at New York University. Upon graduating, she stayed stateside to be a clinical social worker.
She worked on the frontlines of America’s runaway pandemic, which she describes as a life-changing experience. In the summer, Junus was at a crossroads, considering whether she should renew her work visa for three more years.
“At that time, I felt that I needed to do something for myself,” she says. “Being a part of the health-care field where you’re always putting others first, it was so important for me to take that time to check in with myself to see what I wanted to do and to enjoy. I realized that it was using that creative side of me and I needed that outlet.”
When she got home and began her isolation period, she used that time to work out her next steps. Her parents offered her a management position at their restaurant Dhaba Express. Junus countered with her Posh Thali idea.
“For holidays, temples and mosques would call us to prepare hundreds of mithai [sweets] and appetizers so that we would present these in Indian boxes with intricate design,” she recalls. “There were a lot of sparkles and a lot of gold, so it was very appealing. The idea of creating a grazing box stemming from that experience seemed to be a nice fit.”
Her parents agreed, becoming the distributor and provided a space at the restaurant to work. The company’s name is an apt description of what it offers: Thali is an Indian serving platter and posh represents elevation. “It’s aesthetically pleasing,” Junus says. “it catches the eye because it’s gold, has rose petals and fresh florals.”
Using a digital storefront, the business has seen steady demand. The most popular offering is for the Gold Box, containing samosas, aloo tikki (spiced potato patties), pakoras, sweets, and chutneys (which Junus emphasizes is a must-have for any special occasion).
Additionally, she includes some everyday items found in typical boxes, such as seasonal fruit and dark chocolate. Junus adds rose petals and foil leaves inside the box. She seals it with a window box cover and a gold bow to cap off her food canvas.
Thankful to live out her dream, Junus hopes her boxes during this Diwali season will bring rays of hope, shining like the lights that mark the season.
“In Indian culture, food and hospitality are so important to us,” she explains. “Any chance we get, we love to share knowledge about our heritage. If someone is hosting a party, needing a gift to give, my boxes are a taste of India—everything from the items to the design, colour scheme. It’s a nice way to share our culture with other people.”