You've just come out of a meeting, tired and hungry. It is the beginning of the month and you do not mind spending some extra cash. Remember, you've been craving some chicken since morning. What is the next thing that you'd do? Pick up your phone and order some chicken curry online (Hail Zomato).
Now, your head is filled with a million thoughts. You're wondering what is taking the delivery guy too long. The restaurant is just 2 km away after all! Twenty minutes of patience later, there is light on the other side of the door. No, it isn't the delivery executive, but a friend who cooked some extra biriyani for you. You're delighted (obviously). While savouring the first spoon of your meal, you pick up your phone and cancel the order.
Now, have you wondered what happens to the chicken curry that you ordered? Neither did we, until Pathikrit Saha, a Zomato delivery executive in Kolkata broke it down for us. "Here, the merchant has no loss. Zomato pays them the money. As delivery executives, we are instructed to either return the food or to keep it with ourselves. Many delivery executives return the food to the restaurants, who sell it again earning extra profit," he says.
Here's his message to the other delivery executives:
Pathikrit isn't one of the returning crowd, nor does he think about gobbling down the free meal. Instead, he feeds them to the poor children who live near the city's Dum Dum Cantonment Railway station.
But this 26-year-old's story neither begins nor ends with this. There is a lot more to it. To get a clearer picture of it, let us go four years back in time. Pathikrit, a then Kolkata Municipal Corporation employee was near the Dum Dum Cantonment when a young boy came running to him, begging for money. "He fell at my feet and wasn't letting go. I was irritated. Previously, I've seen homeless children wasting all their money on cheap drugs and I thought that he was an addict too," he recalls. "I ended up slapping him. The child broke down saying that his mother forces him to beg on the streets every day. If he failed to earn a certain amount of money every day, he was denied food and had to sleep on the streets," he adds.
That was an eye opener for Pathikrit. "I realised how easy it was to make a child cry and I wanted to look for a long term solution to make these children happy," he says. From that day, along with a few friends, he started teaching the underprivileged children in a building near the railway station every day. These classes have been going on for the past four years. "Until now we have admitted 19 students in primary schools. Around 15 students attend our classes every day," he says. "I do not want to donate anything to them. Instead, I want them to be independent," he adds.
Pathikrit regularly organised clothes donation drives in his locality. During one such drive, he went to a government school, where he saw something which seemed unnatural to him. "While children from middle-class families ask for new lunch boxes every six months, the children here considered themselves lucky to have one. Wonder why? They take home a portion from their midday meal to feed their family. That was when I realised the importance of food," he says.
Inspired by this, he got associated with a Facebook Group called Nale Jhule, who provided free meals to underprivileged children every day. This went on for a year. That was when he met a restaurant owner, popularly known as Roll Kaku. "He owns a restaurant near the cantonment. Generous would be an understatement for Roll Kaku, who feeds all the leftover food and cancelled orders in his restaurant to the poor children," he says. Pathikrit often helped Kaku deliver food.
But a year later, Nale Jhule came to a standstill. "The children were hungry, but we didn't have a source to feed them constantly. That was when I took up a job with Zomato," says Pathikrit. That was around the same time that the food delivery start-up began the Feeding Indian initiative, where cancelled orders were redirected to orphanages nearby. But Pathikrit has a slightly different perspective here, different from that of his employer. "Most of the orphanages are able to afford food. But there are a lot of street children, who are in dire need of food," he says.
"Many times, orders get cancelled owing to faulty packaging or a delay in delivery. Every day, at least two orders of mine get cancelled. Imagine, what if every delivery executive decides to deliver all the cancelled order to a street child in their locality. The world would be a much happier place. I'm addicted to those children's smiles and I would do anything to keep it alive," he signs off.
(This story originally appeared on edexlive.com)