CHENNAI: Acts of giving can create ripples and inspire others to carry it forward. For Ashwanth Kumar, the owner of The Bhaai Friend eatery, it was his grandmother Pankajam Swaminathan, whose generosity taught him values that would lead him to create his new community kitchen for the needy and working class.
“My grandfather passed away when my father was 10 years old, and my grandmother struggled a lot. When I was a child, I would see my grandmother give an autorickshaw driver Rs 50 when they asked for Rs 20 just to see a smile on their face. It is her nature that has kept me motivated and taught me everything,” he elaborates. He lost her six months ago but her memory will still be carried forward with the Pankajam Charity Trust which will be inaugurated today at 36, Raghavan Street, Perambur.
The community kitchen will strive to provide affordable meals; for the needy and persons with disabilities, it will be free of cost. One can opt between two menus.
“Monday, there will be sambar rice, and curd rice; Tuesday, veg biryani; Wednesday and Saturday, a full meal of sambar, rice, rasam, gravy and sabzi and so on. We have kept it at affordable prices and free for those who can’t afford it because we want everyone to come and enjoy the food without any hesitation,” Ashwanth smiles. Breakfast and lunch varieties will be available at Rs 10-Rs 20 and the full meal is priced at Rs 20.
Ashwanth and his team had seen many grapple with deteriorating realities in the pandemic. He, along with two cooks and a delivery person, has served nearly 600-700 people who were homeless, needy, or had Covid for the past two years. “The pandemic affected everyone. While people were ready to spend money on food initially, this reduced day by day because of diminishing salaries. Initially, we only began serving the needy around my house, but slowly spread our work to all over Chennai,” he explains.
In the beginning, he delved into his savings for the task, but the nature of his work attracted more like-minded people who offered their support. One of them was Gokul SVR, who reached out to Ashwanth when they were serving during the recent floods to provide them free pulses produced at their dal mill (SVR dal mill). Gokul has continued his faith in their operations by promising subsidised rates for pulses for the community kitchen.
Despite the new endeavour, there are many things that will remain the same in this kitchen. “For all our groceries, we exclusively give our business to daily vendors. There is a difference of approximately Rs 10-Rs 20, but we don’t mind,” he says. A few additions will be welcomed too. “Our delivery people have wives and sisters who are currently idle at home. We will be employing them as cooks,” adds Ashwanth.
As someone who has filled the plates of many in need, Ashwanth urges others to do the same. Perhaps not on a scale so large, but maybe begin with five-six people around you, because “the only thing in this time that makes people happy is food.”
To donate for the cause
A/C Number - 859898982
Indian Bank, Perambur branch
IFSC - IDIB000P034
Google Pay/Paytm/Phone Pe 8939020294