Serving platefuls of compassion

Shut due to Covid-19, Rajkumar Aggarwal, Rajesh Agarwal and Narsingh Das have returned to distribute food to the needy.
People from Marginalised backgrounds gather around 1 pm near the Lifestyle shopping complex in Begumpet, daily for this free lunch service.
People from Marginalised backgrounds gather around 1 pm near the Lifestyle shopping complex in Begumpet, daily for this free lunch service. Photo | Vinay Madapu

HYDERABAD: Every afternoon, 54-year-old S Somesh lines up near the Lifestyle shopping complex in Begumpet, patiently awaiting his turn. Somesh, a ragpicker who takes shelter under the nearby flyover, eagerly anticipates his lunch. “I come here because the food is free and the quality is good. It’s a great advantage for me,” he shares.

Like Somesh, dozens of people from marginalised backgrounds gather around 1 pm daily for this free lunch service. This diverse group includes daily wagers, autorickshaw drivers, store employees, GHMC workers, homeless people and commuters.

“My colleagues and I come here almost three times a week,” says P Naresh, who works at a nearby store. “Living on rent and managing office hustle makes it tough to cook daily. This service helps us save money and time.”

The food, often consumed within minutes, includes rice, dal, curry and pickle. The initiative, revived a month ago by three city-based individuals, was previously halted due to Covid-19. They source the meals from the Akshaya Patra Foundation at Rs 27 per plate.

Six days per week

One of the founders, Rajesh Agarwal, explains, “We distribute meals six days a week, from Monday to Saturday.”

Alongside his business partners and friends, Rajkumar Aggarwal and Narsingh Das, Rajesh began this initiative in 2018, continuing for three years until the pandemic struck. “We saw others distributing food and thought, why not us?” Rajesh recalls.

The trio, who run Annapurna Builders, find great satisfaction in their service. “Distributing food to the needy feels fulfilling, knowing our money helps someone in need,” Rajesh notes, joined by his granddaughters in the initiative.

He adds, “Anna danam (food donation) is one of the best forms of donation. My father, who experienced hunger, always told me to help those in need, for humanity’s sake.”

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