At first glance it would just look like a regular tiffin service. But this tiffin service started by NRI Mahendra Patel and supported by a group of NRIs, offers meals free to the needy in Anand town of Central Gujarat.
For elderly and NRIs who can afford to pay, it comes at a token of Rs.2 – just to meet the transportation cost for the auto drivers who ensure that the tiffins reach daily to the doorsteps of all who have booked it. Patel and his group, most of them, who have crossed their 70s, have been running this service since last five and a half years. And among those who contribute for this service are not only NRIs spread across the globe but also Muslim brothers – Imran and Mehboob, who have continued their father late Nanumiyan Malek’s legacy of ensuring that 20 kg to 40 kg free fresh veggies reach at 7 am to cook the meals daily.
“When we had started with the first donation, we were supplying 51 tiffins in a day. Now, we supply around 300 tiffins on a daily basis. But money has never been constraint for us. After my friend Malek’s death, his sons have continued supplying vegetables free even if prices of vegetables in the market skyrocket,” says Patel, a professor who took voluntary retirement from a college in Mahudha town of Kheda district.
Interestingly, while the ‘weekly menu’ is fixed, patients suffering from diabetes, cholesterol, blood pressure and acidity are provided meals as per their medical requirements.
“We wanted to continue serving the nation and the best way to do it is to serve the hungry,” says Patel, 75, whose five daughters and son are settled in United States where four of them are serving as CEOs in banking and pharma sector but the septuagenarian, stays in Anand to ensure that Shree Jalaram Jan Kalyan Seva continues its service from Kanya Shala number 2.
Like him, Ramesh Patel, 73, who retired as principal of Sardar Patel High School, Boriavi and his wife Dharmishtha – both American citizens – have the option to enjoy their retired life with US $ 2,000 as monthly pension apart from medical and transportation benefits.
If Virginia-based motel owner Shailesh Patel, having his roots in Tarapur town of Anand district, contributes at least Rs one lakh a year, Jagdish Patel, who is based in Lusaka, Zambia, ensures that spices worth Rs 80,000 are delivered at the shed where the meals are cooked.