It’s 4.30 in the morning. Seventy-five-year-old Meena Pinto wakes up, for there’s a lot of work ahead. She goes over to keep an eye on the cooking in progress, to make sure everything is progressing smoothly. Pinto can be then seen peeling boiled eggs, so they are ready to be picked up and loaded onto a car that arrives shortly after.
“I have been doing this all my life. It’s been 15 years for me in the food trade. And there is immense satisfaction when one serves those who are needy.”
Cooking for a cause: Prem Angel (below) prepares food in her kitchen to be served to underprivileged people, mostly residing on footpaths. Pics/Mohan Patil
For the last year and a half, eight to ten residents from NIBM Road and Wanawadi have taken it upon themselves to feed the homeless. They serve people breakfast every Tuesday, and lunch on Fridays.
Leaving a high-salaried job, Prem Angel, a resident of Clover Village, started this initiative. Giving more details of ‘Meals on Wheels’ (MoW), she said, “This project commenced on December 11, 2013, where five people congregated to serve people who cannot afford a single meal a day. I worked with Kuwait Airways for a long time and had a good life.
So, one day I decided to quit and contribute something to society. These people give us feedback about the food – whether it’s too spicy or has too little salt. This helps us improve.”
“Feeding people was the first thing I decided to do when I came to Pune. I made up my mind to take up the cause to help the poor and needy. I met a lot of people who came forward to help me and that is how the journey of MoW began,” Angel added.
Keshuv Advani, an eighty-year-old resident of Parmar Garden, said, “It is a satisfying endeavour for all of us. We all meet and decide who will cook the food in a particular week, and contribute money towards the initiative. This makes our work even simpler.”
Another member, Nandini Bhattacharjee, who’s a housewife, shared, “Initially, I was not open to the idea of handing over my kitchen. But, slowly I got over my apprehensions, as I worked with the group, and these days they cook in my kitchen.
I am happier in this phase.” The group has a corpus of funds, and each member contributes some money every month. Then they buy foodgrains in bulk. This saves some money, which is utilised in purchasing fruits, and eggs, which they also serve.
Prem Angel disclosed that she was sent a link by her friends to a website about Meals on Wheels, which is working in the US. She contacted the person behind and found that he was a Nepalese national, adopted by an American family, who worked in an MNC and was paid handsomely. But, he decided to leave all this and start a service for the poor. And, in the last few years, he has had tourists, passers-by, students, people living on streets, all queuing up to eat food, which is served free.
The food cooked is nutritious, wholesome and is prepared in hygienic conditions. Breakfast consists of eggs, poha, upma, bhurji, aloo ki sabzi and bananas, while lunch comprises lentils, rice, sabzi, boiled eggs, served on leaf plates.
Where it happens
On Tuesday mornings, they supply to people on footpaths near Flower Valley, Hanuman temple near Shinde Chhatri, St Mary’s signal, Kohinoor Hotel chowk, JJ Garden, MG Road, Lal Deval, and end the journey on East Street. On Fridays, they start from Jyoti Restaurant chowk in Kondhwa, Lulla Nagar junction and Bibwewadi signal.