MEERUT: When Mohd Shakeel (32), was left with no work due to the ongoing lockdown, he and his team of six decided to use his skills to help the poor in Meerut.
A cook by profession, Shakeel used to prepare food for marriage and other functions.
After the lockdown was announce, Shakeel was left with no work. But instead of cursing the the circumstances, he motivated his team to procure raw material from Mandi and prepare enough food to fill 250 stomachs daily.
“There are close to 3,500 homeless on the streets and we cannot just let them die of hunger. God has given us talent to cook and we are using it for noble cause” says Shakeel who is encouraged by locals both financially and morally.
Interestingly, the team while providing food, also educate their beneficiaries the value of social distancing.
“There is always crowd formation when our truck stops but then our pre-condition to serve of food is strict compliance of social distancing measures. While three of us distribute the thalis, the other three ensure they all stand in the queue at least a meter apart from each other. These are dangerous times after all”, says another team member Danish Ahmad.
The team gets out early morning and procures rice, daal and vegetables at wholesale rate, prepare the food at their residence in city interiors in Kotla and with a couple of containers full of khichri and vegetables move out.
“We operate on two routes only as of now – City railway station and Begum Bridge crossing where we find a cluster of homeless,” says Shakeel.
Ram Kumar, a daily wager has nothing but blessing for the team. “We are completely out of work for days now. Our prayers are with these youngsters.”
Shakeel is trying to contact other independent cooks also to widen the scope of the service.
“We exhaust our stuff in merely two hours and are finished by noon. I am sure government agencies and police are also engaged in feeding the poor but food is something which is needed 2-3 times a day and government too has limited resources. So more and more people need to come forward if not in person then in spirit. No one should sleep with an empty stomach.”
SP Traffic Sanjeev Bajpai appreciates the gesture but with a pinch of salt.
“We welcome this gesture but the whole idea of social distancing is to maintain distance and stay indoors which might get defeated in this activity. These are scary and unprecedented times. Even a noble gesture like this can turn counterproductive in prevailing circumstances. It is always advisable to involve government agencies, to do the task. One can provide resources but not expose oneself and others to the pandemic.”