Members of North Indian communities – the Agarwals, Sikhs and Gujaratis – are making hygienic and wholesome food for the flood victims in Kerala
Photos: Women at the food kitchen run by the Jan Kalyan Society and the Agrawal Yuva Mandal (Kerala); Sikh men making chappatis at the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurudwara at Thevara, Kochi; the Gujarati community at Mattancherry flagging off flood relief materials
By Shevlin Sebastian
Rotary Club member Simi Stephen has just arrived at lunch time outside the North Indian Charitable Trust building at Udaya Nagar, Kochi. She had come to collect 200 vegetable biriyani packets. They had been made by the members of the Jan Kalyan Society and the Agrawal Yuva Mandal (Kerala). Simi did not have to wait long. Soon, the packets were delivered and she was on her way.
Meanwhile, in the courtyard, several ladies are sitting around a long table. They are pulling mounds from a long piece of dough. Then it is made into a circle and flattened with a rolling pin. Just ahead of them, there are several men who are making the dough. And the uncooked puris are fried in large pans containing oil.
Inside the hall of the building, vegetable pulao and biriyani are being made. There is a hubbub of noise. There is also enthusiasm and energy swirling around, as the food is put inside cellophane packets.
“Each packet contains five puris and a pickle, along with a vegetable dish,” says
Hemant Baranwal, secretary, Jan Kalyan Society (JKS).
“The camp began on Friday, August 17 and we began with 5000 packets a day,” says NN Mittal, patron, JKS. “Now we are supplying around 20,000 packets a day.”
They are being sent to the relief camps as well as flood-affected areas in North Parur, Varapuzha, Neriamangalam, Njarakkal, Kalamassery, Pukkattupadi, Kaloor and Vaduthala. “It has also been used by the Navy when they were dropping food packets,” says Hemant.
Asked why they have decided to help, the bearded Parikshit Khandelwal, 40, a software engineer, says, “Kerala is our homeland now. I am a third-generation North Indian and my son has just been born,” he says. “We don't think about caste or community in helping people. The people of Kerala are our people.”
Adds Mittal, “I have been living in Kochi for the past 30 years. I consider myself as a Keralite.”
Rekha Bansal, who is making puris, says, “I was born and brought up in Kochi and did my graduation from Maharaja's College. I belong here one hundred percent. So I wanted to help when I saw the devastation on TV.”
Industrialist SS Agarwal, a committee member, JKS, who is standing nearby, is helping in his own way. He has a flour mill at Binanipuram. And for the past few days, his factory doors are open to all. “I came to know that there is a flour shortage, so I decided to help,” he says. Approximately, 1000 bags of 50 kgs have been distributed so far to those who need it.
Asked how long they will be doing this charity work, Hemant says, “As long as food is required for the flood relief victims.”
Meanwhile, at the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurudwara at Thevara, women sit in a semi circle on the floor, and make chappatis using the rolling pin and wooden board. In the next room, there is a hissing sound, as a group of young Sikh men cook the chappatis on a broad dosa tawa.
Like the Agarwals, the Sikhs are also making meals for those affected by the floods. “Apart from chappatis, rice and dal are also being made,” says a member of the community, under the aegis of the 'United Sikhs of Kochi', which is coordinating the relief work. “We are making 2300 meals a day. Some of it will be sent to Wayanad, too.”
One who is very happy is Simi. “The gurudwara has been giving us 1500 packets every day,” she says. “Their families have come together and are making the food in a very hygienic manner.”
The Gujaratis of Mattancherry are also doing their bit. The Shri Cochin Jain Temple, Mattancherry, in association with Vardhaman Sanskar Dham, Mumbai have also distributed items like cloths, mats, pillows, paper plates and food like chappati, dal, sambhar, rice and briyani to various relief camps in Ernakulam district. “On August 19, Kochi MLA K J Maxi visited our distribution centre and he was very happy to see what we had done,” says community member Paresh Chandulal Shah. “We want to do our bit for the people of Kerala.”
(The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram)