Sunday, August 21, 2016
Inspiration--He Struggles to Pay His Daughter’s College Fees but Provides Meals to the Needy for Re.1
“Eight years back, a lady came to my mess to purchase food for herself and her husband who was admitted in the nearby government hospital. She wanted to purchase idlis, which I sell six for Rs. 10. But they were unavailable that day so I asked her to take dosas instead,” narrates Venkatraman, remembering the lady who became the starting point of his journey.It all started because of a single woman who unwittingly made Venkatraman aware of a very harsh reality.She refused to purchase dosas, because they were sold three for Rs. 10, and that would not be enough for her family. Touched by her dejected expression, Venkatraman gave her six dosas for the same amount.But this wasn’t the end of the story. The incident, which would have been easily forgotten by many restaurant owners, stayed with Venkatraman. He realised that some people were dependent on an amount as small as Rs. 10 for survival through the entire day. He knew he had to do something, to the best of his own ability.
The very next day, he went to the Erode General Hospital, and saw the unfortunate condition of many patients and their families. He was informed by the nurses and hospital staff that most of the patients there belonged to lower income families. While hospital food was sometimes provided to the patients, the attending family members had no other option but to go hungry most of the time. They were mostly daily wage earners who were unable to go to work because they had to be with their ailing relatives, and hence could not earn anything for the day. This was the reason they had a hard time arranging for food for the patients and themselves.
It was here that the idea of providing meals to them, for a token amount of Re. 1, struck Venkatraman.
He and his wife started going to the hospital every day, where they distributed tokens worth Re. 1 to 20 needy attendants, who could then come to the mess in the afternoon and collect their meals, which included rice,sambar, rasam, etc. Although most people in this government hospital come from poor backgrounds and needed food, Venkatraman could afford to give meals to only 20 people at that time. So he took the help of the nurses and doctors to identify people who needed those tokens the most.Today, Venkatraman gives away 70 tokens every day. He divides them into three parts — the first 10-15 token holders come in for breakfast, in which he provides three dosas and two idlis each. Around 30-40 tokens are for lunch, and again around 15 are for dinner in which dosas and chapattis are provided.The food is given in take-away packets so that people can go back to the hospital and share it with their relatives and friends if they want.
Venkatraman decided to fix the cost of food at a token amount of Re.1, instead of just giving it away for free. He did this, he says, so that people would respect the food and not question its quality, which they often do and waste the food if given a free meal. In his restaurant, a meal is sold for around Rs. 50 per plate to regular customers. Individual items like dosas and idlis are sold for Rs. 10 per plate.Venkatraman, who comes from a very humble background, earns his own living and subsidises the token Re 1 food with the income from his restaurant. Other than this, he also gets donations between Rs. 1000 to Rs.5000 every month from different people who want to help him in his endeavour to give food to the needy.Since the overall income from the mess is very little, almost negative at times, his family also has to rely on the money earned by his wife who works as a yoga teacher. They have two daughters — one is married and the other is pursuing a B. Tech degree.
Their daughter’s admission to college was also not an easy task for the couple. They almost had to let go of her seat because of the lack of adequate funds. But, after seeing his selfless work for the needy, the Ramakrishna Math in the city came forward to help him and took care of the admission expenses for his daughter.Although he did not get the opportunity to continue his own education after Class 12, Venkatraman wants to ensure that his daughters study as much as they want to. The son of a former Indian Railways employee, his family is not so well off financially and he is well acquainted with the struggles of poverty and hunger. This is another reason perhaps why this incredible Samaritan is able to connect with those who work really hard to earn even one square meal a day.
In spite of earning so little and even sometimes incurring losses in his business, this generous man has no plans of stopping his Re. 1 meals for the needy. In fact, he wants to increases the number of tokens he distributes to about 100 as soon as possible.