Bengaluru: Mrs Neetu Pankaj’s day begins as early as 3.30 am. She starts by preparing meals for around 18 to 20 households including her own family. No, she is not into the catering business but has been catering healthy home-cooked food for Covid positive people who are in-home quarantine. She has set a target to finish cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner for approximately 60 people by 9 am. One done, she packs all of them and sends them on Swiggy, Dunzo or any means that the patients prefer.
After closing her kitchen for the day, she begins coordinating hospitals, beds, oxygen cylinders, and everything that people frantically call her for. Her number is all over social media and by the time she completes one call, she would have a dozen missed calls waiting to be attended.
Mrs Pankaj runs a preschool network, CDC Kids, which is closed now because of the pandemic and she is making the best use of her time by helping out those in need. She cooks simple vegetarian food all by herself. She doesn’t have a house help but her husband helps her big time with her new found purpose during these tough times. Her daughters, 13 and six, also help in packing the cooked food.
“Generally, I am not very fond of cooking. But these are times when I don’t even think about all those things. There are people out there begging for anything home-cooked. They say even a khichdi or a Pongal will suffice for them. When a person is Covid-positive and locked inside their own house, weak and tensed, all they can hope is to have good food three times a day and I try and make it possible for them” says Mrs Pankaj.
She started this about 2 weeks ago and caters to homes where entire families of two to five people have tested positive together.
“There are a few houses where only one person is living, I send food to them as well. Not many prefer food from restaurants. Home-cooked food is not only nutritious but provides comfort” she adds.
Many patients are unable to speak well due to tiredness. She manages to coordinate with them for sending off the packed food. Breakfast, Lunch and dinner all three are sent together so that people can eat anything at any time of their wish. Patients will have to spend only on getting their food transported to them. Also, there are people whose houses are far away from her house who spend around Rs 500 per delivery. They say it is still worth it as they get three healthy, home-cooked meals together.
Another group, Mission Chai is also providing free home-cooked meals to home-quarantined positive patients. They work out of their own kitchens and have divided the patients among themselves depending on which part of Bengaluru is convenient. Rakesh Nayyar, an Assistant Engineer with ISRO who is an active member of Mission Chai provides free food to covid positive quarantines. “It was my wife Seema Nayyar’s idea to begin from our kitchen. Last year, through Mission Chai we have distributed thousands of food packets every day in hospitals and highways for over two months. This time around, the situation is very different. There are many people who are stuck in their own houses because of Covid and all that they crave is home-cooked food” says Mr Nayyar who provides around 200 meals daily in Old Airport-Indiranagar region.
Other team members of Mission Chai are doing similar things from their places. The Nayyar’s kitchen runs from 7 am to 7 pm and friends as well as relatives often drop in for help. They cook roti, dal, rice and sabzi and pack them in disposable packets. Few patients arrange to pick up the meals through Dunzo and other online facilities but for a few others who are unable to do that, Mr. Nayyar arranges the delivery himself. He had even taken a week’s leave to set up the initiative and get everything from cooking to distributing is in order. He plans to get back to work in a couple of days.
There are several such good samaritans across Bengaluru who are working independently and in groups and have gone out of their way to help strangers. Many began with helping their friends and family but later realized the magnitude of the need around. In times when everyone is scared to step out of their homes, these Samaritans have been working relentlessly with a smile on their face.
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