Although the latest rise in Covid cases has been very steep, like with every previous wave, this wave too has brought forth good Samaritans — people rising up to help each other. With entire families going into isolation, food has been a major concern for those testing positive. To help with this problem, some individuals in and around Salt Lake have taken it upon themselves to provide nourishing meals at affordable prices.
For Hemchand Agrawal, a resident of FD Block who works in construction, calls for help from his relatives made him realise how many unknown people too must be finding even a basic meal hard to procure. “I thought that if privileged people around me are facing this problem, the extent of the issue must be even more stark among the less fortunate. After providing meals for two months last year during the second wave, I decided to restart the initiative on January 4 this year, seeing the rise in cases,” he said. In addition to Salt Lake, Agrawal provides meals to Covid patients across north and east Kolkata, including Kankurgachi and New Town, all for Rs 50 per plate.
“Sometimes, the delivery itself costs us Rs 100, but it isn’t fair to charge a lot from someone who is down with the virus,” he says. All one needs to do to place an order is send him a WhatsApp message at 9748442119.
Ajay Sultania, who founded Ek Prayas last year with his father to distribute meals, also decided to restart their venture with the third wave. “We work in the apparel industry and had a practice of feeding 200 people every day for free even before the pandemic started. So, when we started getting calls for help during the second wave, we decided to provide free meals to whoever would reach out to us — across Kolkata,” said Sultania.
The focus is to not provide a fancy meal, but a nourishing one and reach as many people as possible. “Last time we served over 8,000 thalis, averaging over 200 meals a day. This time, fewer people are volunteering, but we’re getting over 400 calls every day,” he said. Ek Prayas accepts orders at 9830315705 and 6289050985.
Agrawal is delivering roughly 100 meals a day and has hired seven people to prepare the food, and four more to deliver it. However, he has noted a small decline in orders from the previous wave, something he attributes to an increase in awareness and preparedness among the populace.
Kavita Nahata, who runs The Mom In The Kitchen, also noticed a similar trend as her Covid meal count went down from the second wave. “I had expanded from snack platters to personalised meals for Covid patients last year and was sending out 30 meals every day. This time, I am only providing meals for five families at any given time.” Priced at Rs 140, Nahata tries to prepare more specialised meals for patients according to their dietary preferences and has become a known name in Salt Lake and Lake Town. She accepts orders through WhatsApp on 9836107127.
While most such initiatives have a standard serving of rotis, rice, dal, vegetables and salad, Agrawal has tried to keep his customers cheerful while quarantining by providing some variety. “If there’s dal for lunch, we try to give kadhi for dinner. Similarly, we try to keep switching from veggies to paneer, to ensure that the nourishment is holistic,” he said.
Sultania has also tried to ensure quality by not sending out anything that hasn’t been checked. “One thali comes to our office first, where we taste it to ensure that the food feels homely. We get a lot of calls from distressed children on behalf of their parents who live alone and can’t go out due to quarantine, and we try our best to fulfil our responsibility towards them,” said Sultania.