Eat as much as you want for just Rs 10: Too good to be true ?

Moved by the plight of the poor and the jobless following the lockdown, an eatery in East Delhi offers a full meal (bhar pet) for as little as Rs 10 once a day

 Eat as much as you want for just Rs 10: Too good to be true ?
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S Khurram Raza

It started when a friend called up and asked for a hundred Rupees. He had never asked for any monetary help, recalls Kiran Verma. He wondered if the friend, who worked in a small garment workshop and was satisfied with his lot, had become a drug addict.

Verma decided to visit his friend. He discovered that the friend had lost his job during the lockdown, had run out of savings and had no money for meals. The lockdown had ruined his friend’s life and put it upside down. Shaken, Verma was forced to think of others whose savings have shrunk and who are unable to feed themselves.

The result was an eatery that he started, pledging to serve full meals to people for just 10 Rupees. The eatery is next to Babarpur-Maujpur Metro station in East Delhi. It is close to the spot where BJP leader Kapil Mishra had warned anti-CAA protestors in February, triggering a riot.

The eatery, with the cost of meal displayed prominently, attracts around a thousand people every day, informs Verma. Curiously, he pays Rs 60,000 every month as rent for the space. He has also employed 10 people, all of whom had lost their jobs during the lockdown, who are paid more than the minimum wages, he assures me.

The employees, when I visited the place, were cleaning up after feeding people lunch. They seemed a happy lot and spoke readily enough, lending credence to Verma’s claim that they were being paid well. Each meal, they informed, comprised rice, two Puris, lentil, a vegetable curry and ‘Halwa’ by way of dessert. The weekend menu is different. But the key words at the eatery are ‘Bhar Pet’’ or filling. People can eat as much as they want till they have had their fill.

He consciously took the decision to avoid selling meals in the evening. That is when drunks and drug addicts throng the marketplace, he claimed, raising the possibility of trouble.

Verma is not new to social service. For the past four years, he has been running an NGO to promote blood donations. When I visit the eatery, I saw a wheelchair outside. A disabled child, Verma informs, needed one and he had finally managed to procure one. He also claims to have provided a tablet to a student who needed it for attending online classes. He credits his ability to serve to his wife, who is employed and supports her husband’s efforts, occasionally having to pawn her jewellery. He himself lives in Noida and travels to Jafrabad area every day to supervise the working of the eatery.

Donations, he acknowledges, have played a big part in sustaining the operation. But he does not accept cash, he hastens to point out. Donors either pay through cheques or digitally.

More such efforts are needed in cities, where millions need a helping hand.

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