Renu Sud Sinha
In one other two days, Feed India Initiative may have accomplished 5 months of its tenacious journey of feeding thousands and thousands in additional than 135 cities throughout India in the course of the pandemic. The man spearheading this marketing campaign is New York-based Vikas Khanna, a Michelin-starred chef for the world, however a humble man at coronary heart from ‘Guru ki Nagri’ Amritsar.
Read additionally: ‘What he is doing comes from that space – langar sewa’
The marketing campaign has crossed the 30 million-meal (cooked and dry ration) mark, however meals is just not the one factor Vikas and his workforce of volunteers are offering. Also on the record are 400,000 slippers, three million sanitary pads and a couple of million masks. While he’s been too busy to calculate the general price, “on a rough estimate, it should be around $10 million”, says Vikas. The marketing campaign, nonetheless, has zero-administrative price, as it’s being managed by a workforce of 60 volunteers, in India and the US.
From his home in Manhattan, he shares an fascinating anecdote that led to the inspiration of this huge effort. In March-end, he acquired a mail from an old-age dwelling in India, searching for donation for its inmates, caught in the course of the lockdown. He instantly transferred some cash, however the mail turned out to be a spam. However, it set him occupied with the plight of the much less lucky in the course of the pandemic. Having been related to such endeavours earlier than, he was conscious that almost all orphanages, old-age houses, and different such institutes run from month to month by way of rations, donations, and so on, and could be massively affected by the pandemic. And that’s how the concept of Feed India got here into being.
Feed India, or Barkat as he calls it, began with a single tweet on April 1. Vikas requested his 2.three million followers on Twitter to go to their neighbourhood orphanages, old-age houses, leprosy centres and verify if the inmates wanted ration or meals.
Soon, the messages grew sooner than the Covid instances throughout India, and he and his volunteers had been fast to reply.
A fundamental package of necessities, together with hygiene necessities, was put collectively. Each bag consisted of ration gadgets, important provides, sanitisers, sanitary napkins, detergent and generally even chocolate, together with slippers, water bottles, and so on.
From institutes of destitution, his marketing campaign quickly prolonged to migrants strolling dwelling, avenue distributors, Mumbai’s dabbawalas, boatmen and craftsmen in Varanasi, inmates of widow ashrams, folks with disabilities, transgenders, intercourse employees, AIDS sufferers, anybody and everybody in want.
As Vikas was managing all the things from the US, there have been some logistical points — unscrupulous distributors, dishonest suppliers, vanishing provide vans, funds that needed to be paid twice. He virtually gave up however his mom — the anchor who retains him rooted, as he places it — reminded him how having achieved his dream of turning into a high chef regardless of odds, he couldn’t be scared of those little singes.
He reached out to the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) in mid-April. By then, the NDRF had already been working with the pandemic-affected in numerous states.
But didn’t the NDRF discover the proposal of a star chef sitting throughout oceans slightly farfetched? Says Satya Narayan Pradhan, Director-General of the NDRF, “His commitment, authenticity and straight-forwardness came across loud and clear. And this partnership has moved from strength to strength because of the synergy in sincerity from both sides.”
Vikas has spent thousands and thousands from his personal funds to kickstart the marketing campaign and hold it going. Collaborations, in each money and type, with manufacturers got here a lot later. India Gate rice administration was the primary to method him in mid-April. Since then, there have greater than 50 Indian and worldwide collaborators, together with Tata, Procter & Gamble, Paytm, Patanjali, and so on. The newest on board is Crown Rice. It has dedicated 1 lakh kg of rice for Feed India’s Ganesh Chaturthi prasadam drive in Mumbai on September 1.
Many people have additionally pitched in, together with artist and architect Tarik Currimbhoy, Sandie Tillotson (NuSkin), Heather Ibrahim-Leathers (Global Fund for Widows), social entrepreneur Payal Tulsiyan, and naturally, the person of the second, Sonu Sood. The two Punjabi boys got here collectively to assist migrants attain dwelling — Sonu was taking good care of transportation and Vikas was offering them with meals on the best way. For this initiative, Vikas had provide you with an revolutionary plan. He reached out to Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited and transformed not less than 100 gas stations on the highways of UP, MP and Maharashtra into kitchens from the place the weary migrants might have a sizzling meal on the go.
The one lesson from the pandemic, says Vikas, has been the “resilience of mankind and its solidarity”.
With the tip of the pandemic nowhere in sight, how lengthy can he maintain Feed India? “I signed two book deals last week, and the proceeds will go into funding the drive. More brands are coming forward. I tweeted about it last week and there were 16 mails within 30 minutes.”
On what makes him go on, he says, “My faith in my Guru, Guru Nanak Dev, and my promise to my mother that I will see it through. She didn’t raise a quitter.” She didn’t.