Ahmed Sheikh

रिज़्क तक़दीर का,खुद उड़के चला आता है, पर जो दिया है, मेरे मालिक ने, हर एक दाने को । That's what you are bringing us - Food blessed by the divine. There is no service higher than this.”

“Around two hundred migrant workers from our slum left fortheir homes as soon as the lockdown began. Their hometowns arethousands of kilometers away. Some left by foot on highways or on train-tracks.Others tried stealthily escaping in containers and milk trucks. We don't evenknow how many of them reached home. They were in touch with us onlyfor a few days. Some of them sent pictures of their shredded soles,bloodied feet, and blistered skin. Soon their phones weren't reachable. Wedon't know if it’s because they ran out of balance or some other reason.

The workers who couldn't travel were in distress. They arepredominantly daily wage earners who keep only a portion of their wages andsend the rest of their money home. Their meager savings got overwithin a few days after the lockdown was announced, and they werestarving.

One day, I got some supplies from my personal savings and hireda caterer to prepare fifty meals. From then on, the number grew dayby day. Luckily, around the time the demand reached ahundred, someone informed us about khaanchahiye. Now thanks to what youare providing us, we serve two hundred meals a day.

I make sure that I alone perform the serving tomaintain hygiene and sanitization. Most people are happy to receive freshly cookedfood during these trying times. I don't get to see their smiles, because we arestrict in enforcing masks. But I know it when I look at their eyes. But fewpeople find it humiliating to stand in line and receive food. So afterdistributing the majority of the food packets, I save a fewfor later. After others have gone back, I serve the remaining packetsto those who don't want to stand in line in front of everyone. I try not tolook at them, because every time I do, I see their heads bow down. It is the mostpainful thing to watch.

But you know what, I have been in social servicefor the past two decades. I have seen many dark days in thiscity. The 92/93 riots, 2005 floods, 26/11, and many more. And everytime I have seen people come together irrespective of their religion, caste orcreed and help the city bounce back. Even now, Hindu brothers in ourslum prepare evening meals for us to break our fasts during the monthof Ramadan.

And look at how we came across you guys when we were running outof options. That reminds me of a sher penned by my Uncle.

रिज़्क तक़दीर का,खुद उड़के चला आता है,

पर जो दिया है, मेरे मालिक ने,

हर एक दाने को ।

(Nourishment of divine blessings,

finds its own way to those in need,

for my Lord has granted wings,

to every grain indeed.)

That's what you are bringing us - Food blessedby the divine. There is no service higher than this.”

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Khaana Chahiye Foundation is a
non-profit organization based in Mumbai. It aims to combat the issue of hunger through relief efforts and advocacy initiatives. The organization started as a relief operation during the Covid-19 lockdown in Mumbai and became one of the most extensive crisis management operations in the city.

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