He seeks joy in feeding the elderly

He seeks joy in feeding the elderly

Pranav Shukla of Baroda  always wanted to give all the good he had received throughout his life till date back to society. Pranav’s daughter married last year into a well-to-do family. His son too got his citizenship of the United Kingdom.

 “I told my children to take care of each other and if possible give me and my wife some time once in a while. With no family liability, I began thinking on what to do so that I can realise my intimate need to give back to  society,” 56-year-old Pranav says.

A professional writer for local media and later a supplier of materials for interior decoration, he came across many people in need.

 “The worst pain I could see was hunger, especially among the elderly. I am a man of limited resources and could not think of anything better than feeding the empty stomachs of elderly who were alone,” he said.

“I realised that as one grows in age, his or her ability to be active physically reduces. I kept wondering the amount of difficulty an elderly person using a walker or a walking stick to walk would face in cooking or even going out of their houses to eat food.”

So he began looking for the elderly who live alone in the city and do not have any source of income. Initially he helped a couple a of elders and began providing them with cooked food. Gradually the word spread, first by word of mouth and then via social media.

 “I send out the message on social media and that spread among the concerned citizens. Once they get the message, many of them call on my mobile phone and share  information. They give the reference of such elderly persons and today I have the honour to be able to provide lunch and dinner to over 100 elders across Baroda.”
He also takes help of his staff employed at his shops. As he could not afford to pay them extra, he requested them to give two hours everyday and help deliver the tiffin. Thankfully they agreed and today are his backbone to run his kitchen. “So much so that at times they do not attend to my clients at shops if they have to deliver a tiffin to elderly! But I have no complaints.”

Pranav and his team ready lunch by 10.30 am and begin delivery across the city by noon. As of now they deliver the tiffin as far as 12-km from their kitchen.  For the quality, Pranav says that he and his family eat the same food. Because he is not in this for money he uses only branded oil, flour and pulses and never serves leftover food.

All the food is cooked fresh and even the masalas used are branded. Pranav spends close to Rs 10,000 every day for serving tiffins to the elderly. He says he is not worried about the money he is spending. “The money to buy everything keeps coming somehow.  Me, my wife, brother-in-law and three helpers get stuck with operations every day but some energy drives us out of the trouble each time,” Pranav adds.

At times, Pranav also gets help from like-minded persons. Once a volunteer bought him cooking oil and there was another called Samsher Singh, a Punjabi settled in Baroda, who runs a home appliances showroom.

Samsher Singh visited his kitchen and satisfied with the quality of food and work, donated a fridge and gave Pranav a person to help with delivery of tiffins. Today, that person comes regularly and delivers tiffins on a two-wheeler. Pranav says that Singh has promised him that if the number goes up, Singh would arrange for a car to deliver tiffins, all at Singh’s cost.

But does all the efforts he takes, really make a difference he seeks. Pranav  proudly narrates a tale of a woman in Fatehpura locality of Baroda. She had been left alone by her children and once Pranav began supplying her tiffin, the children felt ashamed and began feeding her food under pressure from neighbours. “The mother is happy but at times calls me to say that your food was much better (laughs!).”

But then there are people who try to take undue benefit of his magnanimity. Though they can afford to keep a cook, they call him for the tiffin. “I begin supplying tiffin on the basis of trust and the phone calls I receive. I never go to check on the elderly I send tiffin to. However, my boys who supply tiffins keep giving me feedback and based on that I have even stopped supplying tiffins to people I realise are capable or not needy.”

Pranav says that the work gives him utmost joy. “I have physical and economic limitations but I have now decided that I will continue with this work as long as I live and am capable of. I firmly believe that either you do it right or not do it at all. And I am going to do it for sure.”

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