The dismal notion which has echoed during the loss and grief of the pandemic also ushers some goodwill that exists in the society. Trans Community Kitchen is an initiative in Chennai that caters to stranded people on road with no avail to affordable food, especially in these unfortunate times.
It came into being with the efforts of four samaritans Srijith, Aruvi, Anish, and Sharan Karthik. The kitchen is driven by 12 trans women who have come forward to help and experience the essence of being a giver after receiving help for so long.
"Since the first lockdown that came into effect last year, a bunch of us have been pooling in funds to support the members of the LGBT community. It was during one such time when I stumbled upon a few pavement dwellers who were massively hit because of the lockdown and its repercussions. They were struggling for even a glass of water. It dawned on me then that the last thing humans should die of is hunger. With a few like-minded friends and dedicated trans women, we kicked off this community kitchen on April 25 with a trial run," says Srijith reported The New Indian Express
The team of 12 includes Shankari, Priya Ezhumalai, Bobby, Sowmiya, Sowndharya Gopi, Rupakala Vedachalam, Ramya, Mageshwari Elumalai, Preethi Ganapathi, Sandhiya and Maya. Six of them work at the Porur kitchen and the others at Tsunami Quarters, Eranvur.
"I have known all of them for a long time. They are all service-minded and have contributed their bit for society at different points in time. What brought them together was their eagerness to give their love to those who needed it the most, with a skill they have mastered over the years cooking," narrates Srijith.
The team is operating with permission from the police and complete adherence to the COVID-19 protocols. The cooking takes place at the community kitchen at both the locations."Our work begins at 4.30 am and we wind up by 9 pm. The team takes turns delivering food in the morning, noon and night. We've given them our scooters so they cover a larger distance in less time. Upon returning, they take a shower, wear a fresh set of protective gear and only then prepare the next meal," he says.
The elaborate and filling meal has a nutritious menu, for the first week it consisted Rava khichdi for breakfast, vegetable biryani for lunch and roti with sabzi for dinner coupled with a water bottle. The Porur Kitchen distributed food to 70-80 people in Porur, Iyyappanthangal, Kattupakkam, Poonamallee, Karayanchavadi, and Kumananchavadi. Similarly, Tsunami quarters managed to serve around 80 meals to women with disabilities and other transgender persons in the community.
"At Porur, we have a bigger kitchen, so we were able to reach more people such as the homeless/street-occupying elders, destitute women, migrant workers, sanitation workers, those stranded on the roads due to the lockdown, ambulance drivers, and policemen on duty," he says.
On May 2, the team collaborated to provide breakfasts of thinai Pongal, sambar rice for lunch, bun with jam, and biscuits for dinner. They were able to successfully supply it to 400 people per meal.
Additionally, with meals, the team also dispenses provisions and masks. Shankari says, "The same set of people, whom we served the previous week, were waiting for us with hopeful eyes. I felt so proud and content. They grabbed the parcel from me and blessed me. What more do I need? By serving food, we not only satiate their hunger but give them the confidence to live."
The awe-inspiring team has been altruistically helping people in need. Whilst some have lost their jobs and some have been denied the very equal right to opportunities due to their prejudiced identity. Albeit their unstable income and massive exclusion from society, they have set out to aid those who are facing the same adverse crisis.
"We know what it's like to be deprived of something so nobody better than us can empathize with these needy people. This is our community and we need to do something for it whether or not it pays back. If only we all learned to accept and coexist; life would be much better," says Soundarya.
The team has also decided to supply non-veg Biryani on the occasion of Ramzan. "It so happened that we offered only vegetarian options so far. We would love for them to enjoy some meaty affair. Given the extension of lockdown, we will be functioning until May 24. All three meals will be prepared on all days at Porur and weekends at Tsunami Quarters. We will be delivering food to more people for which more funds will be needed. It would be helpful if more people can assist us," says Srijith.
The team is also thankful to fellow samaritans and volunteers who have donated funds to regulate the initiative. "We are currently functioning like a disaster management team. All our contributors have been helping us for the last year based on trust. We are transparent about what's being done with the money by sending an acknowledgement receipt. This way, we've also been able to build a network of good souls. We hope to help more people in the coming days," says Aruvi.
This team which is passionately run by transgenders has left a lesson for those who unabashedly outcast them. Despite their living conditions and low source of income, they have embarked on this heartwarming venture to demonstrate the generosity of their hearts, which people often dismiss or recognize. "Oru pidi anbu" (A handful of love) . This is what these people covet the most, loving acceptance and an understandable embrace. This resonates with the idea of the commune and befittingly is the tagline of Trans Kitchen Community. People are savouring their compassion, let's return the same.