September 3rd, 2015
News Source: The Hindu | Photo: M. Govarthan
There is an old Byzantine proverb “He who has bread may have many troubles; he who lacks it has only one”.
V. Venkatraman has taken upon himself the task of reducing this trouble for the underprivileged coming to his ‘Sri AMV Homely Mess’ located close to the Erode General Hospital in Tamil Nadu.
This extraordinary effort started in 2008 when a woman who had admitted her relative to the general hospital came to his mess to buy idlis for herself and another relative. When Venkat informed her that the idlis were over and suggested dosas instead she told him that since dosas were more expensive, she would not have enough money to buy food for two people and that one of them would have to go hungry.
Venkatraman said he immediately gave her six dosas for the same price, and since then started offering tiffin and meals at low rates to the attendees of patients at the hospital.
And so began the daily routine for Venkat himself going to the hospital to distribute 20 tokens for Rs. 1 meals. Sometimes a crowd would gather and it saddened him that he couldn’t provide food to all of them. He felt bad about letting people down because given his means of income it was only possible to feed 20. So now he has requested nurses at the hospital to identify the needy and distribute tokens to them.
“Initially I had planned to give them a free meal. But then I felt they might be embarrassed, and perceive it as charity. They may also worry about the quality of the food since it is free of cost. Therefore I decided to charge a token amount of Re. 1,” he explained to The Hindu reporter.
The menu in his mess comprises idli, dosa and meals and costs about Rs. 45- Rs. 55 for customers who walk in. Those with tokens get served a regular meal that consists of rice, sambar and rasam.
Given the rise in food prices how does he manage? “With the steep increase in the cost of ingredients it has become a challenge to keep this going,” he says and adds, “However, I cannot stop what I have started.”
“There are donors from America. People celebrating birthdays or other special occasions can sponsor food,” says the 48-year-old. “Even if 50 hotels give just five people free food, it means they are helping 250 people every day.”
His work is getting recognised and what touches him the most is that even poor people sometimes donate Rs. 5 or Rs. 10. His real reward, he believes, comes from seeing the big impact caused by small gestures.
Venkatraman can be reached on 96290 94020.