In the wake of the coronavirus lockdown, 81-year-old Baba Karnail Singh Khaira has been serving meals free of cost for the last two months near Karanji, Maharashtra on National Highway-7. Khaira's ramshackle tin shed with plastic sheets is the only spot that serves meals on a stretch of around 450 km.
"This is a remote, tribal region. Behind us for nearly 150-km, and ahead for nearly 300 km, there's not a single dhaba or restaurant... So most people prefer to halt at 'Guru ka langar' and avail of our round-the-clock services," Khaira told IANS.
While it is a has-been serving for years, since the lockdown came into effect, it became a respite for many hungry people including stranded migrants, travellers, truckers and villagers.
"We had hordes of people coming days and we kept continuously cooking food for them... We welcomed all with smiles and folded hands, irrespective of caste, religion... My regular team of 17 'sevaks', including 11 cooks and other helpers were overworked but ensured a non-stop supply of fresh, piping hot food," Khaira, popularly known as Khaira Babaji, said.
To keep up with the demand, he received donations from his youngest brother Baba Gurbax Singh Khaira, who is settled in the USA. His brother not only pitched in himself but also raised donations from the local (USA) Sikh community.
In the past 10 weeks, the langar fed over 15 lakh people and over five lakh took away parcels. The langar provides breakfast of tea with hard bread or biscuits and meals constituting plain rice with toor dal, with a curry. In addition, it also provides soap and borewell water for bathing to visitors.
The small town is located around 11 km away from the historic Gurudwara Bhagod Sahib, Wai, where the 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh had stayed in 1705.
"Since the Gurudwara Bhagod Sahib is away from the main road, in 1988 (32 years ago), this free 'langar' came up here as its branch. I was assigned to manage it with the blessings and guidance of Nanded Gurudwara Sahib's Baba Narinder Singhji and Baba Balwinder Singhji," said Khaira.
Furthermore, the langar also feeds chapati-jaggery daily to around 250 dogs, cats, stray cattle and other animals in the vicinity. Also Read: Corona Warriors: This Citizens' Initiative Is Serving Over 70,000 Meals Daily In Mumbai Amid Lockdown