Staying true to its name, the Anokha Mall (unique Mall) was built on the noble and differential idea of a shopping setting made for the poor. In the Mall located in Lucknow, those who cannot afford to buy warm clothes during the freezing winters can take clothes from the Mall without paying. Oftentimes, the homeless and minimum wagers bear the brunt of the cold and face severe health concerns as they cannot afford to buy quality woollen clothes. The clothes in the Mall come through well-wishers and have been helping many rickshaw pullers, labourers, slum-dwellers, and other deprived people to beat the winter cold.
Unique Mall For The Deprived
Anokha Mall in Lucknow has been operated by Dr Ahmed Raza Khan, a Bachelor of Unani Medicine and Surgery (BUMS) practitioner, for the past five years. The Mall operates at the Raheem Nagar in Lucknow for around three months in the winter - December, January, and February. They take wollens and other warm accessories from donors and place them on display at the Mall for the poor to come and choose.
Such a system removes the inhibition of them being "receivers," as it gives a similar sense of shopping but with no strings attached. Talking about this aspect of the Mall, Khan says, "Unlike other places and occasions when woollen clothes are distributed to the needy, the recipient is generally hesitant to accept them. However, at Anokha Mall, the person taking the woollen clothes can easily enter as if they are entering a shopping mall, see and check the clothes, and then take them as per their choice."
However, they do maintain a proper record of the donors and those taking the clothes to avoid people from taking advantage of such a social service. Often many people tend to take undue advantage and take clothes from the Mall to sell them in the market. This deprives the needy of the service and also affects the cause in whole. And so a system was put in place to ensure a proper channel regarding where the clothes come from and where they go. Besides clothes, the Mall also has a range of sandals, suitcases, school uniforms, blankets, and quilts made available for the deprived. All the materials brought in are kept to be taken only once they ensure that they are clean and fit for use.
Pick As You Like With No Strings Attached
"This is a mall where you can donate your clothes, take them as well. And (most importantly), you are not begging for alms," said Khan, as quoted by a report by NDTV. However, initially, it was difficult for them to bring donors on board with the idea. With time they realised the goodwill motive behind the project and began extending their support wholeheartedly. Today they have a decent number of donors, most of which are doctors. Most people who take the clothes are rickshaw pullers, labourers, and slum-dwellers.
The Mall, which begins to function every winter, has been widely praised by residents and others for its selfless concept. Nishant, a resident of Vikas Nagar, through a Facebook post, celebrated having donated clothes to the Mall and wrote, "This is certainly a unique mall, as the needy will not have to extend a seeking hand. They can take the clothes or shoes of their choice as per their needs, without being the subject of any camera and without giving any money." Operated by a staff of four from 10 am to 6 pm every day, the Mall sold warm clothes to more than 4,000 needy people last year. Among many others who poured in praises for the initiative was Mr Sonkar, a teacher in a government school, who is of the opinion that the Mall should be given "widespread publicity" for their service to the poor and needy.
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