The One Rupee Meal Man. Photo Courtesy : The Hindu
At first look Sri AMV Homely Mess located close to the Erode General Hospital (Erode is a town located in Tamilnadu) does not have much to recommend for itself. It is like any other budget eatery which dots our cities and towns. However what makes AMV Homely Mess special is V. Venkatraman.
This man since 2008 has been doling out Re. 1 meal so that attendants of poor patients admitted at the hospital can have a full meal. AMV Mess provides Re. 1 meal to 20 people every day.
Venkatraman, the owner, is a man of very modest means. He runs his small eatery and his wife is a yoga teacher. They have two college going daughters. The funds going into the subsidised meals could well have ensured a few essentials for Venkatraman and his family.
This man however continues unfazed and has served approximately 40,000 Re. 1 meals till date.
All this started in 2008 when a woman who had admitted a relative to the general hospital came to his mess to buy idlis. Venkat informed that idlis were over and that she may buy dosa instead. It almost became a case of âif you donot have bread have cakeâ. The woman replied that she only had enough money to buy idlis for two people. Dosa would mean one of them would have to go hungry. The sigh of resignation in the voice of the woman touched a chord and Venkat decided that he needed to do his bit so that atleast some people would not go hungry. While the patients might sometimes get food from the hospital , it was the attendants who went hungry, majority being poor daily wage labourers who had to forego earnings to be besides an ailing relative.
And so began the daily routine for Venkat going to the hospital to distribute 20 tokens for Rs. 1 meals. While the prices of food grains, oil, spices and vegetables have gone up many times, the Re. 1 meal has defied inflation. The Re. 1 meal continues and is of the same quality and quantity for which regular customers pay Rs. 50.
Initially Venkat had thought of providing free meals but then decided to put a price of Re. 1. His logic being that the beneficiaries might feel embarrassed to partake free meals and look at free meal as charity. He believes that the poor despite having less means have dignity and self esteem which has to be respected. Free meal might also give misgivings on the quality of the food and anything free is never appreciated.
While Venkat used to go to the hospital himself to distribute the 20 tokens for free meals, the crowd would gather and he felt saddened that his means would allow him to feed only 20 people when there were so many more who needed this help. He has now requested the nurses at the hospital to distribute the tokens to whom they feel are in the most need.
Venkat on his part has financial difficulties to take care of. When his daughter secured admission to an engineering college, Venkat didnot have the money to pay the fees. She almost had to forego the engineering college seat. However Ramakrishna Math came to his aid and defrayed expenses for his daughterâs admission.
Venkat believes that the blessings of the people he helps give back much more than he can ever give them.
With the steep increase in the cost of ingredients it has become a challenge to keep this going, However Venkat is clear, his initiative cannot be stopped. His work is getting acknowledged and even the poor donate Rs. 10-20 for his cause.
It is said that âeveryone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about, Be kindâ. Venkatraman lives this in practice.
Venkatraman can be reached on 96290 94020.