By Lissy Maruthanakuzhy
Nagpur: A mother’s word can work miracles. Hundreds of people in Nagpur now vouch for that.
Kushroo Poacha has provided food to thousands of patients and their relatives of a major hospital in Nagpur, central India, for more than two years. He does this to fulfill his late mother’s request.
“It has not been an easy road,” Poacha told Matters India recently as he served free food in the canteen of CIIIMS (Central India Institute of Medical Sciences) Hospital.
“In the beginning my wife Fermin, little daughter and I stood at the hospital gate and served food on Sundays, in rain or sun. Later the hospital authorities allowed us to use their canteen which was closed on Sundays,” he recalled.
Gradually his friends and acquaintances joined him in what is now known as “Seva (service) Kitchen.”
How do they find time for this service each Sunday?
“It is not difficult to give a little time on Sundays for this service,” says Kavinder Talwar, a businessman who joined the seva from the beginning.
He has rarely missed Sundays in the past one year. “When I cannot be present, some other team member will replace me,” he said.
Ginny Singh, a house wife who has joined nine months ago, said she finds the service fulfilling. “If you want to come, you can come. It is a personal decision. Today I was at a party and I left it to come here,” she added.
Namita Sharma, another woman volunteer, says serving food has been a satisfying experience for her. She also said they members of Tangent Club of home makers. “We gather funds from our members and prepare the food. Today Rima Sial, the club’s chairperson, cooked food at her place.”
Many people expressed gratitude for the hot food served in the evening — rice, dal and pickle with buttermilk or ice cream.
It all started with Poacha’s mother’s request.
Poacha, a railway employee, narrated the origin of the unique mission.
In April 2014, his mother Katie Adi Poacha was admitted to the hosptial for brain surgery. CIIMS caters to all sections of society, especially the poor who come from neighboring states for treatment that they cannot afford in big private hospitals.
“One day, I went to the canteen to have tea. As there was no tea there, I went to a thela (hand cart). Just as I was walking out, I saw an old woman cooking rotis (bread) and serving it to her family members. From her looks I realized they were very poor. The woman had placed two bricks on the ground and put a tava (pan) on it. Fire was lit underneath, with small twigs collected from the area. I stood there looking at them.
“They were only eating plain roti (bread), with no vegetables or pickle.
Poacha said he also noticed other families also doing the same. “I told my mother about this and shared my feelings of despair to see patients’ relatives struggling to find food. Her immediate response was, “Khushroo do something, start feeding them.”
She also assured him that people would help him.
“I felt compelled to do something about it, but I was going through a difficult time seeing my mother losing her battle with life.”
He shared his anguish with friend Amit A Badiyani, who runs a software solutions company. He had told me earlier to go to him if I found someone who needed help. “He agreed whole-heartedly, and said “Khushrooji, I will start feeding them from this Sunday itself.”
Badiyani told Matters India that he had experienced a similar situation while attending to a sick family member.
“So Kushroo asked me to be part of the seva, I was very happy,” he recalled.
Badiyani started buying food from a restaurant for 25 people, getting it packed, and started distributing it every Sunday evening.
Poacha’s mother was discharged from the hospital after a short time, but she died a few months later.
“Grief-struck, I remembered her words, and wanted to initiate seva of my own. One Sunday, he went to the hospital and saw what his friend was doing.
“As soon as it was announced that food had arrived, about 100-odd people would come running. But there was food only for 25. I decided to cook food at home for more people with the same money we paid the restaurant.”
He discussed this with his my wife and Badiyani. “The first time we served food for 50 people. The numbers kept growing every week as more people came to know about the seva in the hospital. We then hired a cook.”
Friends and like-minded people started giving them money. “I did not want the money. I wanted them to cook food and take it to the locations where it was needed and serve it to the people,” Poacha said. “I decided it was time to motivate others and people-source the food and get volunteers to serve the needy.”
Soon, they were informed about a similar requirement at Tukdoji Maharaj Cancer Hospital in Nagpur, where patients come from nearby villages. “I got permission from the hospital in-charge to serve food to the patients in the guest house, on Saturdays and Sundays.”
Another cancer hospice also needed food for the relatives. The number of people requiring food is growing so also the volunteers.
“I have launched www.SevaKitchen.org to channelize the power of the internet and WhatsApp to connect the needy people with good Samaritans who wished to serve them,” Poacha added.