PEOPLE N.Surya is on a self-propelled food drive for the orphaned kids, writes SOMA BASU
Few weeks ago, the orphaned children at Bethany Home had a surprise awaiting them when they returned from school. It was an unexpected treat as they feasted on rich and tasty food including vegetable biryani, parotta and veg kurma, sambar rice, paal payasam and halwa.
There were screams of joy as the 40-odd kids lined up with their plates in hand. Helping them with a smile and silently watching the children relish the food was N.Surya. He skipped his meal that afternoon to take the food to the children on time.
“A good deed gives more happiness,” says the 33-year-old political science graduate who hates to see food go waste. “Millions don’t get to eat even one square meal a day. It is a crime to waste food,” he asserts.
Working as a helper-cum-cook with Shri Ram Caterers in Madurai, his heart cringed each time he saw left over food going into the bins at functions. Five years ago he decided to act against this wastage by distributing the extra food among the children in orphanages.
Surya started working with the catering company in 2003 as an ad-hoc. Practically after every function, the sight of heaps of left-over food saddened him. “Usually supply exceeds demand at big functions. Many times there is low attendance of guests because of rains or some other factor.”
One day he mustered courage to ask his boss if he could take away all the extra food after the function for distribution among poor children. He agreed and Surya ever since turned it into a habit. Once the last guest leaves after eating – at a wedding or birthday party, ear piercing or seemantham ceremony or sashtipoorthi function -- Surya puts in extra labour collecting all the left over items in big vessels. Once the food is packed, he hires an auto-rickshaw to deliver it to the three Homes for orphaned children in the city – Bethany Home on Bypass Road, Pneuma Trust in Koodal Nagar and Abode at R.V.Nagar. Together, these three Homes take care of 110 chidren, who have now got used to ‘Surya uncle’ bringing them tasty food at least 10 to 15 times a month.
For Surya, the day often starts with preparation of breakfast. On an average, he gets 20 to 25 days of work every month. There have been occasions when Surya has provided one meal of the day to each of the three homes rushing in and out in between his shifts.
The founder of Bethany Home, Joseph Benziger, tries to pay the fare each time Surya brings food to his Home in an auto rickshaw. But he refuses to take it. “I am doing service and service is a form of worship,” he says. Sometimes without his knowledge Joseph recharges Surya’s mobile as a return gesture.
Surya dreamt of becoming a police officer and entered catering by accident. “As a boy I thought police life was full of action. But now the spiritual satisfaction I derive out of my work gives me the thrill,” he says.
His father ran a small-budget hotel near the Temple but Surya refused to join him. “I wanted to do something different and on my own,’ he says. When he was sitting idle after graduation, a friend asked him to chip in due to labour shortage. It was for a marriage function. “I remember my first earning of Rs.200 after putting in 13 hours of work. There was a charm in it and I enjoyed mingling with different kinds of people,” he says.
Still, to do something more worthwhile tugged his heart. And he found his calling soon. Single-handedly delivering the food to the orphanages also involves lot of physical labour. But to complain is not in his nature.
Children in these homes are now familiar with him and love him. The moment they see him, they come out running, surround him and wait for him to open the vessels. Surya becomes a Santa distributing food and spreading cheer and excitement.
Surya now earns Rs.700 a day but his financial condition rarely nags him. When July goes dry on work, he plays street cricket.
He also travels outside the city for catering and renders the same service with equal enthusiasm. “I find an orphanage nearby wherever we go and make the children happy there.”
He is keen to extend his service to Homes for the Aged and the Handicapped people too but these centres normally do not allow or encourage late arrival of food. “But with children, it is always different. They receive me with so much joy and warmth even if I get delayed.”
Surya wants to build a network of like-minded people and organisations who wish to feed the hungry. “It is a different feeling when you make others happy,” he says. “I have no tension in my mind and would like to feed hungry stomachs every day.”
(Making a difference is a fortnightly column about ordinary people and events that leave an extraordinary impact on us. E-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to tell about someone you know who is making a difference.)