COVID-19: How Chennai’s Kasturba Nagar became a ‘breakfast joint’

File photo of two conservancy workers working at a compost ring at Kasturba Nagar, before the Coronavirus outbreak.

File photo of two conservancy workers working at a compost ring at Kasturba Nagar, before the Coronavirus outbreak.   | Photo Credit: Prince Frederick

Janani Venkitesh started serving breakfast to conservancy workers; inspired by her example, other residents of the neighbourhood are doing the same thing

In a world that has suddenly turned upside down, where regular systems are on hold, routine is disrupted and there is even danger attached to following one’s routine, having to continue living and working as if nothing has changed is the utmost challenge any human can face.

Conservancy workers are among those who face this challenge. Their routine has changed — how and when they get to work and even where they eat — but the work itself hasn’t.

Early this week, when Janani Venkitesh learnt that the conservancy workers reporting for work in her locality, Kasturba Nagar, were forgoing their breakfast due to changes in their routine, she was actually on her second coffee of the morning.

She gulped hard.

And that is when the breakfast she cooked grew bigger, with extra portions being made for these conservancy workers.

“Their work begins very early and they have their breakfast between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m., usually buying food from a roadside eatery. As most of the shops are closed now, many workers skip breakfast,” says Janani who is secretary, Residents of Kasturba Nagar Association (ROKA).

(Conservancy workers are now transported to their work spots by special vehicles arranged by the government; though this is commendable, it may still signify a break in routine for them, for if they had the option of heading to work on their own, they might have a few extra minutes at home when they can wolf down home-made breakfast.)

Janani had served them breakfast along with coffee for two consecutive days, but her neighbours wouldn’t let her continue playing host to them ad infinitum.

Janani explains that when she shared the matter on the Association’s WhatsApp group – numbering over 150 people – the response was overwhelming. Many residents offered to cook breakfast for the conservancy workers. The breakfast-offer calendar is booked up to April 5, adds Janani.

“Each of us will take turns to provide breakfast. This is one way of acknowledging their service and expressing our gratitude for keeping our streets clean even while exposing themselves to the risk of Coronavirus infection,” says P. Saranya, another resident of Kasturba Nagar.

“This is a one-off situation that all of us find ourselves in, and it is necessary to make it different for them and for ourselves,” says Janani, adding that when they are out here helping us when they don’t have to, they absolutely deserve to have some good home-made breakfast every day during these trying times.

Janani shares a special bond with these conservancy workers as she is part of the group from ROKA that had been going along with them, before the novel Coronavirus outbreak, to ensure residents’ compliance with waste management rules.

(If you are part of a Residents Welfare Association that does service of this kind, or are aware of any other that may be doing such commendable work in these times, please write in to us about it at

A letter from the Editor

Dear reader,

We have been keeping you up-to-date with information on the developments in India and the world that have a bearing on our health and wellbeing, our lives and livelihoods, during these difficult times. To enable wide dissemination of news that is in public interest, we have increased the number of articles that can be read free, and extended free trial periods. However, we have a request for those who can afford to subscribe: please do. As we fight disinformation and misinformation, and keep apace with the happenings, we need to commit greater resources to news gathering operations. We promise to deliver quality journalism that stays away from vested interest and political propaganda.

Support Quality Journalism
Related Topics
Recommended for you

Printable version | Jun 4, 2020 8:26:13 AM |

Next Story