Rajasthani cooks in Chennai for a special task

At the premises of Shri Rajendra Suri Jain Trust in Park Town. Photo: Ragu R  

A fortnight ago, Tikkam Raj received a sealed cover by speed post. Unwrapping it, he found train tickets that would ensure passage from Jodhpur to Chennai for Tikkam and his entourage. The ‘sous chef’ from Palli — 67 km from Jodhpur — was being tasked with an assignment by U. Tarun Kumar, a Chennai-based food catering services provider.

In a telephonic conversation, Tikkam was presented with a hazy picture of what this assignment was all about. Tarun being more of a family friend than a business associate, Tikkam did not press hard for the details. He took a bus with six others to Jodhpur, and boarded the train to Chennai Central Station.

The building housing their work station being a skip, hop and a jump away from the railway station, Tikkam did not have to wait long before the picture got clearer.

Owned by Shri Rajendra Suri Jain Trust, the building had been allowed to function as a community kitchen during the lockdown. Straight away, Tikkam and his men learnt about the scale and significance of their work: Cooking food for a minimum of 2,500 persons every day, and these would be people who are homeless and hungry.

Tarun has launched the initiative of providing free food to the poor during the lockdown, through New Indian Charitable Trust. “The aim of bringing cooks from my hometown is to give quality food to the poor during these difficult times. I know Team Tikkam’s skill-sets,” says 39-year-old Tarun.

Tikkam Raj and his men stay at the vast hall in the building, and they start work early — 4.30 a.m every day when they begin to rinse around 250 kilograms of rice, 250 small bundles of greens, 15 kilograms of toor dal and other essentials.

Huge empty containers are filed with RO water for cooking every morning. The menu contains one variety of rice — sambar rice, coconut rice, pudina rice, lemon rice or tamarind rice with pickles — and 300 ml of water bottle.

On an average, each food packet weighs around 400 grams. After Tikkam Raj and his men have prepared the food, around 30 volunteers, mostly youngsters, help in delivering the food packets to the needy across Chennai.

Between 11.30 a.m and 2 p.m, these volunteers fan into various parts of the Chennai, from Ennore and Manali and Mathur in the north and to Sholinganallur and Vandalur in the south, thanks to 25 two-wheelers.

“We started the initiative on May 16 with only 250 food packets being made in one day, and have managed to scale it up to 2,500 food packets a day. We will continue the free food distribution till the normality returns,” says the Trust’s vice-president, David Samuel.

Besides the homeless, the initiative also seeks to cover COVID-19 patients especially in government hospitals like Royapettah GH; police stations in the northern region of the city including North Beach, Flower Bazaar, Elephant Gate, Seven Wells and Royapuram. It is noteworthy that Tarun and his team had carried a free food distribution exercise during 2015 Chennai floods, when they prepared around 12,000 food packets every day.

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Printable version | Jul 25, 2021 12:13:31 AM |

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