Mumbai

Serving food with a healthy portion of love

If a way to a person’s heart is through their stomach then it is doubly so when that person is in need of care and affection.

Meet the D’Souzas, Mark (58) and his wife Yvonne (54), who have touched hundreds of hearts by providing free meals to senior citizens across the city.

The story of their free food service began five years ago and it took just Rs. 5,000 to start. With that money, the D’Souzas bought six dabbas and started providing food to five senior citizens who were living in the IC Colony in Borivali, where the couple also have their home. Today, that service has expanded to cover 48 senior citizens not only in Borivali but as far as Mahim and Andheri.

‘Things just fell in place’

“I was discussing my desire to do something for society and at once my wife suggested that we should try providing free food to senior citizens. It didn’t take long for the arrangements to be put in place.” Ms. D’Souza, who has been an active social activist for long, says that she often comes across senior citizens who are either abandoned by their children or have no one to look after. “I feel very bad to see how they suffer. Many of them are too old to cook for themselves and have to rely on domestic helpers who are often unreliable. If they did not turn up then they have to stay hungry. “ she says. “When Mark wished to do something for society, I immediately suggested the idea of providing free food to such people and things just fell in place.”

Mr. D’Souza personally delivers the dabbas in Borivali, with his son Erik (26) helping him, while dabbawalas take boxes to Mahim and Andheri, with the cost borne by the D’Souzas.

“My dad has been distributing the dabbas for four years now,” Erik says. “Initially, I used to help him give the tiffins when I was at home and when I met the senior citizens I just used to listen to what they had to say. They were grateful for a friendly ear.” Erik says he moved out of the city a few years ago, but helps with distribution whenever he is back because he finds ‘inner peace’ while handing over the tiffins.

In March last year, however, Mr. D’Souza asked his son to move back to Mumbai and help grow the family’s social service initiative. “I was a little surprised and before making up my mind we had many discussions,” Erik says. But he finally made up his mind to move back. Today, he is as attached to the work as his parents are.

What’s cooking?

D’souza’s four-compartment dabba comprises five to six chapatis, rice, sabzi and dal. On Wednesdays, there’s egg curry, while he includes chicken or fish curry on Sundays. “We cook the food in less oil, less salt and less spices. But we pack in loads of love and the food is prepared in a hygienic environment,” Mr. D’Souza says.

The couple buys vegetables daily and has engaged two cooks to help prepare the meals. “I tell my cook, ‘God is watching our actions and we should not compromise on the quality of our work. When it is noon, I start my delivery schedule that goes on till 2.30 pm. It has become a part of my daily routine.”

Around 250 rotis are made per day and six kg of vegetables go into preparing the sabzi. In fact, the dabba service since its inception has never taken a day’s break.

Touching lives

Raj Kumar Chaddha, 75, a resident of Borivali, is one of those who has benefitted from the D’Souzas’ service. “My wife died a few years ago and my children had left me alone in the house. A friend of mine told me about the free tiffin given by Mr. Mark D’souza and I happened to meet him one day at the newspaper stand. The next day onwards I started to get the tiffin,” says Mr. Chadda.

“It feels great that a variety of food is being served to me in the tiffin. It feels that I am eating my own home food. It has been more than two years since I have been receiving the tiffin.”

Similarly, David Pereira, 76, another Borivali resident, said he came to know of the tiffin service through his son who read about it on social media. “I came to Mr. D’Souza’s house to enquire about the tiffin and from next day I started getting the tiffin at my home. It has been nine months since I am getting the tiffin and i enjoy the food,” Mr. Pereira says.

Only the blessings count

When asked how much the family has spent till date on the dabba service, Mr. D’Souza smiles and says that he only counts the blessings he receives. “The smiles and blessings of the people who eat our food. And the blessings from my friends. These are priceless for me.”

The D’Souzas do not take donations in money for their service, but if one wants to help, they can donate fruits or vegetables to their kitchen.

You can contact Mark D’Souza at +91 98338 53523.


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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 9:40:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/Serving-food-with-a-healthy-portion-of-love/article17030811.ece

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