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A free lunch that comes unconditionally, with love

Shafrina Sathesh, who runs the eatery in Coimbatore.   | Photo Credit: PERIASAMY M

This biriyani eatery on one side of Redfields Road at Puliyakulam in Coimbatore looks nondescript at first glance. But a closer look reveals a small cardboard box kept next to the eatery and which is filled with food packets. On top of the box is a slate, which bears the Tamil words ‘Pasikkindratha Eduthukonga’ (Take it if you are hungry).

While free food is given to the poor silently, the biriyani sold by the eatery is affordable: the ‘kuska’ biriyani (without pieces) is priced at ₹20 and the biriyani with pieces is priced at ₹30.

While biriyani sale takes place on one side, those who cannot afford to pay can take these packets. This roadside eatery, run by Maria Sathesh and his wife Shafrina Sathesh, has become popular with people arriving from near and far, following multiple posts on social media platforms.

“We saw about them on Facebook,” said Ravindra Kumar J. from Pappanaickenpalayam, who visited the eatery with his wife Bhuvaneswari for the first time one Sunday. The eatery also has regular customers like R. Premkumar, a resident of Sowripalayam. “I have been regularly eating here for the past 10 days, and have referred many to the eatery,” he said.

B. Sivanesan from Port Blair, who was based in Chennai and on a short visit to Coimbatore, said he came to know about the eatery on Instagram. “I liked their motive,” he said, adding that he contributed money and posted about the eatery on his Instagram page.

Mr. Sathesh said his family moved from Chennai to Coimbatore in 2017. With a desire to start his own business, he quit his regular job and opened this small eatery outside his house on Redfields Road in August 2019.

In early 2020, Ms. Shafrina decided to join him, and the couple started selling homemade biriyani since December 2020. They graduated from preparing 1 kg of biriyani to 15 kg for lunch within two months.

It was Ms. Shafrina’s idea to give away food for free from the first week of February. She said the idea struck her while distributing left-out food to some homeless persons near the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital.

While the free food packets were meant for those who could not afford to pay even ₹20, she said it did not bother her when some well-to-do customers took away these packets. “Rich or poor, anyone can take the packets from the box,” she said.

Although the couple admit to experiencing financial constraints, such as payment of house rent and school fees for their 12-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter, there are no plans to make this humble venture profitable. Ms. Shafrina said the cost of one biriyani packet will soon be reduced from ₹20 to ₹15. “Our motto is to provide biriyani at an affordable price to the low income groups and free to those who cannot pay anything,” she said.

“Our goal is to feed 100 persons free every day. We did not want to wait till we are well-off to do so, hence we have started small,” Mr. Sathesh said.

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Printable version | Apr 14, 2021 1:51:26 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/a-coimbatore-couple-give-away-free-food-to-the-needy/article34001417.ece

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