As the Covid-19 pandemic ushered in a new challenge, the Rotary Club of Heritage Mysuru, RID 3181, took up the task of providing food to stranded, hungry and helpless migrant workers, daily wagers, hawkers, beggars, and other under-privileged people in their city.
Starting from March 20, the club members started providing 500 cooked meals a day in different parts of the city. “But what started as a moment of kindness became a movement as donations poured in kind and cash, from friends, relatives, youngsters, students and absolute strangers”, says club member D M Raghavendra.
Soon the Rotarians scaled up their daily chore to 2,400 meals a day and in 40 days, till May 17, they distributed nearly 62,000 meals in the city. The total cost is ₹18.35 lakh. As the club members, their wives, Annettes, relatives and friends and students got involved in this task, they were able to reach many more hungry people across the city.
Soon the project titled Annadanam got high visibility and VIPS such as Members of Parliament, MLAs, top police and Corporation officials visited the kitchen and appreciated the precautions taken such as cleanliness and hygiene, social distancing, wearing head caps, hand gloves, face masks, etc. Everyone tasted the food and vouched for its quality and nutritive value, he adds.
“Our club members themselves were packing the steaming hot food in aluminium containers and sealing them with a machine. And the food was delivered to the recipients,” says Club president Talakad Manjunath.
One day, as the members were busy getting the cooked food packed, “a seemingly poor, 70-year-old woman walked into the premises. We thought she wanted a packet, and extended it to her. But she refused to take it, and visibly mustering up some courage, took out something hidden behind her saree pallu, and said: ‘I have been watching you all supplying food to my area for over 30 days now. And I felt I should contribute something too. So here is ₹500, from the ₹600 monthly pension I receive. I know it is a small amount, but please accept it,’ she said,” recalls Raghavendra.
The stunned Rotarians thanked her and tried to convince her to keep the money which she might surely need during these difficult times. “But despite making several requests to her, she insisted we accept it, which we did with gratitude, he says.
When he narrated this touching incident in a Facebook post with the comment that to the club members her gesture seemed “greater than that of the Tatas, Ambanis, Azim Premji, Narayana Murthy,” and other billionaires, the post went viral. And now Kamalamma has become a local celebrity with television channels and the print media widely featuring her generous spirit.
Giving details about her background, club president Manjunath adds that every month Kamalamma gets ₹600 from the government as “widow’s pension. She has three sons, but lives alone as she told us she doesn’t want to be a burden on anyone. We were really touched by her gesture.”
He also thanked a local industrialist Rajanna, who has given the Rotarians his convention hall, kitchen, stoves and utensils free of cost for preparing and packing the meals. “It is also important to mention here the cooks who supported us for 40 days for this initiative, for a fraction of what they normally charge and also the transporters, district administration, municipal corporation and local corporators, who helped us distribute cooked meals to different parts of Mysuru.”
Manjunath adds that the club has also helped over 6,000 migrant workers boarding the Shramik trains by giving them snacks and water for the journey.
It has also supported during this pandemic, a daycare centre for destitutes, run by the Sneha Charitable Trust and Palliative Care Centre, at an additional cost of ₹2 lakh.