Incidents happened around everyone all the time. These incidents, numerous as they are, have their own ways of affecting and shaping our lives. And we, nearsighted as we are, cannot always tell to what extent an incident can change our lives, and also the lives of everyone around us.
Mr. Poacha witnessed one such incident on a fateful afternoon in March, 2014.
Sitting outside the premises of a hospital in which his mother lay battling terminal cancer, he saw a woman squatting in front of a fire she’d build using dried leaves and twigs, cooking chapatis on a tawa she’d balanced on a pile of bricks. This woman’s family – pre-absorbed in concern for their sick relative – sat around her, holding sheets of newspaper as plates, some waiting for their turn to receive the hand-rolled chapattis, others swallowing their share with the nearest thing to sabji they had available: slices of onions. Mr. Poacha, having just eaten the hearty lunch he’d brought along, was overwhelmed by the poignancy of this spectacle. His unease was evident when he went up to rejoin his mother, who, having always believed in the notion of ‘lead by example’, said the words that started it all: “why don’t you do something to help them?”
After the death of his mother in October, 2014, Mr. Poacha took the first step towards what would eventually become Seva Kitchen. He started off small by serving twenty five meals standing outside the walls of CIIMS hospital. These meals would be cooked in his kitchen by his entire family and served in use-and-throw containers from a small Thela they had acquired. He continued doing this for a while before realizing that the demand, or rather need for food was greater than what he could satiate by himself. He needed others to join in his cause.
Mr. Amit Batiyani, an old friend of Mr. Poacha’s, came forward and was more than willing to contribute whatever he could to the cause. However, accepting money or funding has always been against Mr. Poacha’s principles. He believes in the organic growth of an idea, without the involvement of money. He wanted his cause to outlive him. And only when the idea takes over other people’s minds like it had taken over his did he believe would it outlive him. He asked Mr. Batiyani to start doing exactly what he was doing: serve twenty five meals per week.
In no time the effect of their combined efforts began to show. Numerous people started offering help which was gladly accepted in the form of meals, regardless of the number provided. Their operation, as Mr. Poacha had dreamed started growing organically, through word of mouth, through the elation every donor felt on Giving. Soon the operation was big enough to spread to multiple hospitals and move from Sundays to five days a week, all without asking for or accepting a single penny as donation. Now, the operation ranges over multiple cities and hospitals and has a multitude of nameless, faceless people Giving for the sheer pleasure of it.
Another extension of the Seva Kitchen was started in January, 2017, with the intent of helping patients and their family members alike. Named ‘Neki ka PItaara (Fridge of Kindness)’, the object was to place Wizi Coolers full of health drinks and fruits and chocolates in hospitals for the needy and their family members to take. The first one – donated by a Canadian donor who preferred to be unnamed – was placed in CIIMS and was filled up by Mr. Poacha himself. And just like Seva Kitchen, Neki ka PItaara spread virally. People from around the city waited eagerly for their turn to fill it up, so much so that a regulating and scheduling group on Whatsapp needed to be created. Today, there are seven such Pitaras (donated by different men and women) which are filled up by people waiting for their Seva No. to show up on the group. Products worth around 280,000 rupees – a number unparalleled by many NGO’s and social organizations – are raised every month without anyone ever sending or receiving a penny.
Mr. Poacha, through the conception and propagation of an idea, has successful achieved the organic, viral growth that he had dreamed of. He has successfully taught people what it feels like to Give.