It costs nothing, or almost nothing to feed a child on every school day for a year!

A few weeks back, I read A Moveable Feast Across Gujarat Schools in The New Indian Express. The following excerpts (slightly edited) from this article impressed me tremendously:

“The (roti-making) machine can turn out 60,000 rotis in an hour.”

“With a capacity to produce 2,00,000 meals in five hours, the Bhadaj kitchen is one of the largest cooking facilities in India.”

“The daily challenge is to ensure the freshly cooked meals can reach the schools within minimum cook-to-consumption time. For this, some technologies used in manufacturing industries have been adapted to the kitchen, perhaps for the first time.’’

“The roti-making machine became a necessity, when the Bangalore-based Foundation found that their rice-based meals were not currying favour with north Indian children. At Vrindavan, the team found children were not consuming much rice. Since the idea is to optimise nutrition, rotis were needed to increase consumption.”

“In Gujarat, the set lunch menu also includes local favourites like dal dhokli, thepla or sukdi, a jaggery-based sweet apart from the staples of roti-sabzi-dal-rice. The idea is to get children to eat more. Idlis have proven to be popular in Vadodara, so the Foundation plans to add this to the Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar menu in future.”

“All machines are linked to conveyors and chutes that channel the prepared food down to the ground floor without any human handling. They are loaded onto vehicles that are customized to hold vessels upright in a honeycomb structure and designed for minimal temperature loss between leaving the kitchen and reaching the school.’’

A Moveable Feast Across Gujarat Schools is NOT about the high-tech kitchen run by a 5-star hotel for a group of international schools in Gujarat. It is about Akshaya Patra Foundation’s kitchen at Bhadaj, near Gujarat’s capital Gandhinagar, which supplies about 1,30,000 lunches to around 526 schools in seven talukas of Ahmedabad and Gandhinagar districts as part of the Midday Meal Scheme, a programme of the Government of India that supplies free lunches on working days for children in schools to improve the nutritional health of school-going kids in India.

I was impressed because:

1. The Akshaya Patra Foundation obviously does not treat the Midday Meal Scheme as a favour to the beneficiaries. The fact that it modifies the menu according to the preferences of the beneficiaries shows that it treats the beneficiaries in the same way as an upscale restaurant treats its patrons.

2. The Akshaya Patra Foundation’s kitchens are designed, built and operated in an extremely professional manner.

Please read more about Akshaya Patra Foundation at http://www.akshayapatra.org/

Akshaya Patra is the world’s largest (not-for-profit) mid-day meal programme serving wholesome food to over 1.4 million children from 10,661 schools across 10 states in India.

After reading A Moveable Feast Across Gujarat Schools and going through the website, I am convinced that the best way to end classroom hunger is by supporting Akshaya Patra Foundation to spread its activities to many more schools in more states all over India.

To start with, each of us can feed a child for a year by donating only Rs. 750. This amounts to just Rs. 2.06 per day, which is almost nothing!

How can Rs. 750 feed a child for a year? Here’s how:
Cost per meal:              Rs. 7.40
Government Subsidy:   Rs. 4.38
Cost to Akshaya Patra: Rs. 3.02
No. of working days: 232
(Rs. 3.02 x 232) + 7.5% provision for inflation = Rs. 750 per child per year

Donations over Rs. 500 get 100 % Tax Exemption under IT Sec 35AC and 80G. Click here to make an online donation.

Each blogger can feed a child for a year without donating a single rupee! How? By publishing a blog post for Blog to Feed a Child. For every blog entry, BlogAdda will feed an Akshaya Patra beneficiary for an entire year! I request all bloggers who haven’t yet taken part in this initiative to visit Blog to Feed a Child, publish a post about the theme as per the instructions, and spread the word to others.

Let us all contribute to this noble cause.

(This post is a part of #BlogToFeedAChild with Akshaya Patra and BlogAdda.)

Bodyguard (55 Fiction)

A funny thing happened on my way to work today.

There were huge crowds outside all schools.

On enquiring, I was told that, since all parents had signed forms saying that the schools and their staff are not responsible for the safety of students, almost all parents had sent a personal bodyguard with each child.

This post is a part of Write Over the Weekend, an initiative for Indian Bloggers by BlogAdda. (Prompt: Include this line in your post: ‘A funny thing happened on my way to….’)

Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan

Please read this truly heartwarming report in The Hindu about Priya Semwal, “who lost her husband in a counter-insurgency operation two years back, (and) was inducted into the technical wing of the Armed Force as a young officer” around 4 weeks back.

It is heartwarming that Priya, who was a first-year undergraduate student when she got married, completed her graduation and post-graduation, acquired a degree in teaching, and took up a job, all after marriage, and that her husband, Amit Sharma had encouraged her to do this.

However, what is most heartwarming is the fact that, not only did Col. Arun Agarwal, her late husband’s Commanding Officer take the initiative of suggesting to Priya that she should become an officer in the Army, he also put in the effort to enable her and her family to overcome their apprehensions. The icing on the cake was his gesture of travelling from the northern border to the southern part of India to attend her passing out parade.

Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan (‘Hail the soldier, Hail the farmer’ in Hindi) was a slogan coined by Lal Bahadur Shastri, India’s second Prime Minister in 1965. Among the many slogans coined by political leaders in India, Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan is probably the only slogan that has continued to inspire all Indians from the time it was created till today, almost 50 years later.

However, while we are genuinely enthusiastic about Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan, I personally think we hail our soldiers and farmers much more in word, much less in deed.

Col. Arun Agarwal’s concern for his soldier’s family, and his support to them after the soldier’s death, is an inspiration to all of us to hail our soldiers and farmers not only in word, but also in deed.

Empathy

A friend sent me the following true story:

One day, a schoolteacher assigned each of her 5th Grade students a simple task e.g. bringing chalk pieces from the store, bringing a book from the staff room, bringing a glass of water from the water cooler, etc. The student was blindfolded, while a classmate would walk behind him to ensure that he did not injure himself. After performing the tasks, everyone realized how simple tasks became so difficult when one was blindfolded.

Next day, when they visited the School for the Blind along with their teacher, all these students were really appreciative about the work done by the blind students – the handicrafts, written books etc. They did not pity the blind children or look down on them; they empathized with them and respected them!

What a simple and lovely way to make young children empathize with the differently-abled! If we all tried to empathize with people who are in some way different from us, the world would be a better place.

Before we pass judgment on persons who have behaved in what we consider a foolish or abnormal manner, we must ask ourselves how we might have behaved if we had been in that person’s circumstances.

Benefit of doubt

One morning, my classmate Ram approached me as soon as I came out of a classroom and asked if I could spare a few minutes to discuss a very urgent personal matter on which he needed my advice. I had some work to attend to, but seeing the worried look on Ram’s face, I immediately took him to a quiet corner, where Ram started narrating his tale of woe.

That morning, during a discussion about his Final Year Project Report, Ram’s Advisor, Prof. Ravi suddenly flew into a rage without any provocation whatsoever, told Ram that he did not want to have anything to do with him henceforth, and ordered Ram out of his office.

I was baffled. Prof. Ravi was a soft-spoken gentleman in his fifties. In the 3 years that I had known him, I had never seen him lose his composure even during intense discussions. I told Ram that he must have inadvertently said something to provoke Prof. Ravi, and asked him what he had said just before Prof. Ravi’s sudden outburst. After a few seconds, he said, “Sir asked me if I had read the reference book that he had recommended. I replied that the library bugger had told me he would get it for me after a few days.”

“Did you say ‘library bugger’ or ‘librarian’ or ‘library man’? What were your exact words?” I asked.

“I said ‘library bugger’,” Ram replied.

The mystery had been solved! I told Ram that Prof. Ravi had almost definitely been upset by his using the word ‘bugger’. When I explained to him the possible meanings of the word, he understood, but became even more worried. I assured him that I would explain the matter to Prof. Ravi.

I went to Prof. Ravi’s office and explained to him that, since Ram had done his school education in vernacular medium, he was not well-versed in English. He had heard his college classmates use the word ‘bugger’ very freely and had assumed it was a fashionable synonym of ‘man’, completely unaware of the word’s meaning.

Prof. Ravi immediately called Ram, who had been waiting outside, assured him that all was well, and advised him not to use new words unless he was sure of their meaning.

Whenever anybody speaks or behaves in an uncharacteristically unpleasant manner, we must respond only after checking whether there is reason to give that person the benefit of doubt, maybe due to ignorance or because of circumstances that we may be unaware of.