Every year, in India, crores of rupees are spent on food that will never be consumed. This is a major problem considering the fact that so many go without three square meals a day – or even one. In this series we look at the inspirational stories of Food Heroes from around India. Let us try to learn from these beautiful acts of selflessness and love. Let us Taste Togetherness in the most fulfilling of ways possible.
Meals Under a bridge: The story of one man’s quest to feed the poor
Meet Azhar Maqsusi, a 36 year-old who lives in the Old City in Hyderabad. One fateful day, around four years ago, a tyre puncture forced him to take a different route on his daily travels. As he made his way to a local train station, he encountered a physically handicapped woman who had had her feet amputated.
Azhar still remembers that the woman’s name was Lakshmi and she was crying, begging for food instead of money as she hadn’t eaten in days.
“My father died when I was four years old and my mother struggled a lot to raise me and my siblings. I know what it is like to sleep hungry,” he says. Azhar immediately gave away the food he was carrying home to the lady.
The next day Azhar’s wife, who he seemingly adores and admires, cooked food for around 15 people. He went to the same place and distributed the food.
“Initially, food packets were distributed but later on, we started cooking in the space under the flyover and fed them there itself,” he says.
What Azhar did not realize was that there were more mouths that needed to be fed than he could afford to. “I have a Plaster of Paris interior design business and we live a very simple life, so we could afford to give, but the numbers kept piling up,” he adds.
In two months, there were at least 50 people every day waiting for Azhar. It was then that he decided to hire a cook who is paid a fixed salary every month to start cooking in larger quantities.
Despite all this, he never took a single rupee from anyone and spent for everything from his own pocket. This went on for close to one and a half years until luck came his way again.
“A stranger had lost his way and found himself amid this. He was travelling above the bridge for many years and did not realize that this was happening below. He then told his brother, who had come down from the US about this,” he says.
Following that, Azhar has received 16 sacks of rice, each weighing 25 kgs, every month from his well-wishers. “Acts like that only strengthen my will to keep on going,” Azhar says.
“A lot of friends have joined in and I have got a lot of support but I turn down all the offers that I get in cash. I only take kind. The reason I post pictures on Facebook is not so people donate but to create awareness that so many people sleep hungry in a city every day,” Azhar adds.
Azhar also adds that homeless people should be clothed and fed, not given money. “Some people will use it for food. Others use it for intoxication. Some drunk people also join in the queue. I don’t say anything till they finish eating and then I give them a sound talk before they leave,” he says.
Azhar has no plans of stopping. “Till I can ensure it, each person who comes will be given at least one meal a day,” he adds.