Around two months ago, Navdeep Singh, a Solutions Architect with Wipro Ltd., Pune, was on his way back home after helping a stranded friend when he encountered some people walking on the road. He went to them to advise them to stay at home and be safe but discovered that they were jobless people (mostly labourers) who wanted to just reach their homes at any cost as in the city, they did not have even one square meal a day to eat and were walking in desperation.
Shocked by their condition, Navdeep felt a dire need to ease their suffering. He says "I went home with a heavy heart, wanting to do something for them. The next day was Ashtami when traditionally young girls are fed specially-made food. Since the lockdown prevented people interaction and they could not invite the girls home, I told the members of my apartment complex to leave that food with the apartment security team for distribution to these hungry people on the streets on Pune. The response was amazing and I got 50 food packets which I picked up and moved around the streets of Pune in my car, covering a distance of 50 km in 4 hours, distributing these packets. I egged on the apartment members to make just two extra meals every day in addition to what they cooked to share with the people who were less fortunate than us. We started doing this on a daily basis and I got immense support from not just the residents of my apartment complex but from neighbouring ones too". The initiative quickly gathered momentum and thus, Two Meals Extra was born.
At a time when people are losing jobs, Navdeep decided to go on a sabbatical to set up Two Meals Extra (TME) as he wanted to reach out to more people which was not possible with a full-time job. He adds "Wipro is extremely supportive and allows employees to take sabbaticals to pursue their passion and I am lucky that I work for a company that encourages these things. In fact, Rishad Premji wrote to me extending support to the initiative through Wipro Foundation. I am truly grateful for all the support that I have got without which I would not have been able to do all this".
Slowly but surely, Navdeep's initiative TME grew and they extended their support to the passengers of Shramik trains and also to people taking buses to go to their hometowns apart from distributing food packets in slums, labour colonies and to daily wage workers. TME has also partnered with Sevadeep for free delivery. Navdeep informs "Since as individuals we can cover only limited places on our own in a day, we felt the need to have a tie-up with Sevadeep to increase our reach. On weekends, we are planning to visit and supply food to tribal areas around Pune, and orphanages, quarantine centres and old age homes in Pune".
Apart from collecting food packets from homes, TME also collects raw material from people who cannot cook and gives the same to Gurudwaras to be cooked. In addition, food is also sourced from restaurants at cost price and the money for the same is raised through donations.
Navdeep says "We have fed 80,000 people till now and are supported by 40 volunteers in 6 cities viz. Pune, Bengaluru, Jamshedpur, Nashik, Aurangabad and Delhi. We will continue serving even after the current pandemic passes. There is no greater joy than helping people. I was suffering from an illness for two years which had led to depression but after starting this initiative, I am much better and have no time to think of anything else. It just goes to show, the more you give, the more you get. And it is getting better with every passing day".
Images courtesy: http://www.twomealsextra.com