Have you ever spared a minute to take a closer look at a vagabond limping on a railway station platform or maybe an elderly lady stinking in dirty clothes sitting helplessly on the over bridge? Where do these people come from? What do they eat? Where do they sleep? Today, we will narrate the story of one such person who, in his limited capacity, is trying to provide at least a plate of hot rice to a few of these vagabonds daily. Meet Amaresh Acharya, a school teacher from Krishnanagar town of West Bengal’s Nadia district, who has recently started this noble initiative of providing food to vagabonds.
Physics teacher at Baranberia K.S. Vidyalaya High School, Ranaghat, West Bengal, Amaresh focuses mostly on the mentally retarded and specially abled vagabonds at Krishnanagar railway station near his home. He provides home cooked rice, pulses and vegetables once a day to at least 16-22 vagabonds roaming at the station premises daily.
What inspired Amaresh
How did it all begin? Opening up on the same, Amaresh told The CSR Journal, “Railway station is a point from where thousands of people transit daily. My story began from there around three months ago. One day I went to the station to catch a train when one elderly person approached me asking for rice. I bought a packet of biscuit from the platform and gave him. But he requested me to give him some bhaat (rice) instead. At that time, I felt very helpless. Neither was I carrying rice with me, nor did I have the time to go and buy rice from somewhere as I was in a hurry to catch my train. Also, station is not a place where rice is sold. That helplessness of not being able to feed rice to the hungry person started to haunt me. That is how I came up with the idea of feeding these people at least one meal a day at my own expense.”
“I started cooking food for them after returning from school. At that time I didn’t even know how to cook. I only managed to cook some rice and a mixed vegetable curry, packed it in foil and took it to the station. While the quantity was adequate for only nine people, at least 14-15 such people gathered to eat on the first day. On the next day, I made sure to carry a higher quantity of food,” he informed.
Serving the ‘abandoned’
Not all of these vagabonds are beggars, clarified Amaresh. A lot of them are often abandoned by their families owing to age and ailments, when they become a ‘liability’ for their ‘financially stable’ children. Amaresh prioritizes on feeding these people rather than the beggars and serves them dinner inside the station premises every day. He shared, “I don’t always feed beggars. I rather prefer to serve those who are mentally retarded or specially abled or ailing, who are unable to even beg or ask for food and often starve for days.” However, not just food, the school teacher from Bengal also helps the needy with bedsheets, blankets for sleeping at night and offers them first aid if they get injured.
Help pours in from various corners
“Even though I prefer cooking the meal on my own but my mother and elder sister sometimes assist me while cooking and a few boys in our neighbourhood help me distribute the same. I am grateful to them as it is very difficult to do all of this alone,” he expressed. While the 42-year-old teacher prefers cooking the meal by himself, sometimes his neighbours and others in the locality also offer to cook and sponsor a day’s meal. Help also pours in from other Indian cities and even abroad. People offering help have connected to Amaresh via social media from faraway places like Dubai, Qatar, Switzerland and London. While some people prefer to send money, sometimes they also send utensils or groceries online.
What kind of food is served
Amaresh’s aim is to not only feed the helpless people, he also ensures that they get nutritious food, which, at the same time, is also easy on his pocket. Hence the menu is fixed, which mostly revolves around 2.5 kg rice daily along with pulses, mixed vegetable curry or boiled vegetables served with ghee and salt, boiled eggs and paneer or soybean curry. The daily expenditure is not more than Rs 250-300, he informed.
Amaresh encourages youngsters
Amaresh stays with his widowed mother, elder sister and 6-year-old nephew. “My little nephew is very enthusiastic about my work and I want him to follow my footsteps when he grows up. I also encourage my students to come forward and help the needy whenever and in whichever way they can. I always tell them, your one act of kindness can make the world a better place for somebody who needs help,” concluded the teacher.