Hunger is the lead cause of death in the world, more than cancer or AIDs. And 1/3 of the world’s poor live in India. Most of us will take such facts with a feeling of helplessness, perhaps anger.
The Re 1 Meal Man- V. V. Venkatraman
But V. V. Venkatraman is different. He wanted to help in the way he can. And he has. Since 2008, V. Venkatraman, the owner of Shree AMV Homely mess, has provided Re 1 meals to 20 people every day. Now he has increased it to 30.
His mess is near a hospital that serves the poorer sections of the society, mostly daily wage laborers. It all started in 2008 when a woman had come to his mess to buy idlis for herself and her patient. The idlis were over, so he asked her to buy dosas instead. But since a dosa is more expensive, she bought it only for the patient. Venkatraman realized that this woman would have to go without food. He also knew that she was not the only one in her situation. What made matters worse for daily wage earners was that if they were spending time with a relative at a hospital, they would lose their wages for that day.
Was there a way V. V. Venkatraman could do something to help?
This is when he decided to go to the hospital and distribute 20 tokens daily. However, a large crowd gathered before at his mess and he could feed only 20, given his means. That is when he decided to request the hospital staff to distribute the tokens to those who needed it the most. Since then his mess has been offering 20 Re 1 meals a day consisting of idlis, dosa and meals. The prices of rice, daal and other ingredients have gone up a lot since then but the price of the meal remains Re 1 only. And the quality has been maintained at the same level. Such a meal costs anything between Rs 40 and 55 today.
To begin with, Venkatraman had decided to give away free meals. But he did not go ahead with the idea as that might be embarrassing for people and also some might doubt that the quality of the food was suspect. So he decided to charge a token amount of Re 1 for each meal.
He has found it tough to maintain this for so many years, but he has carried on because he says he cannot stop what he started. Even as he is involved in this very noble social cause, Venkatraman has a family to support. He has two daughters, one in school and the other working for a software firm.
Where there is a will, there is a way
The good thing is that the news has spread and he has found some donors. He is touched because even poor people donate Rs 10 or Rs 20 for the food. There are donors from America. People who are celebrating birthday parties can sponsor such meals as well. If you are reading this, you can get in touch with Venkatraman at 9629094020.
At 20 meals a day for 7 years, Venkatraman has served at least 50,000 Re 1 meals to people who needed to eat and would find it difficult to afford it. Here is another story of one man who made a change. Meal by meal.