The 15-year-old tradition of serving food to poor people outside PGI and GMCH-32 will come to an end on January 21 as 81-year-old Jagdish Lal Ahuja, popularly called as ‘baba’, has become ‘too old’ to continue the langar. It was on January 21, 2001, when Ahuja first organised a langar outside the PGI’s Gate 2. Since then, he has been serving food to hundreds of poor people outside these city hospitals, without a single break.
The old man has sold seven of his properties worth several crores to fund the langar. “I wish I could continue with the langar till my last breath, but my health is now failing,” said Ahuja, who claims to have one grudge against the administration.
“Had the administration allotted me land to start a night shelter, I would have spent the earnings on the langar.”
On the start of the langar, he said, “It was my elder son’s birthday, when I decided to organise a community langar outside my shop 36 years ago.”
“It was during winters when I saw a man serving rice to people next to the boundary wall of the PGI. On January 21, 2001, I started distributing free food to people outside PGI,” said Ahuja.
“I used to call people and serve them free food, but for years now at 6pm, hundreds of people have been queuing up for langar.”
In winters, Ahuja also distributes free shawls, blankets, sweaters, shoes to the needy.
He said, “There are many who want to take over the responsibility of arranging the langar, but I have not decided on my successor.”
On his motivation, he said, “Smile on the faces of kids is what egged me on.”
Know the man
Jagdish Lal Ahuja was born in Peshawar (Pakistan) and came to Patiala during Partition in 1947. He was only 12 and started selling candies to earn his living. In 1956, he, with family, shifted to Chandigarh. He started selling bananas and soon came to known as the ‘Banana king’.