An unexpected act of charity saves the day
Earlier this week, when the Delhi Metro’s Yellow Line experienced a power snag near Chattarpur Metro station, it threw life out of gear for thousands of commuters, including myself. It took me well over two hours to travel from Qutub Minar to Huda City Centre, and like so many others, I ended up walking the 3-km distance between Qutub Minar and Sultanpur in the blazing heat, as services between these stations had been halted.
All along the way, I saw commuters fretting about being late for work and wondering whether or not their employers would be sympathetic to their predicament.
“They have to be. What are they going to do otherwise? Cut salaries for thousands of us because of this? That would be unfair,” said one Nikhil S, who works at a retail outlet for a menswear brand near IFFCO Chowk, as he wiped the sweat from his brow. “Iss chakkar mein subah ka nashta bhi naseeb nahi hua (This chaos has caused me to miss my breakfast.),” he remarked, the edge in his voice making his hunger clear.
Luckily for Nikhil, and other commuters like him, a man named Ram Bahadur, who runs a small, hole-in-the-wall eatery near Qutub Minar Metro station on MG Road, was there to help. While other vendors — such as those selling water, cigarettes and lemon soda — had upped their usual prices to make a quick buck from stranded commuters, Bahadur instead decided, in an unexpected show of charity, to distribute food to the hungry, stranded commuters, and people were more than happy to accept his generosity.
As we passed by his store, Nikhil promptly cut short our conversation and stood in line to fetch himself a simple meal of bedmi aloo, served on a paper plate, with some onions and a green chilly.
“I noticed that crowds had begun gathering on the street at about 10am. I asked someone what had happened, and they told me that the Metro had shut down. Instinctively, I knew this was going to be bad,” he told me. When the crowd started getting even denser around 11am, Bahadur filled up a large drum with drinking water and set it outside his small, unnamed shop, for thirsty people to help themselves to.
“I wasn’t planning on distributing free food as well. It was a very spur-of-the-moment decision. I saw people panicking, and I decided to help, thinking it would make things easier for them. By God’s grace, I am able to survive and feed my family as a street vendor, so why not help others in their time of need?”, Bahadur said.
He explained that auto prices had risen hugely, which annoyed him. “I said to myself, let people get food for free and take an auto with what money they have. Nobody had any idea when the issue might get fixed, or how far they would have to walk. It just seemed like a nice thing to do,” he added.
Between 11.30am and 1pm, Bahadur estimated he distributed about 200 plates of breakfast, more than he sells on a usual day.
“I am giving away smaller portions of course. Instead of four puris, I am giving only two per plate today. I also usually let people take as much sabzi as they like, but no second helping today. If anyone wants more, I am charging them ₹30, which is my standard rate,” he explained.
As I ended my conversation with Bahadur and began walking with the crowd, the queue outside his shop had stretched to double its size.