Delhi: Help pours in for Baba ka Dhaba as video of elderly owners goes viral
In the video, Kanta Prasad can be seen interacting with a Delhi-based food blogger, often wiping his tears as he elaborated on the modest menu of home-cooked vegetarian meals and how the Covid-19 pandemic hit his business.
Eighty-year-old Kanta Prasad’s eatery in south Delhi’s Malviya Nagar ran out of food around 12.30 pm on Thursday. He closed the counter of his 32-square-feet porta cabin even though a long queue waited on the pavement facing it. Rajat Gupta, 24, one of the those in the queue, decided not to spend a minute in disappointment. He pulled out his smartphone and started shooting a Facebook live video of himself. He smacked his lips loud and began: “Ah! What a meal it was. You can see, I am outside Baba ka Dhaba…”
Baba ka Dhaba – the name of the eatery owned by Prasad and his wife, Badaami Devi – shot into fame over the last 24 hours with a video of Prasad going viral on social media. In the video, Prasad can be seen interacting with a Delhi-based food blogger, often wiping his tears as he elaborated on the modest menu of home-cooked vegetarian meals and how the Covid-19 pandemic hit his business.
By Thursday morning, ‘Baba Ka Dhaba’ was one of the top trending hashtags on Twitter even as a crowd started trickling in. Prasad said that he was prepared after a neighbour told him about the social media video. “It was still too big a risk to take, especially in the light of bad business. We have run out of savings and we are struggling to make ends meet,” said Devi.
Thursday’s menu was Rice, chapatti, dal, rajma (kidney beans), muttar-paneer (fresh cottage cheese cooked with peas) and parathas stuffed with mashed potatoes and onions. Each food item costs anything between Rs 20 and Rs 50. Prasad said that he cooked a slightly larger quantity than usual. He cooked 2 kg paneer on Thursday against 1 kg on usual days. For most dishes, the quantity cooked was doubled, said the couple’s son, Azad Hind, who helps them.
By 12 noon, a crowd of around 60-70 people gathered outside the small shop. All of them wore face masks and jostled for space. Officers from the local police station periodically did rounds just to remind people to adhere to social distancing norms.
“It was unprecedented,” said Prasad, as he wiped his tears once again.
The people in the crowd ranged from college students to young office goers, businessmen, workers in the nearby markets and the local legislator.
“I came to know about this place through social media. It had almost turned into a movement by Wednesday night. People are in distress because of Covid-19 and the toll it has taken on health and economy. This is the least we can do,” said Arijit Kumar, a businessman, who came to Prasad’s eatery with his wife and son.
Malviya Nagar lawmaker Somnath Bharti said, “I would soon start a survey of all such small eateries in the constituency and provide assistance to those in need.”
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal later quoted photographs shared by Bharti on Twitter and said: “Dilli dilwalon ki [Delhi is the city of people with big hearts].”
While most came to the shop for food, several donated cash and offered cheques to the couple.
The couple came to Delhi in the early 1970s from their village in Uttar Pradesh’s Azamgarh district and started with a tea stall near Shaikh Sarai. They said that they moved to the present location and started the eatery around 30 years ago.
“We have a small shop. On any regular day, we hardly sell around 20 plates of each food item... between 9 am and 3 pm. The number of plates sold per item dropped to below 5 since we reopened the shop in June after two months of [Covid-19] lockdown. We often had to take back food...and eat it ourselves or occasionally distribute among neighbours... Today was a blessing,” said Hind.
Around 12.30 pm on Thursday, the food was over. For the next few hours, Prasad and Devi opened a small window in their porta-cabin as they entertained photographers and journalists, who interviewed them. Prasad folded his hands each time customers said that they would visit again.