Meet the Covid-19 hero who sold one of her four goats to feed the hungry
What started out as one good deed snowballed, and Rani Shankar now has a full-time job helping an NGO connect with people in need in her neighbourhood on the outskirts of Bengaluru.Updated: Jul 11, 2020 18:33 IST
Rani and her husband Shankar used to think of themselves as the parents of two children and four goats.
He spent his days plying a taxi; she spent hers caring for the house and family. Then an accident left him out of a job, a good deed reduced their family by one goat, and in a twist of fate, that good deed resulted in Rani finding a full-time job herself.
At the beginning of the lockdown, Rani, 28, was on her way to buy groceries at the market near their home Carmelaram, on the outskirts of Bengaluru, when she came upon a group of children sucking on the leaves of some eucalyptus trees.
Their parents were huddled by the side of the street, out of work and out of money. “I could not bear the sight,” Rani says. “I remembered the state of my own children when my husband was in hospital. I just thought, no child should be faced with such a thing.”
Even though her family had no steady income, she decided to do something. She started by speaking to the people by the side of the road. She found out they were migrant labourers from North Karnataka who had been working at a construction site for about a year. They were 43 adults and 22 children with now no income, shelter or food.
“I’ll bring you food,” she told them.
She went home and spoke to her husband; she wanted to sell one of their goats.
“They are actually my husband’s goats — he had bought them in Chennai soon after our son was born. When I asked him, he said, you do what you think is right,” Rani says, proudly.
The next day, the goat was sold to a local butcher for Rs 20,000. With that money, Rani rented large utensils from a wedding caterer, roped in a few neighbours and began cooking vegetable pulao and tomato bhaat on alternate days. For a week, she delivered the meals twice a day to the 65 migrants. She also took them biscuits each morning, for breakfast.
When she ran out of money, she set out to sell a second goat. “By then the lockdown had come into full effect. The butcher had no customers so he had shut his shop. He couldn’t buy our goat.”
She didn’t want to give up, so she began to ask everyone she knew — do you know a way I can continue feeding my people?
A friend put her in touch with World Hunger Warriors. This was an initiative set up by events management CEO Kiran Soans at the beginning of the lockdown, to connect people who wanted to contribute funds, food, equipment and time with migrant workers and slumdwellers who could no longer feed themselves.
The WHW team visited Rani and met the people she’d been cooking for and, in addition to directing resources their way, they hired Rani as local coordinator at a fixed salary.
“Rani inspired me,” says Soans. “When I found out that she had sold one of her goats, I was determined to take her on.”
The Shankars now gets free groceries via WHW too. “They also gave us a laptop, so that our four-year-old daughter can do her online classes,” Rani says. (Her son is two and not in school yet).
Rani is now involved in identifying communities that WHW can help, ensuring the food gets where it’s supposed to go, and providing temporary shelter to people living on the streets before they can be directed to the local distress home run by the municipal corporation.
“This work was meant for me,” she says, taking a deep breath. “I love working in the field and working with people. I feel satisfied with my life after I started working here.”
And when she heads out every day, after her daughter’s checked that she has her mask and sanitiser, she and her husband smile at how their family has grown — it’s two kids, three goats and so much more.