One of the most basic needs of humankind is food, and this could not have been more important, than it is now, as India battles against a terrible pandemic. This was the thought that instinctively came to his mind. Bilal Khan, is a young lawyer at the Supreme Court and lives in Delhi’s Nizamuddin West locality.
Once the lockdown began, Bilal and his friends did a recce of all the slum areas, in and around Nizamuddin. “Our team’s mission was simple - no one should have to sleep hungry. We spoke to the daily wage workers and went door to door enquiring about the kind of problems they could face due to the lockdown. Many told us that they had ration supplies that would last for a few days, while some did not even have that much. So, we made a list of all the families, along with the number of people in each family and cooked for 58 people on the first day.” This number then steadily rose to 250, then 400 and now the team cooks for over 900 people at a time – catering to both lunch and dinner. Some people who have been quarantined and other people in the nearby slum areas and sealed hotspot societies in Nizamuddin have also been provided food by Bilal and his team. His core team ‘Four For All’ has helped distribute provisions to several households as well as the middle class, who he feels, may be embarrassed to ask for help directly. “I have personally gone to their doorstep post-midnight and left a bag of provisions outside their doors.”
The team has overcome initial teething problems and has established a pattern of working effectively and efficiently. “Now we have a lot of people who are volunteering with us - 3-4 professional cooks, some more who pack, and then some others who distribute the food. So, all the work has been evenly distributed. We start at about 10:00 a.m. in the morning and the first batch of freshly cooked meals is ready and distributed by 1:30 - 2:00 p.m. The second batch of cooking happens at 5:00 pm and the food is distributed by about 8:00-8:30 pm.” He further adds, “I have been fortunate that I have been able to reach out to my circle of friends, neighbors and clients, and each person has responded positively. We have got a lot of donations - both in cash and in kind and have been lucky to find a langar (a community kitchen) space that was not in use. It came with a lot of cooking paraphernalia, so it worked perfectly to cook largescale meals.” His team of volunteers is continually expanding, and Bilal says that there has been much appreciation from the beneficiaries as well. “I am happy to say that from the first day of the lockdown, not even one person in the neighborhood has faced any problems. Even if someone needed medicines, we ensured it reached them on time.”
His father, who does a lot of social work and counts former President Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam as his inspiration, has been a constant source of motivation for Bilal. “I have learnt a lot from my father and have been taught that happiness is found in helping others. I think it is important to do whatever we all can, individually or collectively, for the sake of humanity.” Looking ahead Bilal says that he will organize a langar at least once a week. He also plans to register the platform as a trust or an NGO and then use it as a channel to help people and do social work. “I have adapted to this and would love to lend a helping hand to those in need, in the future as well”, he says with a satisfied smile.