The four friends have been rendered jobless due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown.
NAVI MUMBAI: An adversity, at times, makes people find out who they really are. During the recent lockdown, one particular group of four migrants, who were street hawkers in Wadala and other areas, had started cooking meals for nearly 45-50 families in their area in Antop Hill, despite themselves being unemployed at the time.
The Navi Mumbai based Lockdown Relief Project Helpline, which used to get over 1,000 calls daily during the initial phases of the lockdown, also helped and encouraged these unemployed street hawkers to undertake community kitchen cooking to supply food to their neighbours at Himmat Nagar, Antop Hill.
“I used to sell clothes, dress materials near Antop Hill at Wadala before the lockdown. But there was no work after March this year. Me and three of my friends, Irfan Khan, Tabrez Khan and Abdullah Shaikh, decided not to go back to our native places and instead start gathering food items to cook for ourselves and also for others in our slum area. One thing led to another, and soon we started feeding close to 50 families of poor migrants in Himmat Nagar, which felt quite nice,” said Mohammad Ali Siddiqui (28).
When asked how they managed finances to run this community kitchen for the last two months, Siddiqui said: “At our Himmat Nagar slum, we saw how many households were skipping meals as there was no money or food. So, we forgot about our business losses and started talking to shopkeepers and other contacts to give us rice, wheat flour, pulses etc so that we can start cooking and feed the needy. People understood our urgency and desperation, and so we started getting potatoes, tomatoes, vegetables, from here and there to start preparing meals.”
Social worker and independent filmmaker, Chaitra Yadavar, of Lockdown Relief Project Helpline, told TOI: “As soon as our helpline got to know about these four men who forgot about their own business losses to start providing free meals to their poor neighbours, it struck a chord, and so we too started offering them various food items to continue with their community kitchen. Many more philanthropists who got to know about them started giving food and other supplies to them, which is how they could sustain.”
These `four musketeers’ who showed `himmat’ (courage) at Himmat Nagar, said that they will go back to their original work, as the Unlock 1.0 phase has started. However, they will fondly remember a big lesson from the lockdown — that when you want to do something good during bad times, many hands will join you to make things easier.
“I used to earlier also work as a fashion designer at Andheri. I became jobless due to the lockdown. But, when my friend Mohammad Ali told me about the concern for the poor, starving families in our slum, I decided to join him in this cause. There was nothing else to do in this unprecedented period. I too am happy that we spent our time well,” said Irfan Khan.