Friday, December 17, 2010

Akshaya Patra : Feeding millions !

There is a saying in Hindi "Bhuke pet bhajan na hoye Gopala ".It means that a hungry person cannot pray . The same holds true for every task that needs to be done.No wonder, kids cannot play, much less study, if their tummies are empty.

That is where Akshaya Patra foundation has stepped in & has been providing sumptuous meals through the mid day meal scheme for school children .It started this programme of feeding schoolchildren in June 2000 .From a modest beginning of feeding 1500 schoolchildren,today, Akshaya Patra is catering to 1.2 million children .What a stupendous success ! The number of hungry kids,Akshaya Patra has managed to feed has increased 800 times in nearly 10 years! Initially,Akshaya Patra started operations in Karnataka & today ,it provides mid day meals in 19 locations across nine States throughout India.

All this has been possible because many corporates have tied up with Akshaya Patra to fund the mid day meal scheme in whatever ways they can.Some have provided mobile vans to transport food,some have donated cash & so on & so forth.This has been done as part of their corporate social responsibility.Individuals like housewives,mothers,fathers & even teenagers have also chipped in to do their bit to feed hungry kids.Some volunteer to write ,some do research,still others help raise funds, etc.

The mid day meal scheme in schools has been largely successful so far largely due to efforts put in by NGOs like Akshaya Patra who provide healthy & nutritious food to kids in school.This assists the children to concentrate on studies.Moreover, the poor parents are more than willing to send their wards to school as they know that they will get one square meal only, if they go to school. So ,the mid day meal scheme is able to tackle the problem of child labour as well.If children get free food while they study,they need not work to earn for food.The mid day meal scheme has led to greater enrolment & also attendance at school as children look forward to the free meals ! Even the Supreme Court in November,2008 called up Akshaya Patra to list the efficacy of the mid day meal scheme as Akshaya Patra had already  been implementing its own feeding programme in Karnataka by then.

The food prepared by Akshaya Patra foundation is hygienic as utmost care is taken to prepare it.Most of the food is prepared in mechanised vessels so that less time is needed for cooking,.Mechanisation also minimises food handling by humans to & hence, food cooked is hygienic.It is then transported to the various schools in vans with security in tow to ensure  safety.

Food that is prepared by Akshaya Patra also takes regional preferences into account so that children relish the food.Akshaya Patra has two menus -one for North India & another for South India.It is wholesome & so it is a boon in a country like ours where malnourishment among kids is rampant.Many children in India are malnourished & underweight.The food by Akshaya Patra tackles all the problems of malnourishment & cleanliness.

Akshaya Patra has tied up  with numerous  corporates to fund this mid meal scheme.The success in this venture shows that Public Private joint efforts can make a lot of difference in overcoming  problems of hunger & malnourishment.

Lastly ,the impact of Akshaya Patra has been tremendous.Enrolment & attendance in schools where Akshaya Patra has been providing meals has been steadily on the rise.Even grades of children have improved.This has been shown by a study conducted by AC Neilson Org Marg Pvt Ltd,a reputed survey firm based in Mumbai.This means only one thing -with Akshaya Patra leading the way in implementing the mid day meal scheme, children have a great future !

I am going to #BlogToFeedAChild with Akshaya Patra and BlogAdda.For me,the best part about this blogging is  that this blog post by me will feed one child for a whole year.This is possible, as for each blog post written for #BlogToFeedAChild,  BlogAdda will contribute to Akshaya Patra.This is part of Blogger's social responsibility by BlogAdda.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


The intercom rang & it was my acquaintance from the building where I stay.She asked  " Maaya works for you ? " I said that she did but had taken a day off as there was a puja at her mother's place.My neighbour informed me that she wanted to speak to Maaya for enagaging her as a maid at her home.I promised that I will convey her enquiry & send Maaya across to her flat.

My parents were to go for the puja & I told my mother to convey the enquiry to Maaya if she gets to meet her at the puja.My mom forgot about it.I was angry as I knew that Maaya had few jobs now & she needed new ones.

The next day,the intercom rang again.This time around ,it was Maaya.She told me,"I will come to your home around eleven as my mother has not come in today." I said," Yesterday ,Smt.Sharma asked about you.She wants to employ you.Please go & talk to her ,now." Maaya agreed.I had urged her to go & meet Mrs.Sharma that moment as she had narrowly missed another job a few days ago as she had got late.

Maaya has been with me since seven years now.Though she is dark,she has a  face which is pretty & lights up as she wears a smile all the time.I wonder how she can grin & bear it all.

She was married off to her elder sister's husband as soon as his wife expired as the kids needed to be looked after.She also has her own kids .Her daughter ( her sister's child ) was married but soon,she returned home owing to ill treatment at her husband's home. Maaya then paid a fortune & got her admitted to a nursing college so that she would remain enagaged in something useful.But after completing the course successfully,the daughter refused to go & join as a nurse anywhere .Maaya keeps telling her daughter that she can keep her earnings to herself but she must go for a nursing job so that she can feel confident.But so far ,the bitiya has refused to obey.Her neighbours opine that she has been so fortunate to have a mother who thinks only of her daughter's well being in such trying circumstances but to no avail.Maaya has yet to repay the loan which she had taken for her daughter's wedding which went wrong !

Maaya has never complained that she is the second wife.She is happy though she is more educated than her hubby.She is the only one amongst four sisters to complete schooling upto twelfth standard.She even applied for a Railway job but drew a blank as the exams she gave were cancelled for some leakage of papers.

She cooks for all at home before she leaves home for her maid servant's job.Her mother-in-law is an invalid & she needs looking after.Maya has three sons ( two of her own ) & one daughter who just lazes at home.Her hubby & eldest son are employed as drivers.Her hubby had met with a near fatal accident some years back but is back on his feet now .

Maaya used to do lot of vrats & upvaas -so much so that every alternate day,she was off food.This has led to severe acidity & insomonia.She has become obese because of this habit of fasting.Thankfully,now she has given up many vrats .She also suffers from aches & pains every now & then but I never heard her whine even once about her physical ailments.I only come to know that she was having severe pain in the neck when she said that she was taking a day off to go to the hospital for an appointment.

She is most sought after for her services as she goes about her work with utmost sincerity.That is why when her mother went to ask Mrs Sharma if she could work as Maaya was busy elsewhere,Mrs Sharma curtly said ," Let Maaya only do the work at my place as I had a face to face talk with her." What she omitted to tell Mayya' mother is that she had been impressed by Maaya's cleanliness at her neighbour's home wherein she had worked for a brief period.This she  divulged to me when she rang me up to ask about Maaya's whereabouts on the intercom.

Though Maaya's mother can hardly be compared to Maaya in virtues,one must give full credit to her for having brought her up so well that Maaya is an asset to all ! This includes those households wherein  she works.She scrubs the toilet which she uses for filling the bucket for floor wiping ! This despite the fact, that, I have still to employ her for cleaning toilets at  my home .She will always clean the tea kettle which I have used for making tea for her, unlike, her mother .She will always take off by informing beforehand.

She is someone who emapthises with fellow maids .She lost a job at a beauty parlour as another maid got there before Maaya  could  go & meet the owner. Maaya was composed  as she opined,"I am garib & so is she ."This positive attitude has stood Maaya through all these turbulent times.Perhaps, she believes, that the Brahamand is a Mithya -an illusion just like her name ! She has  understood the Bhagvad Gita without even reading it .I wish I could say this about myself.Maybe, her association with me will make me comprehend  that all the world is  Mithya with certain exceptions.As a clichéd saying goes to state exceptions prove the law more than anything else.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Left overs

I have constant arguments with my hubby about eating out .This is so, as I, usually cook the day's food in the mornings itself.In the evenings,if he says, that we can all eat dinner out ,I fume.I feel cheated after slogging in the kitchen.I know, that sometimes,my cooking is bad but then,why does anybody have to be so blunt about it by suggesting dining out ? Moreover, what should I do with the leftover food ?

No,I don't take hints howsoever openly given.I will try to find some recipe & give the leftover a new twist ! Leftover idlis can be crumbled into powdered form.Then, one can add a seasoning or vagaar of mustard seeds,urad dal,hing & haldi.One can also add fried onions & green chillies to get a little crunch & viola ,one can savour idli upma ! I swear, that this tastes better than fresh idlis due to the added veggies & oil !

Leftover idlis can be diced &  fried- just like potato wedges & served with chutni and or sambhar.This is sinful as the idli pieces are deep fried but then, we need to sin, otherwise, how will we ever atone  ? Moreover,since ,we rarely remember the Almighty,we need  to sin & then plead  for forgiveness.Sinning in terms of eating fried  food wins hands down in this  health conscious ( though practice has yet to catch up with the awareness )  age .

Idli batter can also be used to make dhoklas .One of my friends is an expert in making dhoklas & she vouches for the taste of idli batter dhoklas.It is also light as this is a steamed dish similar to  the  idli.

I make an upma of leftover chapatis as well.This is  typical Maharastrian fare & I love it ! Left over chapatis can also be made into laddoos by adding little ghee & gur  or sugar.I have tried to make this but have been unsuccessful so far.I tasted such laddoos once & believe me, they were heavenly ! It is said that leftover food at home is umpteen times better than fresh restaurant food ! Just goes to show why we all fall for restaurant food ! It is only leftovers ( how old is any body's wildest guess ) ) packaged to look presentable.On second thoughts,eating leftovers from home will prepare us better for withstanding restaurant food -as fresh as it was !

I once added kheera-tomatar-pyaaz raita to dosa batter .Then, I made uttapas with the batter thus prepared ! So ,one can get creative with kal ka khana.Mind you, the uttapas, were full of nutrition & yummy !

Many housewives add leftover dal to atta & make protein rich parathas for kids ! Sour buttermilk or curds can be converted into  delicious kadhi ! Sour buttermilk can also be used as a growth enhancer for the kari patta plant.My neighbour had enlightened me that sour buttermilk is beneficial for the curry leaves plant.I would pour extremely sour curds ( diluted with generous amounts of water ) in  my padosan's kitchen garden which had a kari patta plant.In turn,my neighbour, used to allow me to collect fresh sprigs of kari patta for my cooking ! So ,bassi khana has multiple uses !

I recall an ex -colleague recycling old pedhas .She would add chikkos &  cream & make sumptuous  chikoo ice cream !

Many rural folk feed bacha hua  khana to cows but since in cities,this may not work out,it is better to have a complete makeover of the leftovers. Moreover,with food prices shooting up alarmingly,this is necessary for  a financial makeover as well ! 

My dad jokes that in his home,bisi bele bhaath was a dish made from leftover rice & sambar ! Never does he remember to have eaten that dish freshly made .Haldi,hing,green chillies,urad dal ,peanuts & salt can be added to rice along with seasoning of mustard seeds to make delicious Phodni cha bhaath .Phodni in Marathi means vagaar.One can also add little lemom juice & grated ginger to make it more tangy.Gujratis make bhajiyas by dipping rice( leftover ) balls into besan & deep frying the rice balls to which hara dhania,lal mirchi,ajwain ,haldi & hing has been added. These are very crispy & a sure hit at breakfast time !

Leftover bread can be transformed into bread upma or bread patties.The possibilities of utilising bacha hua khana are too immense.I feel, the make overs are more tasty than the original fresh food item ! It is, as if, a zing has been added to the boring food ! I wish some net cook could start a blog only about utilising leftovers.I am sure, it will be rage on the various social networks ! The Government ought to lend a hand by  givings loans & other support to such noble ideas ! Noble as these recycling fundas utilse food which is getting scarce .Worldwide food prices are rising & millions go hungry.Recycling food ensures that food is seldom thrown away. This will ensure, that, complaints about food inflation will reduce to a whimper.Not that   our loud protests,  so far, have  made our Government lend any ear but then, we ought to  be positive ,forever . 

That is why, I have started cooking, more than needed by my family.This way,I am sure ,something, will remain uneaten .I then use my culinary skills to get creative ! My family members are also getting increasingly creative in refusing or rather opting  out of eating my made over dishes ! But then,they are still to learn , what  they are missing !
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