An Eid feast that fed around two lakh people in Mumbai was a treat in these unhappy times, courtesy the kitchen of chef Vikas Khanna.
The Michelin-star chef who has successfully distributed six million dry ration meals across 125 Indian cities, on Friday put together a massive Eid feast, where his team distributed 100,000+ kgs of dry rations, fresh and dry fruits, spices, sugar, seviyan, kitchen utensils, oils, chais, coffee, and juices, after taking blessings from sacred Haji Ali Dargah.
Khanna has partaken in the daily distribution of dry ration kits to migrant workers and the needy during the COVID-19 crisis - which has been the highlight of his entire career, he says.
With adequate social distancing, the food was given out in Mumbai areas of Mohammad Ali Road, Dharavi and Mahim Dargah - with support from National Disaster Relief Force. The chef had created a supply chain in April to ensure dry ration is distributed to orphanages, old age homes and leprosy centres in India.
"Eid is a symbol of gratitude and unity. As the last weeks have been hard for each one of us, we wanted to stand in solidarity to celebrate Eid," Vikas Khanna told life. On helping migrants, he said that we are together to be India. "Each one of us. They are the soul and the backbone. Every day serving them meals has been the highlight of my entire career."
How did he plan such a vast-scale event?
"I did not plan it, the Universe plans it. We just follow. I think the last few weeks of supplying meals and dry rations to more than 125 cities in India has connected me to a lot of people on the ground to make this event possible. Slowly and steadily we kept working toward connecting the dots and within a few months, we have created a food chain. The deliveries are a huge challenge everywhere due to lockdowns. It seemed to be an impossible mission every day. Many times we wanted to give up understanding the current circumstances. But, then something positive kept pushing us. A small victory encouraged us and we kept moving forward."
For the chef, it was a challenge to balance nutrition in the ration kits and ensure its procurement. "It's usually Rice-Lentils-Wholewheat Flour-Onions-Potatoes. But it varies from state to state. Many times in old age homes, leprosy centers and orphanages, we are giving just Rice-Wholewheat Flour-Lentils and sometimes sanitary napkins in some cities," he shared.
His message to the citizenry? "I think tough times define what metal we are made of. I could not breathe when I saw the images of pain, fear and hunger. We tried our best to our ability to serve as many as possible. I am humbled that I could be of use."
The New York-based chef, author and filmmaker has been in quarantine since March-end. The American city is one of the most affected cities in the world.
"I am trying my best to have any connection with anyone. But losing so many friends every day and two aunts crushed me. But keeping positive and moving forward."
Finally, his thoughts on the F&B industry in India and around the world? "Our industry is most vulnerable right now. It employs the second-highest number of people and has been a tough struggle right now. My catering company in NY and the restaurant in Dubai is shut as of now. I am sure stimulus plans would help tremendously to get the industry back on its feet."
( With inputs from IANS )