Not Just A Meal - By Nemo

JGU is a world in its own. The beautiful academic block with the comfy reading rooms, the amazing library stacked with books of all possible genres and topics, the dormitories and other facilities sometimes make us forget that we live in a village. Step out of the gate and you will see vast expanses of lush green fields, full of men handling ploughs and women with earthen pots precariously balanced on their heads. For me, the moment when it suddenly hits how remote my location is, when I have to enter my address while placing orders on Amazon and Souled Store.

Yet, the awareness of the village life ends at the main gate for many. The steel buildings replace the fields, your friends and roommates replace the sight of the struggling village folk and your own mountain of assignments replace any consideration for the problems people in the village might be facing.

Not for one particular individual though. Kiran K. Mareppagol, a student of the Jindal School of Government and Public Policy, decided to solve not only the scarcity of reasonable priced yummy food for the mess goers who have no choice but to subject themselves to the Sodexo meals (see :Fuel for the Body, Happiness for the Soul) but also a social problem that many students here seem to be indifferent about since it doesn’t affect them: Village Unemployment.

Tiffin centres are very common in cities like Mumbai and Chennai, where the population comprises mostly of young working professionals who do not have the time or the inclination to make meals everyday. Tiffin centres provide them with a fixed supply of healthy home cooked food at reasonable prices. JGU too is constituted of students who are drowning in deadlines and projects. This takes a toll on our health and things like balancing meals are often ignored.

Hence, this tiffin centre, Pahal, that was started by Kiran, provides a range of combinations of meals as well as individual dishes at affordable prices. It may gradually become a hit amongst those who want to avoid mess food but at the same time do not want to disregard their student budget by eating in the food court every day.

I haven’t eaten from Pahal yet, so I cannot comment on the quality. But what I can do is draw attention to the other aspect of Pahal that makes it really special: All workers hired by Pahal are villagers.

“In the village where I stay, I saw many people roaming around in vain looking for jobs. The didi who prepares food in our house had a big family. She had 4 daughter-in-laws who stayed at home because they were not allowed to step out of the house to get jobs. To generate employment opportunities for such people, this idea of the tiffin centre was put into action. At least few women who cannot go to work outside will get employment opportunities in their house itself, thus improving their financial conditions. The mindset of the village people will be changed towards jobs. That is the vision of Pahal“ – Kiran

Currently, two couples and two other women are helping in the cooking and delivery of the food, While the 4 women do the cooking, the 2 men handle the delivery of the food to the main gate of the campus. Women are getting close to 70% of the profit generated.

In a culture where self interest and competition seem to be the norms, this start-up, built on the concept of helping those who are struggling to make ends meet and trying to change the stigma around women getting jobs (and simultaneously catering to students) is providing a ray of hope to many.

Pahal has been functional for a month now. To know more about the start-up, track Kiran down.

It takes just one vision to make a change, no matter who you are and where you are!