Good Samaritans show the way: Amid COVID-19 pandemic, Pune's Aakanksha Sadekar steps up to provide free home-cooked meals to the needy (In Picture: Meals cooked by fellow volunteer Ronita)
Good Samaritans show the way: Amid COVID-19 pandemic, Pune's Aakanksha Sadekar steps up to provide free home-cooked meals to the needy (In Picture: Meals cooked by fellow volunteer Ronita)

The power of social media is amazing. It is an indisputable force in the world. With millions of people on these platforms, including the influential ones, it provides a helping hand in finding the right assistance one needs. Even when one is offering much-needed aid to the deprived, especially amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, social media proves to be a major help.

During these devastating times, social media is flooded with heart-wrenching posts with desperate pleas for hospital beds, oxygen cylinders, Remdesivir injections, and more. With many states imposing lockdowns and curfews to curb the spread of the infection, there are several people who are struggling to put food on the table. Some are starving due to insufficient funds, some are living alone, while some cannot venture out of their homes to buy essential commodities because they are home quarantined.

Amidst this, there are several people across the country who are offering free home-cooked food to the disadvantaged, and Pune's Aakanksha Sadekar is one of them. A Petroleum Engineer by profession, she delivered her 1000th tiffin on Monday (April 19). Running completely on donations, Sadekar started the initiative on April 7. It all began with her tweet offering to help healthcare workers, doctors and medical students living alone in the city. The 32-year-old said that she would be "happy to cook extra home-cooked food and drop it off so that you can go about saving lives and not have to survive on crass things like Maggi. I am a decent cook!"

Speaking to the Free Press Journal, Sadekar said she thought about starting such an initiative was after she saw a young doctor's tweet, who had to eat Maggi after reaching home from his 12-hour strenuous shift. "There was a little commotion when the first set of restrictions were imposed in Pune. There is a friend on Twitter who had tweeted something about Swiggy and Zomato, and a young doctor had commented under his tweet saying that when he comes home at 8:30 pm there is no food available as that time the deliveries were only permissible till 8 pm. It was such a shame that he had come from a 12-hour shift and he didn't have food at home and all he had to eat was Maggi. It moved me a bit as even my brothers are medical students. Then I put out a tweet and it went viral and I started getting messages from people. Initially, it was doctors so they contributed money themselves. Later, the message reached out to healthcare workers and they are somebody who cannot afford eating out daily. So, I decided to provide free meals to them." "We don't have a restaurant-style kitchen, it's a household kitchen. They are very simple meals like roti sabzi or khichdi, nothing fancy," Sadekar said modestly.

Born and brought up in the United Kingdom, Sadekar lives alone in Pune. Her domestic help lends her support to this noble initiative. She has also employed her domestic help's husband, who worked at a restaurant earlier but was out of his job. The 32-year-old also delivers the food by herself in nearby areas, and if the delivery location is far, she sends it by Dunzo.

Sadekar said she gets more than 100 calls everyday. "My phone doesn't stop buzzing," she laughed. When asked if she can provide for each one of them, she politely said, "No!" "I am stretching beyond my capacity (she laughs). I feel I might fall ill. I am still doing it as much as I can. Sometimes I pass on the inquiries to other people," she said. Managing her professional work, Sadekar said she provides nearly 80 meals in a day.

During this initiative, Sadekar said she has had quite a few unforgettable experiences. Sharing one such incident, she said, "There was a very frantic call from a young man. He and his wife both were COVID-19 positive. They have a two-and-a-half-year-old son. And eating from outside is not very healthy when you are trying to build your immune system. They really needed the help at the time. They hadn't had a good meal for nearly 3-4 days. It's not because they couldn't afford it, but the food from restaurants would never have the home-cooked feel. Later, the wife called me up and thanked me, and that 'thank you' was filled with tears. This is how much we value home-cooked food. It still gives me goosebumps."

In a message to fellow citizens, Sadekar said, "There can be countless Aakankshas if everybody starts helping out one person in their own vicinity."

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