Earlier this month, Kanti Prasad was thronged by foodies at his tiny food stall Baba ka Dhaba, a little blue box in Malviya Nagar in south Delhi that was forlorn and empty for the last six months.
Their despair came to light when Instagram influencer Gaurav Wasan captured Prasad breaking down as he talked about his struggles in a video shared on his social media account.
Overnight, the post spiralled into a movement to help the elderly couple, whose plight struck a chord of empathy in distant corners of the country.
Wasan, who posted the video through his Instagram handle @youtubeswadofficial, said he is always on the lookout for lesser known food joints around the city but never did he imagine his post would lead to so much traction.
“I am so glad I decided to take the first step to help them. I realised that they made good food…the only thing missing was marketing, and I thought I could use my followers to do that.
“With the kind of support this has created, I will continue to focus on other food joints which need help in this time,” Wasan, who has over 1,15,000 followers on Instagram, said.
Everything changed for the 80-year-old and his family that was on the brink of penury. Social media spun its magic with a video of Prasad tearfully recounting the desperation of the months since the lockdown being shared widely across platforms – and, hey presto, customers made a beeline to eat his food as did camera crews, bloggers and journalists.
Now, according to a Twitter user Madhur aka @ThePlacardGuy made some serious allegations against Wasan. He wrote, “Baba ka Dhaba is closed today because: 1) His eyes got operated yesterday. 2) The volunteers who used to work at Baba ka Dhaba have been threatened by Gaurav and his brother Karan that "roz yahin aaoge na, dikhata hoon tumhe kya cheez hoon main". Second reason is major reason.”
In subsequent tweets, Madhur responded to a comment by Wasan who asked another user why they had shared the vide on Twitter. He wrote, “He used your video to spread awareness, unlike you, his intentions weren’t corrupt. He used the video so public can help the old couple, unlike you who duped the them. You conned those people who brought you fame and stardom. I wonder how can some people be so selfish. Shameful.”
“He's so fame hungry that he didn't let w fellow food blogger shoot Baba's video on 7th October's evening, when the original video hadn't even gone viral. He didn't want anyone else to get credit of Baba ka Dhaba. Such a lowlife,” he added.
Meanwhile other Twitter users questioned Wasan on the donations he received in the name of Baba Ka Dhaba.
One wrote, “Hey @gauravwasan08 show the bank statement of donations you got for Baba Ka dhaba. You said it earlier you got 20 lakh approx but you gave Baba check of 2 lakh 33 thousand only. Why so? Ab gareebo ke naam par paisa khaoge?”
“If Gaurav Wasan has blatantly cheated the old Baba ka Dhaba couple, then someone should file an FIR against him. All the money transactions will be investigated by the cops. This social media trial is pointless and it’ll die in a couple of days, if not earlier,” added another.
Like many other businesses — big and small -- Prasad’s food stall that he has been running with his wife since the early 1990s hit its nadir during the lockdown and in the weeks that followed. The elderly couple barely made enough to make ends meet and their food was mostly unsold at the end of the day.
Life had become increasingly difficult for the family also because their son Azad lost his job as an office boy.
“The earning from the shop was the only way to feed ourselves,” Azad said.
Besides Prasad and his wife, the family comprises their three children, two grandchildren and a daughter-in-law.
Before Covid-19 took its toll on businesses countrywide, Prasad would make enough to save Rs.4,000-Rs.5000 almost every month. It all dried up in the months since March when India went into lockdown.
There were days, Prasad said, when not a single customer turned up.
“We realised there was no point in sitting at home, so we opened our shop every day. Some days we would have a couple of customers, so whatever money we could make was important. Sometimes we didn’t even manage to cover the cost of preparing the food,” Prasad, who lives with his family in Jagdamba camp in Sheikh Sarai, said.
Today, people not only helped in buying his food but also with rations, he said.
Actors such as Suniel Shetty, Randeep Hooda and Raveena Tandon, retweeted Wasan’s video, asking people to support the couple and other local vendors in need during the challenging times of Covid-19 pandemic.
With PTI inputs