Consent letter in my hand, I walked into school on the 18th of December, excited for my excursion to the Akshaya Patra kitchen. One of the many mega kitchens in India, Akshaya Patra is known for feeding 40,000 – 50,000 govt. school children, safe, healthy and pure vegetarian food, daily.
The ride to Jigani was a rather ordinary one. My friends and I stepped into the serene premises of the kitchen site, not really knowing what exactly to expect. But one thing we understood instantly was that this foundation definitely takes its cleanliness seriously, evident by all the places where you could find hand sanitizer, and also as entry within the workspace was permitted only after wearing a protective hair net and a mask to cover our mouths.
Once we had entered, it was as if the world around us was magnified. The size of their coconut grater was about the size of an average bed side table. The vegetables were hand cut, and produce was stored in a cold storage that maintains a temperature of 50C. Big vessels and containers with capacities ranging from 500kgs – 3000kgs, large containers for frying, produced delicious healthy food that anybody would love.
One unique fact about these kitchens is that the food is cooked with steam, carried via pipelines, rather than flames, thereby cooking about 500kgs of it in about 15mins. The steam is produced due to heat energy produced by the briquettes that are burnt in large furnaces, away from the kitchen area.
The food given to us was delicious, modest and simply scrumptious, with many of us asking for seconds and thirds, embarrassment clearly etched on our faces, which however, was worth it. After filling our stomachs, the next task on our agenda was going to the nearby govt. school and serving the students lunch. If I were to be honest, what most of us were looking forward to was the amazing food we would get to eat from there. However, after our experience at the government school my friends and I realized that nothing could beat the happiness we felt over there.
All the students were assembled in lines, as we got ready, ladle in handle, giving the curries a good mix. There was nothing complicated with the serving process, each of us taking turns to serve our friends of the other school. I too got a chance for serving my favorite curry to some of them. But even with the lack of grandiosity, I could feel something warm immerge in my chest. That very feeling is what I would call a mix of gratitude and satisfaction.
Seeing the happy faces of the children, both younger and around the same age as me, filling their hungry little stomachs, made me realize how thankful I must be for the boons I have been born with. Whether one is rich or poor, happiness exists, making it even more satisfying and gratifying to try and work towards a more noble cause. It is only when we step down the high horse of our egos, do we realize everything waiting to be explored and all the people one must visit.
This experience truly is something my companions and I would definitely treasure deep within our hearts, remembering it for the rest of our lives.
Student of DPS Electronic City