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COVID angels: women are cooking up a storm in the kitchen for patients

·13-min read

The world has witnessed the worst since the coronavirus outbreak, and what happened so far is a total commotion. We haven’t seen such an extremity in loss of human life ever before, as the worldwide deaths reached past 4 million. 

Although vaccine jabs are the ray of hope for human survival, the current ongoing catastrophic battle can never be forgotten, and will remain in history as one of the most global traumatic events ever.

These women are cooking up a storm in the kitchen for COVID patients
These women are cooking up a storm in the kitchen for COVID patients

Amid frazzling times like these, a lot of people have mustered the courage to stand up and fight against this nocuous virus. Several not-for-profit organisations have been working tirelessly to aid the needy and covid patients. At every nook and corner of the city in India you find a volunteer rendering his or her selfless services as a good samaritan.

Such instances remind us that humanity still exists in the world. Like lately, a Kannada actor Arjun Gowda became an ambulance driver to help the covid patients. While some celebrities have tied up with several NGOs and did their part in the form of raising funds, finding beds, distributing food, etc. All these gestures look so heart touching to see how people came forward with noble mindsets to do their every bit they can during this unprecedented period.

Likewise, we have three women who turned into home cooks/home chefs to provide home-cooked meals to covid families. In conversation with Yahoo India, they have shared how their hands worked enthusiastically like magic in the kitchen to prepare a large quantity of food.

Srabasti Ghosh - “Delivered 3000 Home Cooked Meals In 51 Days”

Srabasti is a theatre artist based out of Kolkata. As the world is still reeling from the coronavirus, just like many other selfless volunteers and organizations who came forward to rescue the covid patients, Srabasti also wants to do her part in the form of serving one of the other essential needs, i.e. delivering food. That’s when she wore a home cook hat to deliver home cooked meals to the affected patients.

Srabasti Ghosh packing home-cooked meals at her home
Srabasti Ghosh packing home-cooked meals at her home

How did it all start? It was on 27th April when Srabasti’s mother was in the office, she called her to ask if she can cook for 15 people. Before she thought of coming up with an idea to cook for covid patients, she was amongst many who used to help in numerous ways like forwarding the leads of hospital beds and oxygen cylinders.

“I felt that there are many other needs, and food is one of them. The people who are in home isolation or COVID affected but stay alone and do not have any option to cook by themselves or go to market. And, as body weakness is very common when affected by covid-19, it ceases you from doing heavy work, especially cooking. So, I felt the need to reach out in whatever capacity I can”, said Srabasti.

Dettol salutes Srabasti Ghosh for her efforts to aid people during these tough times
Dettol salutes Srabasti Ghosh for her efforts to aid people during these tough times

Thanks to her parents who were the main pillars to lead the idea further. Her mother started off with cooking while her father used to take care of the whole groceries part, and finally, Srabasti used to take care of the leads attending phone calls and other stuff, making sure that the delivery reaches the right person. Even some of her friends who had their own motorcycles helped Srabasti with the delivery.

As far as the material part goes, Srabasti sourced it from the local market, and some people have donated huge amounts for groceries to make the initiative successful. During the initial days of the initiative, Srabasti used her own funds lying in her bank account. “From day 2, the funds almost tripled, and at that time, most of my friends along with some unknown people came forward to donate. It’s a whole community effort”, added the 26-year old artist.

About the leads, she posted a poster on social media which reads “home cooked meals for those who are in isolation” along with her contact information. A large number of people have also shared her poster across social media for wider reach. “I used to handle all the phone calls and messages all by myself. It was not easy as there were uncountable amounts of phone calls which I had to receive per day. Somehow, I managed all of it”, said Srabasti.

Srabasti packed home-cooked meals for covid patients
Srabasti packed home-cooked meals for covid patients

So far, she has covered north Kolkata with 3000 deliveries in 51 days. Per day, she distributed meals to 50 people (2 times a day). When asked whether she had consulted any doctor for a prescribed diet for patients, she replied: “Yes, I had consulted a doctor and we used to follow a strict diet for patients that had a balanced amount of protein, carbohydrate, fat and other essentials. We used very little spices and less oil for cooking.” The basic diet in the package includes rice/ roti, dal, sabzi, fish/egg/chicken (whichever is available for the day).

Besides having a full-time job in hand, Srabasti handled every delivery with care and love. She said, “every case was special, and every case had different stories. Some were staying well, some of them lost their dear ones. There was an immense need which couldn't be ignored. Also, after starting, I understood, there's no point in going back as the work needs special commitments. A huge number of people were looking forward to me. Along with this, all the phone calls have made me realize the need to continue the work.”

Srabasti used to feel rejoiced when people used to call her and say that they have recovered and there’s no more need for sending food. And she claims those recovery calls to be the best moments. Finally, she concluded with a note by saying, “this is one of the toughest situations that we are going through, but if we all walk together, we'll cross this. This too shall pass.”

Sujata Rampuria - “Delivered 1000 Home Cooked Meals”

Sujata Rampuria is an entrepreneur for a brand called Pepperberries. She started the brand out of passion two years ago out of love for food. As we are aware of covid situation in India, and the rising cases, it hasn’t been easy-going for any of us, especially for covid patients who got affected by the virus. Well, the community had fought back like warriors to the situation by offering help in copious ways.

Entrepreneur and home chef Sujata Rampuria
Entrepreneur and home chef Sujata Rampuria

One of them was Sujata Rampuria from Kolkata, who’s also a home chef, did her part by cooking up a storm in the kitchen to deliver home-cooked meals to covid families. One of her friends who’s a doctor also encouraged her to start this initiative. “During these difficult times we just felt that apart from medical help a covid positive patient needs a healthy nutritious meal to help him recover faster. I don’t have any infrastructure. So, all I did was cook on my own. My parents, my husband, neighbours, and my kids helped me to make this initiative successful”, said Sujata.

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From buying raw materials from the local market to getting the cooked meal delivered, she did it all by herself from her savings. Overall 1000 meals were delivered by Sujata, and all the leads she got were directly from social media itself. As far as the delivery part goes, she delivered meals free of cost to the patients who lived within 3kms vicinity of Park Street, Kolkata. “If it’s beyond 3kms from the park street, people have to pay for the delivery cost. We delivered 5-6kms within the Park Street area. And the mode of delivery was Uber connect and Swiggy”, states Sujata.

Home-cooked meals freshly packed for delivery by Sujata Rampuria
Home-cooked meals freshly packed for delivery by Sujata Rampuria

She also shared some happy moments. “When patients message you back saying that they feel better after eating home cooked meals, that feeling gives you immense satisfaction”, smiles Sujata. For instance, a male patient messaged Sujata saying that “after 7 days of hospital food, eating home cooked meals felt like I would recover faster.” Also, another patient messaged her saying that “the doctors are definitely doing their bit but these home made meals worked more like a blessing and medicine.”

A sneak peek inside the delivery package cooked by Sujata for covid patients
A sneak peek inside the delivery package cooked by Sujata for covid patients

Finally, she concluded by saying, “This was just to help people around. I have always seen my parents make an effort and go an extra mile to help others. I guess I picked it from them. Any good we do, any smile we are able to bring on the face of the people, any effort we make for the needy, it definitely boosts you up as an individual and gives you the strength and motivation to help. I believe if each one of us do our bit the world can be a better place.”

Ankita Sahay - “Delivered 4500+ Home Cooked Meals

Ankita Sahay is a masters graduate from ISB Hyderabad, and currently is working with MPL Sports. She’s one among many other selfless tender-hearted people who came forward to aid the covid families during this rough hour through her foundation “Seher”. It all started in the month of April when Ankita’s cousin got infected by covid-19. As her cousin was not in a state to cook by herself or order from food aggregators like Zomato or Swiggy, Ankita used to send a few home-cooked meals to her.

Ankita Sahay with home cooked meals made by her
Ankita Sahay with home cooked meals made by her

Later, she heard another story of her friend who faced a similar situation. So, that’s when she ideated a home cooked meals initiative. The next moment she made a normal Google form and posted it on social media with a note saying “I'm cooking meals for a couple of people. If anybody needs it, lunch and dinner, they can approach me and I'll be giving it free of cost.”

Initially, Ankita started sending lunch and dinner for 10 people, but later she started receiving several requests and that’s when she decided to build a network across Bangalore. So, she also asked her friends and family to circulate the Google form across their social media handles for lead generation and to connect with like-minded people who wanted to help covid families with home-cooked meals. That’s when she started getting leads.

A digital art made and sent to Ankita by someone for helping their family during covid times
A digital art made and sent to Ankita by someone for helping their family during covid times

She further said, “Again, it’s all a word of mouth game. I haven't invested a single penny in marketing at all. I reached out to a lot of people and our service was pretty good, the patients to whomever we delivered, they passed on to more people. That's how we got more and more requests for food. In terms of how I keep a track of all the messages, I maintain my own excel sheet, dashboard, so from that point of view, I'm very organized in what I'm getting, how many requests, and when they have to be started. I maintain everything on an excel sheet and that's how I maintain a track of all the messages and calls.”

For easy connectivity, Ankita approached Bhavesh Pandey, who’s currently working with 5C Network as Head Of Engineering, where he has built a tool that made communication easy and automated. “I have all the categories like supply, demand, packaging in the automated tool. I get all the requests on this tool and that matches me to the nearest volunteers available”, stated Ankita.

A poem sent by one of the family members Indu to Ankita thanking in return for the home-cooked meals
A poem sent by one of the family members Indu to Ankita thanking in return for the home-cooked meals

There were several strains in the process, case-in-point, “most of them have jobs, and everyone has different preferences. Some want to cook lunch, some want to make dinner. The number of people also varies across volunteers. Some are okay with cooking for 10 people, some want to cook only for 1 person. So it became incredibly difficult to map every volunteer preference to the family. A lot of families also have preferences like some are diabetic, some want less spicy food, some want only chapatis, some are pregnant, etc. There are a lot of restrictions and allergies as well.” But Ankita managed everything with ease and a happy face.

About the food materials sourcing, volunteers purchased with their personal savings. Ankita also tied up with a charity organization, where they approached her saying that if people want they are okay to provide good groceries once a month to whoever is making food for covid patients. However, “most of them were doing it on their own. Some approached them and bought groceries from them. It's not about subsidized rates. It's more like say for INR 2500 whatever groceries you can get, they can refund or place the order by themselves”, said Ankita.

Home-Cooked meals along with handwritten notes that mentioned thoughtful messages to the covid families
Home-Cooked meals along with handwritten notes that mentioned thoughtful messages to the covid families

As far as the delivery part goes, Vani Kola, the most successful business woman and Indian venture capitalist has commented on Ankita’s post which later went viral on LinkedIn, asking her to approach her. “Basically, throughout Bangalore, I had done business accounts with them and they offered a very different rate across Bangalore which is subsidized for these deliveries”, said Ankita. Aditya Sahay managed the deliveries through Swiggy and helped Sahay to reach more families who needed help.

All the places were covered by Dunzo, where Seher partnered for delivery assistance. There are few places where Dunzo does not serve, so Swiggy Genie was their next POC. “They have offered a subsidized rate for Seher. I have a different tool and login credentials too. So, I do everything through it. I make all the deliveries and I am the only point of contact for the families. The volunteers do not interact with the families”, said Ankita. From delivery to packaging to getting requests, Ankita solely coordinated the whole kit and caboodle of Seher.

A recovered patient sent a message to Ankita over WhatsApp expressing his gratitude for the home-cooked meals
A recovered patient sent a message to Ankita over WhatsApp expressing his gratitude for the home-cooked meals

Overall 4500+ home-cooked meals were delivered through Seher. Out of all these, there’s one interesting thing that was done by Ankita and the volunteers with the home-cooked deliveries. What they did was, they used to send a custom-made note attached to each and every meal request along with the delivery. In the beginning, Ankita made handwritten notes and sent them along with the deliveries she made. Later, the volunteers too started making handmade cards in a way they wanted to address it.

“Slowly and gradually, as and when we started receiving feedback, we started getting blessings and how it's motivating for the patients, that's when the volunteers also started doing the same. A lot of them had painted their handwritten notes and sent it to the patients, a lot of them made it through children staying in the society as a sort of recreational activity. The delivery package includes food and hand made notes”, said Ankita on the handwritten notes idea.

Now things have gotten better in various places across India. And thankfully, the number of requests also reduced to almost zero. For the humanitarian work done by Ankita and her network of volunteers, they have received several accolades from across the city. “We have received tonnes and tonnes of heart touching messages. I mean, I can't even tell you how thrilling it has been throughout these 2 months.” 

On a positive note, Ankita concluded by saying, “just hang in there and stay connected with more people rather than going into solidarity.”


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