A mother-son duo who ran a tiffin delivery service from Mumbai's Kandivili turned around their business to help thousands of homeless at a time when the pandemic has left the economy crippled.
Through the Coronavirus pandemic, they cooked meals for the migrant labourers who were stuck in cities far away from their homes.
What started as a tiffin delivery service from the kitchen of Heena Mandavaia’s humble home back in 1999 has today evolved into a successful food delivery unit today that delivers ghar ka khaana through delivery apps like Zomato and Swiggy.
Faced by monumental adversities and a 5-year-old son Harsh in tow after the untimely demise of her husband in the late 1990s, Mrs Mandavia started the initiative as a means to eke out a living for herself and her son. After several hardships, Harsh Thali and Parathas began on a commercial level in 2003. With home-made thalis, parathas and sweets, the delivery kitchen has been offering meals for the past 21 years.
As the pandemic and subsequent lockdown halted food deliveries for her regular consumers for a while earlier this year, Heena’s thoughts also went to those poor migrants and homeless people out on the streets. Meanwhile, they had also started getting calls from nearby hospitals asking for food delivery for doctors and nurses on duty.
"I believe this was meant to be our fate. God willed us to be the medium for this because coincidentally, a Good Samaritan, who also happened to be one of our regular customers, said he wanted to do something for the poor people. He was a bit scared of venturing out during the pandemic, so he told me to find people so that they can be fed two square meals, the cost for which he would bear," says Harsh.
So what started as an initiative to feed 100 people was to see a monumental level of support from all quarters.
"I just posted a few photos of us serving these people outside a gurudwara and we didn’t expect it to get the kind of traction it did. We were flooded with messages from people all over, even aborad who said they wanted to help and contribute in these tough times," Harsh says.
People from abroad and India started contributing to their food drive for which they had set up a crowdfunding initiative on Ketto and till today, they have raised Rs 8 lakhs organically through social media from 270 donors and 9 countries around the world.
The mother-son duo has also employed several local people, some of who lost their jobs during the pandemic. Together, they have served over 13,500 meals, 37,000 tawa rotis, 6000 homemade sugar free sweets, and recently have also started giving out homemade immunity booster tablets.
'The biggest push to do something like this was because we understood what the pain of hunger is, having lived through that all those years ago. I never thought of Harsh Thali as a business, for me it was just a means of bread and butter. But the fact that Harsh joined the business and not anything else, is the true success of my endeavour," says Heena Mandavia.
From running a business of a food delivery like many others to now actively making it a social cause, Harsh Thali and Parathas have set a beautiful example in times of duress.
So, do they plan to stop anytime soon?
Not really. "It might have been about feeding the needy initially, but it has become much more for us, a long-term vision under which we wish to empower the entire supply chain that is involved," Harsh says.
The mother-son duo has also been planning to scale up this initiative on a national level by tying up with delivery kitchens in other metro cities.
Heena Mandavia's wit matches her cooking skills. Taking a cue from Shah Rukh Khan starrer Raees, she signs off in style, "Ammi jaan kehti thi koi dhanda chota nai hota, aur dhande se bada koi dharam nai hota! Aur vo ammi jaan me hi hu!"
To contribute to Harsh Mandavia and his mother’s food donation drive, check out this link here.