HT Salutes: 'Tandoorwala' in Chandigarh lost his job, but cooked for migrants

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Home / India News / HT Salutes: ‘Tandoorwala’ in Chandigarh lost his job, but cooked for migrants

Between March 31 and May 21, the 54-year-old cooked two meals at a langar seva (food service) run by a local organisation.

india Updated: Jun 17, 2020 17:47 IST

When the chairman of the organisation approached him to cook meals for the needy, Narinder Singh  agreed instantly. When the chairman of the organisation approached him to cook meals for the needy, Narinder Singh agreed instantly.(HT photo)

Narinder Singh has a popular eatery in Chandigarh’s sector 19, and sold up to a hundred piping hot vegetarian meals to college students daily, in non-pandemic times. However, the ‘tandoorwala’ as he is known among his clients was forced into unemployment when the nationwide lockdown was announced in March. He did not make any money for well over two months, but he never stopped cooking.

Between March 31 and May 21, the 54-year-old cooked two meals at a langar seva (food service) run by a local organisation. When the chairman of the organisation approached him to cook meals for the needy, Singh agreed instantly.

“My immediate answer was yes but my family was concerned. After all, it is such a deadly disease which spreads by through contact with others,” he said. 

Singh has a 27-year-old daughter and 21-year-old son; his wife Baljeet is a home maker. Often, they had to make do with the food he would bring back from the langar at the end of the day.

“I would cook lunch for 800 people [in the kitchen] of Kashyap Samaj in sector 37. In the evening, I would go to Maloya and cook dinner for 700 people,” he said.

The community organisation provided the raw material — rice, dal, vegetables — and Singh along with two other cooks, would make two meals a day that would then be distributed in the colonies and slums of Maloya and Dhanas.

“In these 50 days, this service became centre of my existence, so much so that one day it was raining heavily yet I decided to go, all drenched in the rain because my absence would have meant that over a 1000 people will sleep hungry.”

Singh, who has worked his as a cook all his life — he opened his tandoor near the sector 19 gurudwara in the 1970s—was among the small business owners who were worst hit by the lockdown.

Singh has also had to make many personal sacrifices due to the lockdown, which depleted his earnings.

“My daughter was supposed to get married this year. I was saving for her wedding. For the last two months there was no income for my family,” he said.

“But with god’s grace, we managed, somehow,” he said.

Since June 8, his eatery has reopened but his client base has dwindled, as colleges still remain shut.

He is hopeful that in a month or two, when colleges reopen, his eatery will start making profit. But he is nervous about the competition posed by online delivery outlets. He is not technology savvy and might lose out on orders if people start ordering online, he said.

(Hindustan Times and Facebook have partnered to bring you the next 15 stories of HT Salutes. HT is solely responsible for the editorial content of this series)

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