A significant journey – one that inspires and restores people’s faith in all that is good in the world – always had the humblest of beginnings. Akshaya Patra’s voyage for the cause of ‘unlimited food for education’ also started in a similar fashion in the year 2000. Now, the Foundation operates the world’s largest NGO-run Mid-Day Meal Programme, nourishing over 1.6 million children across India with its mid-day meals every day. This wonderful journey is now chronicled in a book titled God’s Own Kitchen by renowned author Rashmi Bansal.
Engagingly told by Ms Bansal, the book’s narrative is conversational and free-flowing. It tells Akshaya Patra’s tale in a deeply personal manner, with insights into the minds of its founders, when the organisation was in its nascent stage. Behind the force that is Akshaya Patra lays the sweat and determination it workforce – past and present. The book introduces many key figures of the Foundation to the reader, including its current Chairman Shri Madhu Pandit Dasa; Vice Chairman Shri Chanchalapathi Dasa; Chairman, Manipal Global Education Services, TV Mohandas Pai, who has made significant contributions to the Foundation, among others.
God’s Own Kitchen is also interspersed with interesting anecdotes. The setting up of new kitchens in different locations is always a challenging task and their backstories are quite amusing. India is a vast and varied country and every region has its peculiar sociocultural norms. These presented testing obstacles when it came to recruiting and training womenfolk in socially conservative regions, law and order scares, blurring the lines of social classes among children, so that they have their meals together in school, and the like. The book also throws light on how the organisation honed its famed hygiene practices and standards.
Over the years, the organisation has found support in many noted personalities from different walks of life. These include the 42nd President of the United States of America, Bill Clinton; former President of India, the late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam; one of India’s foremost businessmen Ratan Tata. The book has exciting pictures and stories of their visits to Akshaya Patra, including a photo of a cheque of Rs 12,000 written by Dr APJ Abdul Kalam for Akshaya Patra!
Classroom hunger is a bane that needs to be destroyed immediately. As the author says in her note in the book, “Let us open our hearts, or minds and our wallets to eradicate hunger from this country. Students and CEOs, swamis and socialites – we can do this together.” The cause needs the support of a greater number of hearts and minds and what better way to chronicle Akshaya Patra’s tireless service to it, than this wonderful book!
You can buy God’s Own Kitchen here.