One early morning, Manuj was driving his car and saw many stranded people on the road. They came near him when he stopped his car and started requesting him for food. But unfortunately, Manuj was not carrying anything with him that time. He drove back to home and for few days kept thinking how best he can serve the people who are in dire need of food.
And finally he decided to organise a community lunch to feed the people after a long discussion with family members, including his spouse Pooja. So, during a weekend, he got his family members together and got food prepared for 200+ people and served it to the needy. That was January 2018!
In India we know these community lunches as a “Bhandara” or a “Langar”, which is mainly popular at Gurudwaras and Temples. People usually organise these Bhandaras on an auspicious day or a memorable day of their life like anniversary, birthday or in remembrance of the departed soul.
After some time on a cold morning, while visiting the society temple few of the residents of his area discussed to serve the society. And they discussed about the Bhandara organised by Manuj and his family. But the residents were worried whether this can sustain for long time and how they will manage it. Hearing the idea, Manuj has put forward his name to get the stuff arranged also a cook. They purchased their own utensils and a cart to carry the cooked food and utensils. And then another successful Bhandara was organised on a sunny weekend.
After a while the idea became very popular in the neighbouring area and more people put forward their support from Manuj’s neighbourhood. Initially the Bhandaras were held on weekends specially on Sunday only but many people wanted to organise on weekdays as well so the frequency was increased from one day in a week to 3-4 days in a week. Manuj’s family members also joined hands with Manuj to help in organising the Bhandara, distributing the food, cleaning the utensils. Manuj said that he himself is arranging the necessary groceries etc, going to market to buy other stuff to make the Bhandara successful.
To create a record of these lunch events, a couple of months later he decided to give the initiative a name and after discussion with others he decided to call it a “Weekly Bhandara”. With the help of friends, Manuj has created a website (www.Weeklybhandara.com) to put the details of every Bhandara along with pictures and other details. Since early 2020, Weekly Bhandara has become a part of Mangloo Trust to scale up the efforts and bring legal status to the initiative.
Soon the initiative became very popular in entire NCR region and more people started coming to support the Bhandara. According to Manuj, one Bhandara usually costs around Rs. 5,000 rupees for approx. 250-300 people, depending on the items prepared in the Bhandara. As more and more people started sponsoring the Bhandaras the team came up with an idea of people sponsoring a complete Bhandara or partially depending how much one wants to contribute. The sponsors usually supporting him in serving the food but Manuj and his family members always make them available if someone is not able to come and serve the food. He take care of everything from buying the groceries to serving the food.
Every good effort attracts supporters and challenges too. And this initiative also saw some challenges. From people categorising these efforts as ‘a way to achieve fame’ to people raising concerns over possibility of spreading litter on public land. All these challenges were dealt with patience and with the intent to do right by everyone. Such as, for people raising concerns on spreading litter, a lady offered to lend utensils for these Bhandara. She would send the utensils and when Bhandara would be done, the cleaned utensils would be returned.
One of his known, Vivek Ojha further appreciating Manuj’s efforts said that “He is always there to support whenever any help request is raised or if any emergency situation is flagged by anyone from his society or groups”.
So far Manuj has organised more 100 Bhandaras in Gurugram and served 30,000+ people in such a short span of 1 and half years. And, the effort is still going on.
By profession, Manuj works with an MNC in Gurugram as Executive Finance Manager and manages the Bhandaras outside his tiring office hours. He mentioned that his passion for doing something for the society led him to make this idea a successful initiative.