They say that the way to anybody’s heart is through their stomach. And we would all have experienced this many times in our life. When I go visit kids we work with at their homes (mostly in slums), they are the happiest when I eat, or atleast drink something. On our last day in Hyderabad, when a group of us were talking about bygone days and memories, one friend recollected how there was food whenever he dropped in to our place. A few more who were away from home spoke about how festivals had come to mean visiting our home, without waiting for an invite. I had probably never realized it had made such an impact on them. That is the place food occupies in our life 🙂 And there could be nothing more satisfying than serving someone.

I have always been awestruck and overwhelmed by the magnanimity of our temple kitchens. Be it Sringeri, Kollur, Horanadu, Dharmasthala and so on – it is not only about the quality or taste of the food they serve, but the love and attention with which they do so, irrespective of the huge numbers they end up serving each day, that strikes your heart. And so, when trailers about the upcoming series ‘Megakitchens of India’ on NatGeo started showing on my FB wall, I could not wait to watch them.  The series which aired from Monday-Thursday (10PM) this week showcased the magnanimous kitchens of Shirdi, Dharmasthala and the Akshayapatra kitchen in Hubli, Karnataka, and will continue to bring forth the story of IRCTC and TajSATS next week.  Though I have already experienced the hospitality in Dharmasthala many times before, and also visited Akshayapatra kitchens in Bengaluru and Hyderabad and eaten their food too (in the kitchens as well as in a few schools we work with), I could not help but be more and more impressed by the initiative, and by the people working so hard and with so much love to feed thousands and lakhs everyday.

There were so many lessons to learn from them – the way they went about their day even when they had to start as early as 3AM to send lunch right in time for the lunch-hour at school, or end up cooking a second time because the number of devotees overshot the expected numbers, with a smile on their face. Every single person who was showcased spoke about how serving his children meant serving the Lord himself, and how the smiles and the blessings uttered by people out of contentment were all that mattered. What impresses me most about these kitchens is the inclusiveness. Whoever said we are all different based on caste or creed or whatever? Isn’t that such a beautiful feeling, to be fed and to eat together – Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam! The ISKCON kitchen has also employed speech and hearing impaired on their floors.

I was amazed when hearing the praises heaped, the Akshayapatra in-charge said that they were hardly reaching out to 1.5-2% of the malnourished kids, and would love to join hands with more NGOs and even share their research, innovations and technology free of cost, so that they could cater to more. This is service indeed! Such humility.

Wouldn’t want to give out more; do catch up with the repeat telecasts if you can, or catch the videos online 🙂 Here are the trailers:

God bless these noble souls!

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