Batheri: Rajagopal of Prayag in Madakkara Valiyavattom here is neither a chef, a caterer nor a hotelier. But in the past one year, he has fed over 50,000 people.
The 60-year-old has been providing free meals to the patients and bystanders of Batheri Government Ayurveda Hospital ever since he learned about those who forego food to afford treatment when he himself was a patient at the medical center a year ago.
And no, it’s not kanji and payar thoran. Rajagopal provides lunch comparable to a sadya, which includes aviyal, erisheri and pappadam. He also serves payasam on certain days.
Apparently, he makes it a point to go and pick up the ingredients all by himself every morning. Then, he would transform the hospital kitchen into his work place.
But since April, Rajagopal’s generous kitchen functions from his own home as the government has banned cooking on the hospital premises.
As his house is situated nine kilometers away from the hospital, now he needs to meet transportation charges too. However, the man with a heart of gold is not ready to discontinue his charity work: thanks to his wife Kairali, who has always been a pillar of support to the philanthropist. The couple have a son who is an engineer in the army, and a daughter, who is married.
Rajagopal spends around Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 2,000 a day to feed the in-patients of the hospital. The transportation expenses are extra. Although some people come forward to help him, bulk of the money is spent from his own pocket. He also uses the money send by his son. His income from farming takes care of domestic expenses.
Rajagopal recalls that it was an engineer, Cleetus Antony, who inspired him to do something for society. Antony had headed a similar charity project to provide free meals with an organization named Divine several years ago.
Incidentally, when Antony mooted a project to provide drinking water to 70 houses in the neighborhood, it was Rajagopal who donated two cents of land for the same.
The story of Rajagopal’s generous deeds doesn’t end there. He himself pumps water for the villagers every day for the past eight years. He is also convener of the ward development council, secretary of the pepper farmers' association and president of a coconut farmers’ body.
As the humble farmer has spend quite a lot of his hard-earned money for the charity work, there indeed is a squeeze. But he insists he cannot abandon the work. He believes he can go on for long if the kindhearted are willing to lend a hand in support. Right now, there are three people who donate for a day's food every month - three noble souls who wish to remain unidentified.