Every Month He Fills 60,000 Litres Of Water In Matkas And Quenches The Thirst Of 1,50,000 Delhi Residents

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In 2013, when Alagarathanam Natarajan installed the first water cooler outside his home in South Delhi, he was shocked to face serious resistance from all of his neighbours. The people who were highly educated and established were offended because apparently “all kinds of people” would be drinking water there. Despite their disapproval, Natarajan did not sway one bit from his resolve. He put an end to their argument by simply saying, “All kinds of people need water.” Fast forward today, Delhi recognises Natarajan as their beloved ‘Matka Man’ – whose pledge to serve the poor and needy sweetens every drop of the water in the 80 matkas (earthen vessels for water) he has placed all over South Delhi.

Filling up the matkas

He triumphed cancer to serve the society

As a young man of 24, Alagarathanam Natarajan left his birthplace Bengaluru for London where he established himself as a successful businessman. “I always aspired to live a life of luxury, surrounded by lavish houses, cars and furniture; and I had achieved my dreams. However, a fateful day in my mid-50s drastically changed the definition of life for me,” he narrates.

At around 56 years of age, Natarajan was diagnosed with colon cancer. “I was eventually cured due to early-stage detection. But, it cost me a major portion of my life’s savings. I had no choice left but to return to India,” he shares.

Alagarathanam Natarajan, better known as Delhi’s Matka Man

Upon his return, he settled in South Delhi and established a new identity as an active social worker. “I have served the terminally ill patients in a cancer hospice, volunteered at an orphanage and performed the last rites of underprivileged people to offer them a dignified end,” he reveals. Joining hands with two Sikh brothers who organised langar for over two thousand people every day, Natarajan has served the hungry, homeless and destitute.

“Often, I would be overwhelmed by the pain and poverty they have to endure even in this modern age. I saw penniless patients arriving in the city from far-off places, armed only with feeble hopes to survive. Their plight taught me the real worth of life,” an emotional Natarajan shares his experiences.

Matka stands in different parts of Delhi

How he became the Matka Man

Inspired to find a water cooler installed outside the house of an eminent industrialist, Natarajan initiated the same at his own home in 2013. Within days, he found security guards, labourers and workers in the neighbourhood braving the mid-day sun to drink water and fill their bottles from his cooler. “Why do you walk in this heat and come so far for water?” Natarajan curiously inquired a guard one day. “The man revealed that his employer does not make any arrangements for water. I realised how pure drinking water is also a luxury for these overworked and underpaid people of our society,’’ shares Natarajan, narrating how he became “Matka Man”.

Matka Man with Matka van

He utilised the traditional water pots or matkas which effectively keeps water cool for a long time and set up three drinking water stands along the main road adjacent to his house. “So many thirsty people were benefitted from this initiative that I decided to launch it on a larger scale. In three years, I have installed around eighty matkas in over twenty places. Nearly two thousand litres of water are supplied each day which quench the thirst of around four to five thousand people,” he informs.

An important message for the privileged people

Matka Man, the real-life superhero

Every morning at 5 AM, you will find Matka Man doing rounds in his car fitted with an 800-litre tank, a pump and a generator – to fill up the water pots, accompanied by his adorable pet dog, Snoopy. At some places, he would park his van to serve steaming plates of breakfast to labourers and workers who are about to start another day of hard work. Workers who arrive at the sites by cycling long distances might receive cycle bells and cycling oil for free from Natarajan, who also sells cycle tyres, tubes and pumps to them at very low rates.

The Matka van is an engineering marvel fitted with a tank, pump and generator

Natarajan also distributes around forty to fifty kilograms of seasonal fruits and vegetables to the labourers every week. He himself often invests his time to peel, slice the same and prepare palatable dishes for them.

“I used to see most of these workers bringing their meals in polythene bags and throw these here and there after eating. I felt every human being have the wish to enjoy a decent meal with dignity. So now every month I donate about a hundred stainless steel lunch boxes to these people,” he shares.

He himself bears all the expenses

Most of his expenses for charity come from his own savings and pension. He receives some contributions from time to time, but not regularly enough to sustain his initiatives. In the scorching summer heat of Delhi, demand for water is too high. Yet the dynamic 69-year-old rushes to refill a matka, the moment he receives a call about it being empty. If you wish to know more about Matka Man, you can reach out to his website: http://www.matkaman.com/alag/

The dark side of today’s society

“Most of the experiences of my life are tragic. I remember once I saw a differently-abled man who appeared to be a little unsound, being taunted, mocked and hurt by stones by an insensitive crowd. His frightened expression reminded me of my own sister, who was a doctor and later diagnosed with mental health issues. Immediately, I interrupted the inhuman circus to save him, offered him food and left him some money. But that incident has been deeply etched in my mind to remind me how barbaric and hopeless the society has turned today. So if I can do a little bit to help my fellow humans, I would consider myself fortunate,” Matka Man ends his story leaving us to introspect and reflect.

Also Read: With The Inspiration From This Young Man, Villagers Are Digging Ponds & Canals And Raising Funds All By Themselves

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‘Happy Fridge’: The Key To Bridge Food Wastage And Hunger Problem In India

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Rahul Khera and Gautam Jindal, volunteers (aka hunger heroes) at Feeding India, were among the many Delhi NCR residents accustomed to seeing hungry children pick up half-eaten burgers or stale sandwiches from the dustbin and savour those with the brightest smiles. Like many others, they also had the will to promote equitable food distribution but was perplexed about the approach, until they learnt about the community fridge initiative which has gained unprecedented success in Saudi Arabia and few other European countries. Meanwhile, community fridges were already being installed outside restaurants or in public places in a handful of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Kochi.

Say Goodbye To Throwing Away Excess Food Because Now You Can Donate The Food To The Needy – Happy Fridge

Thank you for overwhelming response for the Happy Fridge concept. We need more funds from you to install more fridges like this across India. With the limited funds avaialble Feeding India was able to install three fridges only. Kindly donate here http://bit.ly/happyfridge

Posted by The Logical Indian on Saturday, October 27, 2018

Needless to mention, with a shocking 103rd rank in the Global Hunger Index and a food wastage estimate of around Rs 58,000 crore – India was perhaps the best country to implement such an initiative. With Gautam’s help, an enthusiastic Rahul invested his own savings to install a ‘Happy Fridge’ outside his residence at Sun City, Sector 54 in Gurgaon. Set up in 2017 by these Feeding India volunteers, the fridge in Gurgaon has inspired the NGO to scale up the project across India.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

‘Happy Fridge’ fostered many smiles

It didn’t take long for the local residents to learn about this laudable endeavour. They welcomed it, as wastage of excess food was a recurring problem in almost every household. “Intimating the localities was no mammoth task, thanks to social media. However, it was difficult to spread the word among those who actually needed the food,” shares Rahul, who went from auto stands to slums, inviting rickshaw pullers, ragpickers or roadside vendors to avail the community fridge any time they feel hungry. “The security guards of our residential complex played a huge role in explaining how the fridge works to the beneficiaries,” he adds.

The operational and maintenance costs of the ‘ happy fridge ‘ are being maintained diligently by the community members.

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Making memories, sprouting awareness

“I remember one young man who had arrived from a village looking for some menial day job. Somehow he had run out of his paltry savings and had no money to buy one decent meal a day. For about a month, our happy fridge was his solace, till he earned his first salary from a housekeeping job,” shares a jubilant Rahul.

In another incident, a truck driver returning in the wee hours of midnight was starving after a whole day’s hard work. He had run out of cooking fuel at his home, so our fridge was at his rescue.

“The residents keep all sorts of palatable dishes in the happy fridge, ranging from dry snacks, fruits to cooked meals. Sometimes, they even keep raw vegetables, to ensure not a single bit of good food ends up in their trash while other people go hungry to bed,” reveals Rahul.

On an average, each happy fridge supplies around 10-15 meals in a day. The gratitude and pure smiles of the hungry souls after a fulfilling meal are more than enough to continue to motivate Rahul and his neighbours. In fact, inspired by him, many other communities in the Delhi-NCR region set up community fridges in their areas.

Feeding India will set up 500 Happy Fridges

Since the past few years, Feeding India has been a prominent organisation working in the forefront to solve the hunger problem in India. Primarily, they were involved in redistributing leftover food from weddings and parties among the underprivileged people in different cities of India. Their volunteers, better known as “Hunger Heroes of India”, worked actively to bridge the gap between food wastage and food crisis.

“We used to get a lot of calls from individual households to collect their excess food. However, unfortunately, we lacked the manpower and planning to launch our programme on a door to door basis. We were desperately looking for an alternative when we learnt about the community fridges,” shares Srishti Jain, co-founder of Feeding India.

After interacting with Rahul Khera and other campaigners of community fridges, Feeding India decided to amplify this extraordinary project throughout the length and breadth of India. Presently, they have launched the #FightFoodWaste campaign to install 500 community fridges – nicknamed ‘ Happy Fridge ’. So any passer-by – be it a kid going to school without a lunchbox, or a labourer returning home late at night with no promise of a dinner – can now grab a pack of biscuits or a bowl of ‘dal-chawal’ (rice & lentil soup) to satiate their hunger. Click here to contribute for ‘ Happy Fridge ‘ and ensure India never sleeps hungry again.

Feeding India also urges everyone to make a promise to stop wasting food and instead consider donating it to those in need.

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It's not how much we give
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