With increasing costs of vegetables, one may ask what can you possibly get for 1 rupee. But a mess offers a full meal at that price, which is run by a service-minded man in Erode. He offers this service for attenders of poor patients at the government headquarters hospital in the locality.
Venkataraman, owner of AMV Homely Mess has been providing the one-rupee meal for the past eight years, besides the regular "tiffin" in the morning and night.
He recalls an incident in 2007 which moved him to take the decision and says an old woman came to his mess to buy idlis (savoury cakes) for her ailing husband when there were none available. To his suggestion that she buy three dosas (fermented crepes made from rice and black lentils) for Rs10, she said it was costly and even if she managed to do so, she would have to share it equally with husband and it would be inadequate.
Venkatraman said he immediately gave her six dosas for the same price and since that day started giving tiffin and meals at low rates to attenders of Government Hospital patients. "In 2007, I visited Government Headquarters Hospital here and enquired about patients with the in-charge nurse there. I was told by their attenders that almost all patients are from poor families and they could not take food daily due to poverty and only tea or bread at noon and night."
He then decided to grant food at low rate to attenders of patients. He visited the hospital the next day, met nurses and senior doctors and told them he would provide meals at Re one to an attender. From that day, he and his wife visit the hospital daily and grant 10 tokens to attenders.
"Now for the past few months the number has been increased from 10 to 70 daily. In the morning I give 10 tokens, for which three dosas and two idlis are given for just Re one. In the afternoon, 40 attenders are given meals (for Re one), comprising five items and at night 20 attenders are given dosa and chapati (unleavened bread). We have decided to increase the number from 70 to 100 in the coming years," he says.
His wife said they charge Rs50 per meal for the public and that they are continuing the Re one meal scheme, despite incurring heavy losses. Venkatraman employs eight workers at his mess and there is no service on Sundays.
"I am ready to grant the food free of cost, but if I collect at least Re one, the buyer will not waste it. The food is given in packets and none is allowed to eat inside the mess, but are advised to take it to the hospital, where some others also share the food."