Hungry to Help
Parliamentarian|March 2017

She Once Suffered Hunger Constantly but the Young Medical Representative Started by Feeding the Poor and Move on to Making a Lot of Them Earn Their Own Bread

M Rajasekhara Panicker

Have you ever faced the pangs of hunger? At a tender age, she realized the worst curse in life is hunger! Born in a slum at Muttathara, Thiruvananthapuram, the most precious thing Aswathi Nair could imagine right through her poverty-struck childhood was a sumptuous meal. her mother struggled to make both ends meet. her mother Vijaylakshmi used to hop between jobs many times each day and yet, all she could feed her three children with were three handfuls of rice which she brought in an empty milk packet.

Anyone who has experienced only poverty and hunger as childhood companions would’ve succumbed to those circumstances. But she didn’t. She realised that she is not alone, that there are lakhs more on the streets, facing poverty, hunger, helplessness and deprived of basic rights. That was the beginning.

Now a medical representative, she started her mission three years ago. She has a dream. No more hunger. No one should wander begging on the streets or sleep on the pavements.

She narrates a curious and saddening story. Once she had handed over some food to a beggar woman on the streets of her city, just outside a plush restaurant. while she was getting along her way, she heard a huge commotion and looked back. An old man was trying to snatch away the food packet from the woman’s hands and she was fighting back with a stick. All the while, people in the restaurant watched, giggled and gobbled their scrumptious meals.

That turned Aswathi’s head. She decided enough is enough.

MISSION FOOD

She started the Jwala foundation in 2014. Jwala lends a supporting hand to make lives livable. Aswathi launched the Zero hunger Mission under Jwala foundation. Jwala ignited the minds of people towards goodness. In the shrunken hands, with all the veins bursting out from under the skin, stretched out for alms reeling under poverty, Jwala hands over packets of food.

So while she works by the day and earns money, and attends law class at night to earn a degree, she makes sure that she goes all along her 15-km route on her scooty every day and distributes food. And interestingly, if she misses out some day, Vijaylakshmi, that very same lady who could feed but little to her own children, travels all the way on a three-wheeler and hands over the packets, so that the expectant mouths do not go unfed.

Aswathi started her work from the corridors of Thiruvananthapuram General hospital but was so plagued by red-tapism that she decided to work all over the city. Narayana Krishnan of the Akshaya Trust, Madurai who feeds hundreds of homeless and mentally retarded people every day was her inspiration. he taught her a plate of a meal is blessed with tonnes of goodness.

Unstable social setups throw out many to the streets. Economic disparities, insatiable greed for money coupled with scant regard for other’s problems make all this more complicated. Even after seven decades of Independence, the number of people taking shelter on the streets has not diminished,” she told Parliamentarian.

It is the responsibility of the government to rehabilitate the people on the street. The Society also has a role. Poverty and helplessness do not curtail a person’s thirst for freedom. Even a person who has spent 30 years on the streets is brought to an orphanage, he refuses to live there. he wants freedom beyond the walls of an orphanage. Everyone lives for freedom. Creative work is needed for rehabilitation,’’ she says.

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