Everyday a large number of homeless, poor people who cannot afford a decent meal, line up in neat rows under the Dabeerpura bridge in Hyderabad. Every man, woman and child wait for their turn to pick up a plate, washes it and sits down in formations.
Many in the line have not eaten for days, but they still wait their turn. Without a hassle, rice is served on each plate followed by dal and Khichdi. This has been going on for more than three years, with one man sincerely running from end to end serving the food.
Azhar Maqsusi is a 36-year-old who lives in the Old City in Hyderabad has been unrelentingly feeding lines of destitute people in the afternoon as part of his daily free-food camp for the past three years.
“It all started around three years ago. I hardly ever took that route but my tyre got punctured that day and I decided to catch the local train from the station under the bridge when I saw a physically handicapped woman with her feet amputated,” says Azhar, recalling his tale, which has been profiled by others too.
Azhar still remembers that the woman’s name was Lakshmi and she was crying, begging for food instead of money as she hadn’t eaten in days.
“My father died when I was four years old and my mother struggled a lot to raise me and my siblings. I know what it is like to sleep hungry,” he says. Azhar immediately gave away the food he was carrying home to the lady.
The next day Azhar’s wife, who he seemingly adores and admires, cooked food for around 15 people. He went to the same place and distributed the food.
“Initially, food packets were distributed but later on, we started cooking in the space under the flyover and fed them there itself,” he says.
What Azhar did not realize was that there were more mouths that needed to be fed than he could afford to. “I have a Plaster of Paris interior design business and we live a very simple life, so we could afford to give, but the numbers kept piling up,” he adds.
In two months, there were at least 50 people everyday waiting for Azhar. It was then that he decided to hire a cook who is paid a fixed salary every month to start cooking in larger quantities.
Despite all this, he never took a single rupee from anyone and spent for everything from his own pocket. This went on for close to one and a half years until luck came his way again.
“A stranger had lost his way and found himself amid this. He was travelling above the bridge for many years and did not realize that this was happening below. He then told his brother, who had come down from the US about this,” he says.
Following that, Azhar has received 16 sacks of rice, each weighing 25 kgs, every month from his well wishers. “Acts like that only strengthen my will to keep on going,” Azhar says.
DC reported that more than a 100 people can be seen under the bridge during the afternoons (non-Ramzan months) and post-Iftar (after breaking the fast during Ramzan). Nearly 25 kg rice, 2 kg pulses, one litre of oil and spices are required every day. It costs around Rs 1500 to Rs 1700 daily including the remuneration of the cook.
(Azhar occasionaly joins the kids for a game of cricket after the meal)
“A lot of friends have joined in and I have got a lot of support but I turn down all the offers that I get in cash. I only take kind. The reason I post pictures on Facebook is not so people donate but to create awareness that so many people sleep hungry in a city everyday,” Azhar adds.
Azhar also adds that homeless people should be clothed and fed, not given money. “Some people will use it for food. Others use it for intoxication. Some drunk people also join in the queue. I don’t say anything till they finish eating and then I give them a sound talk before they leave,” he says.
Azhar has no plans of stopping. “Till I can ensure it, each person who comes will be given at least one meal a day,” he adds.
Editor’s note: The story was first reported by Deccan Chronicle, the link of which is part of the story. It has been brought to our attention that certain portions of the story have striking similarities with the DC report. We regret the instance of not properly attributing.