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Baba ka Dhaba and More: How Social Media Came Together to Help Small Eateries in the Pandemic Year

Image for representational purposes.

Image for representational purposes.

With the coronavirus pandemic turning most livelihoods topsy turvy and small businesses facing a shutdown, the eating-out culture was almost wiped out following months of lockdown. At a time of such sheer turmoil, the Internet proved its power of bringing strangers together for a cause.

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Shreya Basak

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. That was 2020. With the coronavirus pandemic turning most livelihoods topsy turvy and small businesses facing a shutdown, the eating-out culture was almost wiped out following months of lockdown.

At a time of such sheer turmoil, the Internet proved its power of bringing strangers together for a cause. Social media is truly a strange place; from dividing people to as miraculously reinstating faith in humanity in the most difficult times.

Here's a look at how social media rallied together to save the distressed owners of small eateries from the brutalities of the pandemic.

Baba Ka Dhaba

Internet’s most favourite Baba ka Dhaba is a prime example of the heartwarming tales of good samaritans. In October, a video of an elderly citizen in tears, as his business- a small road-side eatery- suffered a huge setback in the lockdown, surfaced on the Internet. The elderly man's makeshift shop in South Delhi's Malviya Nagar locality with the name Baba ka Dhaba wasn't able to make much business. Overnight, the elderly owner-couple and their famous Baba ka Dhaba rose to fame following a heart-touching video by YouTuber Gaurav Wasan, that invited a massive amount of help. So much so that eventually Baba ka Dhaba got listed under Zomato and now the owner and octagerian Kanta Prasad has opened another new restaurant in the same locality.

The other ‘Baba ka Dhaba(s)’

The widely shared video of Baba Ka Dhaba soon opened the floodgates to stories of miseries of many similar small businesses, impacted by the pandemic. In another video, posted by a Twitter user, Ashutosh ( @iashutosh23), he asked people to support every local vendor/business in these troubled times. He went on to add how the pandemic has left many without food and shelter by robbing their means of livelihood and supporting their families. In no time, netizens took to the microblogging site in support to find a Baba Ka Dhaba near them and encourage local business and vendors. Users started posting images of similar small eateries in and around Delhi, stating they have taught us to keep moving ahead.

Agra’s ‘Kanji Vada’

In another similar development, a 90-year-old Narayan Singh who runs a ‘Kanji Vada’ stall in Agra lost all his earnings due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic & business was on the verge of a close down. Singh’s financial crisis was brought to the fore after food blogger Dhanishtha shared his video on Instagram. The video went viral on social media platforms and desi netizens pledged to help. While one user lauded Singh for the lip-smacking Kanji Vada he whips up, others shared the video to spread the word.

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A post shared by DHANISHTHA (@a_tastetour)

Kerala’s Parvathy Amma

Another such story from Kerala emerged on social media of an elderly woman trying to eke out an honest living and netizens called attention to this Amma. Journalist Aarif Shah had initially posted about the incident on his Twitter handle where he spoke of the hardships faced by the elerly woman, who runs a food stall and the pandemic resulted in her small business suffering due to lack of customers. In no time, Keralites responded in style and many came together to help Parvathy Amma, who runs her eatery in Karimba. Several users including actor Richa Chadha too gave words of hope and some said they will visit whenever they go to Kerala next.

Kerala Transwoman’s Cry for Help

In a disturbing incident, a transwoman’s heartbreaking tale from Kochi, Kerala, fetched her the aid of cops. Sajana Shaji had been trying to make ends meet during the pandemic by selling biryani. Shaji had even provided employment to four other transwomen and was managing to make a living. For over a month, however, the group had been facing harassment from the local shopkeepers and vendors. Shaji, who also had taken loans from several grocery sellers to set up her shop, took to Facebook as a final resort and broke down on her tale of abuse. The tearful video of Shaji went viral on Facebook and her plight caught the attention of Hill Palace Police, who finally lodged an FIR in the case.

Karnataka Plant Seller

A Twitter user’s call to help an old man, who sells plants at Kanakapura road near Sarakki Signal in Karnataka, brought out the good of social media, again. Informing netizens about the challenge faced by the old man, he said the elderly man holds an umbrella on one hand under the scorching sun and sells plants priced from Rs 10-30. As a result of this, several people and NGOs came forward to help the old man. Following the outpouring of help, he got a table to keep saplings, a chair, and an umbrella. He revealed that earlier he used to sell around five seedlings but now the number has doubled.

Clearly, the year hasn’t gone down well with small business ventures and vendors in particular. Any little help for them would matter big.

In a recent announcement, Swiggy announced the expansion of its Street Food Vendors programme that meant to benefit 36,000 sellers from 125 cities in India. The online food delivery company has joined hands with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) to bring street food sellers on its platform under the Prime Minister Street Vendor’s AtmaNibhar Nidhi (PM SVANidhi) Scheme. It further noted that with the PM SVANidhi scheme, street vendors will find a platform for better discovery in order to revive businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

2020 will go down in history as the year marked with several tragedies and adversities, but it also saw a coming together of people to help each other and truly unite for good.


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