Earlier last week, a visually impaired, homeless elderly man Ramappa, begging on the pavement of Gandhi Bazar in south Bangalore was offered a food parcel.
It was piping hot, butter-soaked masale dose from the famed Vidyarthi Bhavan hotel. Though Ramappa is a regular on the same pavement near Vidyarthi Bhavan whose olfactory senses were familiar with the aroma of the rice and lentil pancakes cooking in butter, he never imagined that he would be fed the most celebrated dish of Bengaluru.
Bengaluru hotel owners have taken a leaf out of the famous -- "One for the wall" concept from the West that emphasises feeding the poor and hungry with dignity.
In a large number of hotels in developed countries, a person who orders food in an eatery, buys an extra coupon "for the wall." This means the token is used to feed any hungry and poor who come to the hotel's doorstep.
When noted academician and writer Gururaj Karajagi visited one such hotel abroad, the concept caught on him. In a casual conversation, he mentioned it to his friends and the idea spread around. The corona warriors Banashankari and Rotary Bangalore South Parade pitched it to an enterprising hotelier who immediately worked on it.
That is how Bengaluru’s 77-year old heritage eatery Vidyarthi Bhavan famous for its crispy, benne masale dose rolled out Sanchigondu (meaning one for the bag) on October 2, along with the Bengaluru Hotels Association and an initial tie-up with 45 hotels.
Since the launch, Sanchigondu concept has had a good start with 800 plus meal tickets picked up by generous customers to feed the needy. How does it work?
"Every restaurant which has taken in the concept has put a board explaining what it means. A customer who eats can take an extra food coupon that will be kept in a box on the cash counter. Every time the hotel authorities spot a hungry homeless, coupons are removed from the box and food parcel for that amount will be given. It is all about feeding the poor with dignity. While some hotels use cash bills, others have come up with separate tokens," explains Arunkumar Adiga, the second-generation owner of Vidyarthi Bhavan.
For instance, VB has come out with discounted tokens-- Rs 50 and Rs 25. The first one is for its signature benne masale dose and Rs 25 token is for a plate of two idlies.
The concept has spread by word of mouth and it is gathering traction. According to PC Rao, President of Bangalore Hotels Association, Sanchigondu opened positively with Bangaloreans donating food tickets with pride.
"In the coming days and months, we are sure of getting many more hotel tie-ups. This will not financially burden the hotels barring some small discounts they are offering on the donor coupon prices. This model will be a success and it will be taken to the next level after some time," says Rao.