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19 Sep 2019, Edition - 1528, Thursday

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Coimbatore

Nizhal Maiyyam: Food for all

Umaima Shafiq

One man’s passion for service, coupled with help from volunteers and some generous donors, has led to feeding hundreds of poor and destitute people every day.

Nizhal Maiyyam is an unusual charity run by auto driver B Murugan and his wife who have provided free food for impoverished at Kavundampalayam for two decades.

Murugan, a school dropout, ran away from Chennai in 1998 after failing Grade X. He wanted to commit suicide. He hitchhiked to reach Mettupalayam at night, where he came across some aged beggars sleeping on the pavement in the cold.

He tells The Covai Post, “I thought to myself if these old men could live, why not me? I was young and healthy. An old cobbler at a nearby temple made me sleep on the ‘thinnai’ of his house. The next day he gave me Rs. 500 to return to Chennai. I was overwhelmed and decided to do something for the beggars. I returned the money and began working at a hotel nearby. I then decided to multi-task to earn more. A Muslim trader hired me to deliver newspapers. He also got me a rented house and odd jobs like courier delivery, selling lottery tickets, etc.”

The following year he shifted to Coimbatore and got a job as agarbatti salesman. Next he applied for a driving licence and was employed as an auto driver with Shabbir Omani, the owner of Orient Towers in Nanjappa Road.

“He liked me and my ambition to feed the poor. So with my first salary of Rs.3,000 I cooked and served the poor. I got involved in activities like petitioning for beggar rehabilitation and becoming a gym trainer. Six friends from the gym joined my cooking scheme and Nizhal Maiyyam was born. So what began as a service for 25 people has now grown to feeding around 1,300 people per week and about 200 persons every day,” says Murugan.

Meanwhile the Coimbatore district administration took note of his petitions and allotted government shelters for destitute and beggars sent by him. “I have also asked for a toll free helpline number for these people and about two acres of land to rehabilitate them and continue my service,” he says.

Murugan continues to live in Kavundampalayam area, where he began Nizhal Maiyyam. It is now registered as a trust. He married in 2004 without dowry and has two school-going children. He says, “My food service for poor continues with my wife’s help at a shed in our house, where we employ a family and volunteers. I also sustain the Maiyyam with a budgeted eatery, auto driving and manufacturing cotton bags and palm leaf plates.”

He is grateful to all those who have helped his trust. He says many donate Rs.20,000 for the weekly mass food preparation. “My only regret is that I cannot do more. People often chide me for not saving for my children. But I know they will earn their wealth. Also landlords don’t trust us. We have shifted house six times so far. But I won’t give up on the work I do. Feeding the poor gives me joy,” he says.

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