Scrolling social media isn't always a waste — it inspired Swati Shringi to set up a canteen that feeds the poor for Rs 5 per plate
A charitable canteen run by Swati Shringi in Kota, Rajasthan is filling the hearts and stomachs of people who get a nutritious meal there for Rs 5.
Rajesh Khandelwal 13 July 2023 2:23 PM GMT
Inspired by a YouTube video which she came across while casually scrolling through reels on social media, 43-year-old Swati Shringi today provides a nutritious meal for merely five rupees to the poor and the needy.
“The video I saw featured a charitable canteen run by Anoop Khanna in Noida in Uttar Pradesh. Called Dadi Ki Rasoi, the canteen provided meals to the needy at five rupees per plate. I also wanted to start something similar. In July 2018 I started Muskan Canteen,” Shringi, a resident of Kota, Rajasthan, told Gaon Connection.
There are 114 volunteers who assist her in her initiative.
“Hundreds of people donate money for my kitchen which now has three counters. Most of those who eat here are those who accompany sick relatives to the hospitals. Many students from the nearby coaching centres also eat here. It feels good to be able to provide some respite to those who are struggling in life,” she added.
Shringi claimed that in the last five years, more than 300,000 people have eaten at the Muskan Canteen.
“Each of my three counters serves at least 300 people in a day. Earlier, I used to cook at my house but now I have rented a place nearby to do the cooking,” she said.
Fond memories and fame
Of all the awards and recognition she has earned, what she said she would never forget was the regard that she received from a child who was a special child.
“Guddu was around 11 years old and his father used to bring him to my canteen on a wheelchair. He could not speak but he took it upon himself to keep an eye on my scooty. If anybody dared brush past my scooty or sat on it, he would shout at them. He was very protective about me,” the 43-year-old recalled. Guddu passed away in 2021. “It is an indescribable loss. But Guddu remains a source of inspiration for me,” Shringi said.
“Of course I had my moment in the limelight when Muskan Cafe was mentioned along with Dadi Ki Rasoi in one of the episodes of Kaun Banega Crorepati,” she laughed.
“That was a proud moment. It was good to be featured along with the source of my inspiration — Dadi Ki Rasoi — at a show which is watched by millions of Indians,” she said.
A team effort
Madanlal Shringi, Shringi’s 80-year-old father-in-law is immensely proud of her.
“Although, physically, I cannot do much to contribute to her charitable work but I try my best to motivate her to do what she does,” he told Gaon Connection. Sunita Kumawat, a friend, helps Shringi at the counter to distribute food.
“When I heard of Shringi doing something which was so pure and altruistic, I had to help her,” the 41-year-old said.
Lalit Nayak, a 30-year-old volunteer who transports the food from the kitchen to the counter, told Gaon Connection that he feels blessed.
“I find solace in helping others. My responsibility is to transfer the food from the kitchen to the counter. It is great to see the smiling faces of the hungry when they see me bringing food to the canteen,” Nayak told Gaon Connection.
For 22-year-old Sanjay, food at Muskan is a blessing. He studies at a nearby coaching centre to prepare for the medical entrance examinations, and comes here to eat.
Similarly, Lalaram, who visits the Jain Surgical Hospital regularly for the treatment of his grandson, mentioned that the canteen is a boon for the needy people.
“Not even a water bottle is available for five rupees these days. They are providing a meal with chapati, rice, vegetables, dal and salad. I pray for the good health of those who work here in the canteen,” Lalaram told Gaon Connection.
The price of Rs 5 is to lend dignity to the people who eat here, said Shringi. “It is to ensure that the recipients of the meals don’t feel as if they are begging for free food. It is important not to belittle those whom we help,” she said.