When I moved to The Hague, I heard about this ‘wonderful Indian lady doing great charity work’. When I got to meet her last year, it was inspiration at first sight. I was invited to one of her charity lunches as a ‘guest cook’.
She serves authentic Indian dishes (from Udupi) for lunch. Guests pay for the lunch. The proceeds go towards a charity organization in Udupi, India. Charity truly begins at home.
I have been inspired by many in my life. But this was the first time the impression was so impactful and seemed so easy to adopt. Within a few months, I started my own charity lunches to support a small orphanage back in my home town. I have always wanted to tell Rajni’s story and Our Frontcover gave me the perfect platform to do exactly that.
Rajani married Jan, her pen friend of 11 years and came to Netherlands in 1984. In those days there were no Facebook, Skype or Whatsapp. They relied on handwritten letters. She used to write to a lot of people from all over the world but Jan became a favourite pen friend because of his beautiful handwriting. Her conservative family was not very pleased at first with their decision to get married but eventually everything worked out. When Rajni arrived in The Netherlands she was terribly homesick. She was the only Indian in her neighbourhood. Very soon the neighbourhood friends became her support system. She frequently cooked and fed them her Indian delicacies and they in turn went out of their way to make her feel at home.
Why did you decide to use cooking as a means of helping the needy?
Cooking comes to me naturally. I have seen my mother cook a lot while I was growing up. I always helped her in the kitchen. I was more interested to cook the daily meals and the everyday food than anything fancy. Hence it was easy for me to adopt this as my means of supporting the needy.
Tell us about the charity you support.
My sister, who lives in India was working as a volunteer in a home for mentally and physically challenged people. The condition of the home was very bad. There was no proper arrangement to sit or sleep in peace. The sanitary conditions were unbelievably lacking. All inmates huddled in one big room. I wanted to help them somehow. Since cooking came to me naturally I decided to raise some money for these people by organizing paid lunches for people here in The Netherlands.
We started our foundation UDUPIA (I come from a place called Udupi, in India).
My family was very supportive. My children never complained. I cooked huge meals for charity events and sometimes even forgot to keep some for the family. They supported the cause and my passion.
With the money we collected we were able to build a home for the mentally and physically challenged. 25 people started to live there. Currently it is run by two brothers who too are very passionate about this cause.
How did you get to organize the first charity lunch?
The first charity lunch was in my back garden. It was such a rare event that the local newspaper covered it. They gave us a grand review. There was no looking back after that. Thereafter we were invited to cook food for the farmers in the green houses in our area.
People were happy to support and loved our food. We did manage to raise quite an amount.
I made “authentic udipi” food but with much less chilli. Our Indian herbs and spices were always highly appreciated.
This is how Rajni’s charity works
Do you inform your guests how much you raise and what is done with the money?
The most important thing for charity is that one should be completely transparent about how the funds are used. I bring back pictures and video recordings, to show my friends how their money is being put to good use. This helps in strengthening the trust between us.
Share some anecdotes from your charity lunches.
Once we were invited to an old home to cook a meal. People in the home had never tasted Indian food so I was a bit skeptical. I cooked with the regular spices (except for the chilies). At first, they rather warily took just a spoon of food on their plates. My heart sank. Within minutes I saw people coming back for the second helping. At the end of the event, all the pots and pans were empty. It was a very satisfying feeling.
What is your message to others?
I have learnt two things, Charity begins at home and In a country like Holland if you want to do something you can.
Rajni has shown me how a baby step in the right direction can contribute to a much bigger mission.One charity lunch in The Netherlands can pay for 25 baby cots and blankets or three months of food supplies for the orphanage I support. No contribution is small when it comes to helping the needy.
Visit Rajni at : http://www.nambiar.info
Written byDayeeta Roy
Dayeeta, has her hands full being a mother of one, wife of one and full time job of one.A Physicist by education and a researcher by profession, she enjoys her daily work very much.She loves to cook, writes two blogs and Food, Friends & Fun.......I have everything!!”www.dayeetasworld.blogspot.nlwww.hiji-biji- chhorar-moja.blogspot.com