Free Food Distributed on the Streets of New York City on Shankaracharya Jayanti

Naresh Chand serving Lokadharma.

JAMAICA, NEW YORK CITY: On the auspicious occasion of Shankaracharya Jayanti, free food was distributed on the streets of New York City under “Annasudha”, a program for hunger relief and food security in America, established by Shree Mata Darbar, a Maryland based Hindu religious organization. This was a rare occasion when a mainstream Hindu religious organization stepped outside of its own devotee community, and served the needy in the American mainstream.

Free food was distributed in the Jamaica area of New York City on Sutphin Blvd with a tall life-size poster of Annapurna Devi giving food to Bhagwan Shiva as alms, picturizing the popular Pauranic account. The Annasudha program was initiated in New York by Komal and Naresh Chand, a recent arrival from the Punjab province of Pakistan. The irony of situation would not be lost on anyone, as the couple who have a five year old daughter to raise, have to struggle hard for their next meal themselves. However, as an expression of power of their faith, and to carry on with a long running family tradition of religious and social service back in West Punjab’s extant Hindu temples, they serve the needy in America. Annasudha program by Shree Mata Darbar gives them an opportunity to continue their family tradition of social service in the land which they call home now.

In a milieu which is increasingly becoming self-centered especially driven by social media obsession, the couple have sent a useful memo, stating the need to keep the feet on the ground, and set an ideal for all to get back on the streets to serve their respective communities in need of both food and love. The couple have shown that social service is not just a past time of the rich, once the monotony of country club sets in. Living in abject poverty where there is no roof of their own and no certainty of the next meal, yet an unshakable faith propels them to feed the hungry of their adopted homeland continuing their age-old family tradition, is the highest expression of Sanatana Dharma. Their selfless action in the most challenging circumstances have sent a cue to the country club Hindus to return to the streets and walk on the grounds once again.

On the unique and extraordinary precedent set by the couple in New York yesterday, Shivaram Sitaram, President of Shree Mata Darbar stated that there are very few opportunities available for Hindu-Americans to express and represent Hinduism in the American mainstream. Acts of compassion such as the one done by Komal and Naresh yesterday on the occasion of Shankaracharya Jayanti, go a long way in hoisting Bhagwa Dhwaj (saffron flag) of Dharma on the American soil, and in the minds and hearts of Americans. Shri Sitaram promised to invest more effort in raising resources from the donor communities, so that the program does not stall due to resource constraints.

Rajiv Varma, the architect of the Annasudha program added that strength and agility of the program is self-evident in its simplicity and scalability. It empowers poor and rich Hindus alike to represent Hinduism on the streets in a visible manner, and most importantly it equips the Hindu toolkit with an instrument that conquers the hearts and the minds of the beneficiaries while it serves a universal basic need.

Further information on the Annasudha program and Shree Mata Darbar Inc. can be obtained from: Rajiv Varma | E-Mail: |