The ‘Langar Baba’ of Chandigarh is a popular person among underprivileged children. Every day, for the past 30 years, the 83-year-old has been visiting different areas at different timings and feeding over a thousand children, so that they don’t sleep hungry.
Jagdish Lal Ahuja’s Langar has very deep emotional roots. At the age of 12, due to the Partition, Ahuja had to leave his hometown in Peshawar and come to India.
“I was 12 when we left Peshawar. We arrived at the Patiala base camp from where we were sent to camps in Amritsar. I stayed there for some months and shifted back to Patiala” Ahuja tells Hindustan Times.
Here, Ahuja was the only person earning for the family. He would buy Dal Namkeen (a traditional Indian dry snack) for ₹1 and sell it at a profit of 2 aane. He worked all day, and says that “By the time I got home, my feet and hand would be full of blisters, but still had to earn or else I would go hungry for days.”
At the age of 21, he had shifted from his parents’ house and started selling oranges on a cart. Working hard throughout the years, Ahuja went from selling oranges to buying a property to earning crores!
The turning point in his life came on his son’s eighth birthday, when he organised a langar for children, with the idea of giving back to the society.
“We cooked food for 150 children and served it in the market in Sector 26. The moment I saw the joy on the faces of children, it reminded me of my childhood. I then decided to make it a daily occurrence,” he recalls.
“Main apna bachpan dekhda haan, inna ch (I see my childhood in them).”
Eventually, he started distributing rice, chapati, dal, sweets, and balloons in several areas in Chandigarh.
For three decades, this man has been religiously feeding children on streets. He recently sold his seventh property to arrange for the finances on the daily langar. Ahuja’s financial and health troubles in the recent times have made it difficult for him to keep up with the langar. However, he hasn’t stopped completely.
“Earlier, I made this langar for over 2000 people daily; now it is for 500. I have reduced the quantity after 2015,” he told HT.
He is even battling cancer, which does not allow him to be present for the entire langar. So, he settles for visiting the children only at the end of the distribution.
Even with so many troubles surrounding him, Ahuja refuses to take financial help from other people, because that’s against his ethics. He only hopes for help from the government. “I have never sought a favour from anyone, but can only expect some help from the government. Kindly convey my message to the governor that I might need his help in continuing the langar in the near future,” says Ahuja.