Mahendra Kumar Dublish is a 60-year-old chartered accountant with a busy practice in Noida, in the National Capital Region of Delhi.
He lives right opposite the ICICI Bank branch in Sector 30.
His vantage point, therefore, gave him a good view of the long lines that began to form outside the bank a couple of days after PM Modi announced the the demonetisation of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes on November 8.
As Dublish watched the stream of humanity pass by his home every day –tired, hungry, irritable and many a time frustrated customers waiting in unending queues to withdraw small amounts of cash, he would marvel at their patience in the face of such hardship.
One week of watching this daily state of affairs and he could not take it any more!
On the 15th, 16th, and 17th of this month, he called up a tenthouse and caterer, got together his small team of employees to help him, and set up a pandal of sorts right outside the bank.
For three straight days, the team served chai and eatables to the bank customers standing in queues, bank employees working long shifts inside the branch, security guards, and even the rickshawallahs and autowallahs bringing in people.
Says Rohit Mittal, Privilege Banker at the ICICI Sector 30 branch, “The food was served free of charge every day – from approximately 9 am to 4 pm. For the first couple of days, chai and pakoras were served. On the last day, they served chhole kulche. We provided chairs for the senior citizens visiting our branch so they could sit comfortably outside.”
According to Dublish’s employees, 2500 cups of tea and hundreds of pakoras were served over the three days. They peg the total cost of this act of generosity at about Rs. 1 lakh.
Many of the people who came to eat and drink the free food were non-customers, says Rohit. “I even heard someone call up his friends and ask them to come over saying there was free food available,” he adds. But no one was turned away.
“When people are standing hungry and thirsty for hours on end because they don’t have a choice in the matter, you want to do something for them. It was only a temporary situation…it was nothing…you’re making a big deal out of it,” says Dublish hurriedly, dismissing his act of generosity in one sentence and rushing back to the clients waiting to meet him.