Rakesh Panchal (44) wanted to fulfil his father’s wish of doing seva (service) by serving food to the underprivileged for a few days after his father Manubhai passed away.

What started as a small initiative two days after his father’s death, has now grown into a full-fledged initiative to distribute full meals daily to over 500 senior citizens in Gujarat’s Vaso taluka.

“This provides satisfaction not just to the people we provide food to, but to me also. I feel an aura of positivity whenever I serve food. It has given my life a new purpose,” says Rakesh.

Rakesh had returned home a decade ago after his father’s health deteriorated. Settling down in Vaso, he eventually expanded his father’s construction material business.

“I spent three years working with my father. I learnt a lot about business as well as life in this time! He would keep a jug of cold water and give it to anyone passing by to quench their thirst. This was his way of doing seva,” he says.

During this time, Rakesh used to frequent the Vaso Government Hospital for work, where the authorities requested him to find a way to provide food to the patients who came from far away.

Parallely, Rakesh’s father Manubhai shared his wish to give free food to the poor. “He wanted to do Ram roti seva (free food for the poor),” Rakesh recalls.

“I told him that it would be expensive and we could do it after a few years. But just three days later, he died suddenly. That conversation kept playing in my mind and I felt very bad,” he shares.

He then visited the hospital and started distributing sheera (a sweet made with semolina, ghee, sugar and dry fruits) to pregnant women. He planned to do this for 15 days to honour his father’s wish.

But what started as a small effort continued, as he enjoyed it and wanted to do more. He met senior citizens who needed food and started paying for their tiffins as well.

Initially, it would cost Rakesh about Rs 300 per day to distribute food. As he started paying for meals for abandoned senior citizens, his costs rose to Rs 500 per day.

Eventually, he posted about it on Facebook, and more donations started trickling in. He soon registered ‘Visamo Sarvajanik Charitable Trust Vaso’ and started a kitchen of his own in Nadiad.

Today, the Visamo Tiffin Seva provides hot lunches consisting of roti, dal, rice and sabzi to more than 500 people in Vaso and four nearby villages. They have 18 employees and vans to transport the food.

Rakesh also provides milk and biscuits for breakfast at the hospital daily. It costs him Rs 21,000 per day, and he has been managing to bear the costs through crowdfunding.

Rakesh found Visamo (resting place) written on the cremation ground after he finished the last rites of his father. That’s why he named the trust Visamo, as he wished it to provide relaxation to the elders.

“My father would often say that anyone can earn money through hard work. It’s only a lucky few who get a chance to do seva. I’m trying to live by his words,” he says.

Have some stress-buster: While the Andheri resident switched off his mobile a few months before the exams, and is not on social media, he found other ways to cool himself down. His favourite activity was playing football for an hour at college, which helped him relax.