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The Hunger Cafe

Mumbai Journal of New York Times reports:

The world is filled with eating houses of every kind, from hamburger joints to three-star restaurants. There are places you drive through and places where you sit down. But the world may be unfamiliar with a Mumbai variation on the theme: the hunger cafe.

The hunger cafes have stood for decades on a stretch of road in the Mahim neighborhood. Mumbai’s broken, drifting men squat in neat rows in front of each establishment, waiting patiently. Vats full of food simmer behind the doors. What separates them from the food is the 25-cent-per-plate cost — a gulf harder to bridge than one might assume. But every so often, a car pulls up and makes a donation, and the men dine.


Among the swelling middle class, anonymous, checkbook-style charity has yet to catch on. Indians have shown scant enthusiasm for giving to abstract causes. Indian charity is feudal charity: making donations to those below you in your household chain of command. And so, to bring these men indoors with the notion of safeguarding their dignity would risk their starvation, in the calculation of the restaurateurs. They believe the men must be exhibited like this, sunken and sad-eyed. They must gaze at passers-by with that obedient, mournful, reverential stare that well-born Indians have learned to expect. They must be advertisements for their own cause.

Image source: New York Times

Published in India



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