Jagdish Lal Ahuja has been serving free meals to the needy for decades. For the last 12 years, there hasn’t been a single day when Chandigarh’s Jag-dish Lal Ahuja hasn’t donated food outside the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) hospital. Every evening at 7 PM, the 77-year-old and his helpers lay out a wholesome meal of aloo choley, roti, rice. halwa and banana to feed the needy families that have to wait for long hours at the government hospital before consulting a doctor or receiving treatment. The idea of running this free service vice struck Ahuja, popularly known as Babaji Langarwale, around 32 years ago on his son Girish’s eighth birth-day. “We would always celebrate his birthday with so much fanfare, but suddenly I started feeling that my real happiness lay in sharing it with the children of the labourers who toil at the sabzi mandi. I noticed those poor children used to go hungry for days,” says Ahuja. From then on, he instructed his family to organise a bhandara every year on his son’s birthday. After seeing the difference it made to their lives, he decided to convert it to a daily service. “I distributed food in the sabzi mandi and in some colonies every day till I met a gentle-man who told me that he donates rice to the relatives of PGIMER’s patients outside the hospital. I wanted to do something similar, so I started my langar there,” says Ahuja, who also serves outside the Government Medical College in the afternoon. Over the years, Ahuj a had gathered up to 20 helpers to cook the meals, but now the number is down to five as many have started branching out. “I hired people on monthly wages but when they got better paying jobs, I encouraged them to move on;” says Ahuja, who puts almost all the money he earns as a commission agent in the local fruit market to run this service. In times of crisis, Ahuja has even sold some of his property to raise funds, but never considered stopping the langar. Ahuj a credits his family with motivating him and keeping his dream alive even when he was battling cancer. One-and-a-half years ago, he underwent chemotherapy for which he was admitted at PGIMER. “My wife and daughter-in-law took charge of the langar for the eight days I was in hospital. That was enough to show me how committed they were to my cause,” he says, adding that even the rain gods have always encouraged him to keep strong. “It never rains around the time I start my langar. The whole city will be drenched but the areas in which I cook and serve remain totally dry!”
A PEOPLE HERO is one who is elevated from ordinary to extraordinary by actions which are both noble and inspirational. Jagdish Lal Ahuja has been avoided many Honours by the state government Chandigarh Administrations and several other agencies and organisations of national repute.
-Reenu Bahal People Mag, April 20,2012