Reflections from Bhawani Singh Shekhawat, CEO at Akshaya Patra UK

We began working with the Akshaya Patra Foundation in 2015, supporting them in their goal of ending hunger as a barrier to education in India. Over the years, we’ve developed lasting friendships with the incredible team and had the sincere privilege of visiting many of the schools and communities they serve in India. Last month, we celebrated reaching the milestone of donating 10 million meals to hungry children with Magic Breakfast and Akshaya Patra through our meal for a meal partnership. Akshaya Patra’s CEO and Trustee, Bhawani Singh Shekhawat, kindly took the time to reflect on the impact of the foundation’s life-changing work. 

Since writing, the coronavirus crisis in India has worsened considerably. The stories from our friends, family and charity partners there are truly heart-breaking. If you are in a position to do so, please click here to kindly donate what you can to Akshaya Patra’s urgent covid appeal, which will allow them to provide nourishing free meals and food supplies to those who most need it in this time of crisis. 

We’re also supporting the British Asian Trust’s 'Oxygen for India Emergency Appeal', which is rapidly deploying oxygen to the hospitals and patients that need them most. If you’re able to support, please click here to visit our fundraising page. 

As we navigate our world in what clearly are unprecedented times and all its implicit challenges, I am often reminded of our ancient Vedanta philosophy where one is invited to understand the value of a life in balance. There is good and bad in our world and when we are engulfed by what clearly is unexpected, unprecedented even, it is quite compelling to not be invited by and enter into a world of reflection which allows for deep, meaningful and non-judgmental introspection. 

We are all so very fortunate, still.

Many around us aren’t. And while some of us were simply beneficiaries of a genetic, karmic lottery others perhaps have had to deal with drawing a short straw. And if the world we wish to create with and for our families and friends must be safe, inclusive, joyous and generous – what can we do today to ensure that we not only play our part in this collective theatre, but do so with a sense of generosity, gratitude, kindness and responsibility?

For we are all so very fortunate, still.

And what is the true legacy we wish to leave behind? For whether we like it or not, we will. And we won’t be around to see it, but the joys or pains of it will be felt by those we care for. And that perhaps is reason enough for us to not just do our bit, but to do it in a manner that is deeply integrated into who we are, what we do, what we believe and what we care for well beyond ourselves.

It is questions like this - beautiful, generative and inspiring - that make me embrace every day with hope, joy and unbridled optimism. For if we are not optimists, who are we? Making the life of a child better, one meal at a time, with Akshaya Patra UK , working with the wonderful team at Dishoom just makes it so much easier and so much more delicious. Together we have embraced the joy of over 10 million such opportunities, and so much more!

We have all been blessed with the gift of education, it opens doors as it should open our minds and hearts. And for long I have had this wonderfully nuanced insight that if we want to create better hearts, minds and bodies so that they can embrace all the knowledge and wisdom around us, we must nourish those bodies better. Yes, we do need to pause and respect adages even if they have been a cliché. A healthy body is a strong precursor to a healthy mind! And hence the food we serve our children whilst they are in a classroom must not just be sensorially gratifying, but also nutritionally supercharged! It is not an either/or choice but one that is composite. At Akshaya Patra, over the billions of meals we have served in India and our work to create better school meals and, more recently, to combat Holiday Hunger in the UK, we have evidenced the power of making this tiniest of changes to create mega impact. 

Over the last 18 months, thousands of those whose lives were transformed with these meals came forward to help millions. We have served over 125 million meals during this crisis in India and the UK. This tsunami of goodness is made possible by the tiniest of acts of kindness and courage. 

And hence my invitation to all of us – we shall overcome, we will. Because there is that beautiful soul within us that allows us to embrace what is, with love. And with that we wallop and Dishoom in the uncanniest of ways all that might be a rumble in the larger scheme of things.

For yes, we are all so fortunate, still! And I remain, totally in gratitude.

– Bhawani Singh Shekhawat, April 2021

Read the café stories

Suggested Reading

See the journal

The Dishoom Canary Wharf story – Chapter Three

The phone keeps ringing shrilly through the flat. Nauzer holds his head in his hands, palms clamped over his ears. “Beta, the phone!” He forgot his mother would still be here. He can’t have her answering in case it is Devia. He runs into the corridor to pick it up. It stops just before he can reach it. Breathless, he looks up and sees his mother in the kitchen. 

Dishoom Canary Wharf – now officially OPEN!

Tucked away in a lovely corner of Wood Wharf, Dishoom Canary Wharf is now officially open and ready to welcome you all. The marble-top bar is ready to hold your drink, the textured, patterned (and extremely comforting) chairs are waiting to be kept warm and the hand-painted mural and carefully curated art – from Bombay and beyond – are waiting to be part of your conversations. 

Dishoom's Chicken Berry Britannia Biryani Recipe

This chicken biryani is our homage to Britannia’s chicken berry pulao, using cranberries in place of the more authentic Persian barberries, which are tricky to find. (Despite much cajoling, Mr Kohinoor has never shared his wife’s famous recipe.) It is prepared in the kacchi style, originating from Hyderabad, in which marinated raw meat goes into the pot, to be cooked at the same time as the rice.

Dishoom's Taj Ballroom Toddy Recipe

No party is complete without some delectable pours to toast the host with the most. For the crafty amongst us, bring out the shakers and strainers and the channel knife and pour your energy into building our festive concoction – The Taj Ballroom Toddy. A warming tipple inspired by The Taj Mahal Palace hotel, where Bombay’s jazz age was born.