On any regular day, the Little India precinct in Harris Park is a beehive of activity as large crowds of Indians and Indophiles gather from across the city. They’re put there to replenish their weekly supplies at one of the many Indian spice outlets, to buy Indian outfits for an upcoming occasion, or to purchase an Indian gift of jewellery or similar artefact. The overwhelming reason though is to enjoy the Indian cuisine on offer at the 15 or so food outlets there, whether dosas or curries or Indian-Chinese.
These days though, there is an eerie quietness at Harris Park much like in the rest of the city. While take-aways and grocery shops continue to see their patrons drop in, the buzz has been replaced by a sense of despondency, especially as the student community struggle to come to terms with the new reality. These very young people who smilingly served others as they shopped or ate, have been stood down as their employers themselves see reduced business.
The Little India business community has come together in this hour of need to help international students by making available cooked meals and food rations.
According to Gurmeet Tuli, President of Little India, of the 15 restaurants in Harris Park nine have come on board in this charitable initiative. “Seven are active as they all have been allocated a day of the week, two are on standby in case any restaurant cannot handle it. We are pleased to be able to help at this difficult time.”
He added, “The number of students reaching out has increased dramatically. We started with 25 takeaways, now we are providing 400 packs a day. We do have capacity to do more, and are considering introducing pre-bookings so it can all flow better. Our sincere request though, is that this is a service for genuine, needy students – and for others not to misuse this service as someone needy may miss out.”
Gurmeet Tuli confirmed that social distancing rules are being followed strictly as students gather at dinner time. “Of course, if the government announces new guidelines we will need to comply,” Tuli observed. “At that time, subject to rules, we may have to set up a distribution point. Our aim ultimately is to reach out to those in the Harris Park community that find themselves in a position of need.”
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