From left: Maneka Wadhwani, Lata Bhadra and Divya Punwaney, all residents of an apartment complex on Shaikh Zayed Road, pack freshly cooked meals for workers in their building. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

Dubai: In a goodwill gesture, residents of an apartment complex on Shaikh Zayed Road have taken it upon themselves to cater to the meals of the building’s maintenance staff by supplying them with home-cooked food every day.

Having formed an informal group of 13, the women take turns to prepare hot meals in keeping with the workers’ dietary preferences.

I realised it doesn’t take much for us to cook some extra food for them and save them the bother. When I spoke about it to my neighbours, they thought it was a good idea.

- Divya Punwaney | Volunteer

It all started with a 14th floor resident Divya Punwaney who tried to offer lunch to one of the workers two years ago. “He told me he had already brought his lunch with him, but wished I had informed him earlier. The next time, when I let him know in advance, he accepted the meal and was very appreciative of the hot food I gave him.”

Served hot

She said the five workers usually buy lunch and bring it with them when they arrive at the building early in the mornings. “By the time they have the meal, it gets cold. I realised it doesn’t take much for us to cook some extra food for them and save them the bother. When I spoke about it to my neighbours, they thought it was a good idea. So we decided to take turns to keep up the meal supplies Saturday to Thursday.”

Lata Bhadra hands over the meal to a building worker. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

Punwaney said to avoid confusion, the group draws up a weekly roster for a month, specifying whose turn falls on which day. “One of the residents prepares the schedule for the week and emails the list to all the volunteers.

A copy of the lunch schedule is also physically printed and given to the workers so they know where their lunch is coming from.”

While some volunteers have committed to provide the meals on a fixed day of the week, others are more flexible. If one of them happens to be travelling, someone else fills in for them. “But on no occasion since the last two years has the supply been disrupted,” said Divya.

We get both vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals with something sweet too on some days. There are invariably two dishes with rice and rotis (bread) which we really look forward to.

- Worker | Apartment complex

Maneka Wadhwani, one of the volunteers, said she has been on board ever since the initiative began. “It just provides us a chance to give back to those who do so much for us,” she said.

Small gesture, big effect

Lata Bhadra, another resident, said hot food is provided in a set of tiffin boxes which the workers bring to the designated flat at 11am.

“They bring us empty boxes. All we do is transfer the freshly prepared dishes into them. Once they’ve eaten, they clean up the boxes and keep them ready for the next day’s delivery.”

The small gesture is a big deal for the workers who say they are very thankful for home-cooked food every day.

“We get both vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals with something sweet too on some days. There are invariably two dishes with rice and rotis (bread) which we really look forward to,” said one of the watchmen.

“We are now able to send more money back home as we don’t have to buy our lunch,” said the electrician.

‘We feel blessed’

“In the early days, people would occasionally leave some leftovers for us. But now we are getting fresh food specially prepared for us. We feel blessed,” said the helper.

The volunteers said the whole idea is to prepare meals mindful of their preferences. “It’s something that their own mums or other family members would do back home. It’s emotionally uplifting for them — and for us,” said one of them.