Damyanti Tanna lives in a Mulund neighbourhood, which is known for having a dense population of Gujaratis. This is why, perhaps, the 54-year-old came out of severe depression and found a purpose of living – with the help of her neighbours, and community. And most of all – the joy of giving.
Damyanti feeds 110 families on a daily basis, not charging a single penny from anyone.
She lost her son, Nimesh, in a train accident six years ago, Even now when she remembers him, her voice gets very slightly shaky. Nimesh, who was only 22 back in 2011, passed away in an accident on the Mumbai railway tracks after falling from the train.
Loss beyond words
The next one and a half years were rather tough for Tanna and her husband. They kept distracting themselves by going out on trips and pilgrimage sites. “We’d come back home and still feel we had nothing to live for,” she said. Tanna shared that her son had a habit of celebrating his birthday every year on August 5 by going to Siddhivinayak temple in Dadar, and distributing lots of food to the kids of labourers who would work on the roads there.
It was in 2013 when Tanna thought of paying a tribute to her son. She thought of the other families who were underprivileged, sick, did not have anyone to look after them or just couples who lived alone in similar circumstances of losing their child like she did. The couple got registered a trust in her son’s name – Shri Nimesh Tanna Charitable Trust. “We printed a few pamphlets and distributed them near temples, railway stations and other public places. I had a trusted friend circle who decided to support me in every way possible to begin this initiative,” Tanna shared with us.
She got an overwhelming response in the very first time with over 500 entries, but after the couple background checked each of them “only 27 people were genuinely sick, or couples abandoned, sick people with no one to look after them and those who could not afford meals for their large families that had only one earning member,” Tanna informed us elaborately as she said that afternoon times are when she gets really free without the stress of getting people food on time.
Story of selflessness
Speaking of delivering on time, Tanna, along with a small group of her close friends, got aboard the very faithful and reliable sources of Mumbai – the Dabbawalas. “They do not deliver on Saturdays and Sundays, but I had to make sure that every single day the food is delivered on time. We have two dabbawalas who we pay and get food delivered every single day without fail in four areas in and around Mulund,” Tanna shared.
A chatty Tanna may have a tinge of grey in her hair as a sign of ageing, but her spirit is nowhere close to being old. Now that she has more than 100 people relishing her home cooked meals, she wanted to do more for the children. “When I went to my native place in Gujarat, I saw that the tribal women did not have anything to wear except torn blouses and towels. That’s when my group and I began to collect blouses and good quality clothing for these women and gave it to them,” she said.
Connecting beyond the expected
Tanna’s quest to reach out to the underprivileged and unaware crowd in the tribal areas did not stop there. Her team has now reached schools in almost 5-6 remote villages near Palghar and Dahanu where they distribute not just food, but school stationary and clothes every monsoon too. Tanna informed us that now she has more than 1500 people and fundraising websites who have voluntarily decided to contribute to her cause – both monetarily and in rationing the food every month.
“This is the only way I know how to keep my son alive. He was our entire life, my only child. Losing him has not been easy, but this helps fill the void left inside of us, even if for some time. Helping someone and expecting nothing in return is something my son always did and I want to keep him with me through these deeds,” she said and headed off to attend to other errands of the house that needed her urgent attention.