Free meals from the heart on Thaipusam – prepared the Malaysian way

Free meals from the heart on Thaipusam – prepared the Malaysian way

Volunteer group serves over 25,000 free packs of vegetarian nasi lemak to pilgrims and the public at Batu Caves every year

Volunteers from Klan come together every year for Thaipusam to prepare free meals for devotees and the general public.

KUALA LUMPUR – When it comes to charity, many practise donating clothes, money and the like. There is also a type of giving known as ‘annadhanam’ which is the distribution of free meals to anyone at all.

It is very much a part of the Hindu festival of Thaipusam which sees various groups of volunteers preparing meals for devotees and the general public.

The annual religious day, which takes place on Sunday, is an occasion for reflection and penance. The biggest celebration of Thaipusam in the world takes place at Batu Caves.

Nantha Kumar, project adviser for one food donation initiative called Dharma Dhaanam, said that the programme started in 2010 under the banner of Kuala Lumpur Arul Nilayam (Klan).

Klan’s vegetarian nasi lemak. – Pic courtesy of Klan

It involves preparation and distribution of vegetarian nasi lemak to devotees, stressing that giving freely represents a fundamental principle of the community, especially during religious days.

Vigneiswary Pandian, coordinator of the project this year, said that commercialisation has been creeping into the festival over the years with hawking of expensive food becoming common.

“Our aim is to reduce the financial burden of the devotees and visitors to Batu Caves during Thaipusam,” she said.

Klan coordinator Vigneiswary Pandian.
“The price of a non-vegetarian burger at Batu Caves could go up to RM6 and for a family of five, the bill comes up to RM30. That excludes the expenses for drinks and snacks, which are sold at similarly steep prices.

“We expect these charges to increase, given the rising cost of living, which is to the inconvenience of a B40 family,” she added.

The next goal of the project is to reduce the use of styrofoam containers which are found littered along the roads leading to Batu Caves.

“We’ve swapped the use of these environmentally harmful containers with the much friendlier waxed brown paper since 2015,” said Vigneiswary, who has been associated with Klan for the last 13 years.

Klan volunteers working hard making the nasi lemak enjoyed by many. – Pic courtesy of Klan
Driven to serve despite high cost

Pandiarajan Ramiah, a co-founder of the project, said that the charity initiative has grown despite the budget remaining virtually unchanged at RM30,000 since 2014.

Despite the rise in operational costs, Klan has managed to maintain the operational expenditure over the years with aid in cash and kindness from sponsors and the public.

Klan co-founder Pandiarajan Ramiah. – Pic courtesy of Klan

“Klan’s initial budget, which the NGO had drafted last November, stood at RM24,050. It is now inching towards RM30,000, as the cost of everything from the hiring of extra hands for the hard labour to the price of raw ingredients has ballooned.

“We target to serve as many packets of nasi lemak as possible within one-and-a-half days and, the average over the last four projects between 2017 and 2020, is 24,000 people.

“We have served 30,000 people in 2017 and even under the threat of the coronavirus two years ago, we had reached out to about 25,000. That works out to RM1.20 per-packet which is probably the best deal in town,” he noted.

Pandiarajan added that the need to serve a large group of devotees motivates Klan members to drive forward with the project.

Klan volunteers working hard making the nasi lemak enjoyed by many. – Pic courtesy of Klan

Many devotees perform ablutions at a designated river bank in the vicinity of the KTM Batu Caves station before embarking on the journey to ascend the 272 steps to the cave temple to fulfil their vows.

These ‘regulars’ look forward to having the nasi lemak, which is a staple of everyday Malaysian life, before they head for home.

Pandian stated that it is not erroneous to say that the devotees’ Thaipusam trips to Batu Caves would be incomplete without it.

Another project co-founder, Sarawanan Pachaiappan said: “We’re grateful for the backing that we’ve received from our friends, family members, sponsors and complete strangers.

“But we cannot demand more of them, as the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted our socioeconomic priorities and practices. As of January 24, we’ve collected just over RM12,800 and, while we had anticipated a lower response from everyone, this sum is way short of the required RM30,000,” he said.

Klan co-founders Sarawanan Pachaiappan (L) and Pandiarajan Ramiah. – Pic courtesy of Klan

“In another year, we would’ve comfortably collected at least half of the amount, especially as we only have less than two weeks to go before we start serving nasi lemak on the evening of February 4.

“Yet, we’re hopeful of a late spike in the people’s generosity and we’re always indebted to the continued support of our patrons principally MyNadi Foundation,” he said.

Apart from MyNadi Foundation which is dedicated to assisting under-privileged communities, and has actively backed the Dharma Dhaanam project since 2015 – Klan has benefitted from Etika Sdn Bhd’s contribution of drinks for volunteers and rice from Padiberas Nasional Bhd (Bernas).

Klan volunteers working hard making the nasi lemak enjoyed by many. – Pic courtesy of Klan

Vigneiswary shares Sarawanan’s optimism that more benefactors would step forward to assist Klan in achieving the stated aspirations of Dharma Dhaanam, or offer themselves as volunteers for the project via For more information, please send a WhatsApp text to the Secretariat at 012-2359484

source – The Vibes

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