The 34th edition of the Spring food festival is back in the national capital. With a home-like feel to it, this festival, held every year, sees families getting together to put up food stalls representing various regional cuisines of the country.
“Like every year, this year too the Spring Food Festival will be held at the Lajpat Bhawan Lawns at Lajpat Nagar 4 in Delhi from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on 5 February. The venue also happens to be the office of our NGO, Servants Of The People Society, Delhi Chapter,” Sreelata Rudra tells Guardian 20.
Rudra has been a volunteer with Servants Of The People Society for the last 20 years and spearheads the Balwadi Project along with being a coordinator of the Spring Food Festival Committee.
“The Spring Food Festival is our yearly fundraiser and 2017 is our 34th one. The members of the organisation get together to create food stalls with home-cooked food and all the proceeds collected during the mela are donated to the NGO. We have approximately 20-odd member stalls with cuisines ranging from Rajasthani to Punjabi, Bengali and even South Indian. We have Continental dishes as well. Our volunteers make achars, kanji, sarson ka saag, makke di roti, fruit punch, sweetmeats, everything,” said Rudra.
“We have approximately 20-odd member stalls with cuisines ranging from Rajasthani to Punjabi, Bengali and even South Indian.”
Sisters Of The People is an NGO that was started by Lala Lajpat Rai in 1921. The Delhi wing has been running 18 balwadis — care centres — all over the city for children between 3-6 years of age. These balwadis run in bastis and resettlement colonies for education and voluntary training of these children. The NGO also has five tailoring training centres in Delhi where girls and young women from marginalised backgrounds can learn stiching and designing of all types of garments. These classes are conducted on the syllabus provided by the Usha Sewing Machine Company.
“Since we do not get funded by the government or receive any other grants, we are dependent on individuals and groups and fundraising programmes such as the Spring food Fest to support our cause. The funds collected provide for the rent, electricity and water for our balwadis. Our students are provided with freshly cooked protein, enriched mid-day meals six days a week. Besides looking into adequate nutrition, medicare facilities are also provided and immunisation drives are conducted,” Rudra added.
While the festival, as per Rudra, used to host people only from nearby colonies, over the last 10 years, it has seen a rush of young crowds from all over the city, coming forward to support their noble cause. Rudra, of course, thanks social media for their wide reach. They obviously have a Facebook page with mainstream media outlets giving it a good coverage and a sizeable number of enthusiasts who have signed up as attendees of the fest.
“Our mela is always held on the first Sunday of February every year and is thus named so after the season. The event also has a huge ‘Thrift and Jumble’ area where we put out an array of products, mainly clothes new and old, as a bargain. Our book stall is also a huge draw. The cake stall is one of the largest stalls and is always teeming with mouthwatering delights. We have a fairly loyal footfall of approximately 3,000 visitors,” said Rudra.
He added, “This year we have created a special Children’s Activity Station and are looking forward to a good response. I think what attracts most people to this fest is the fact that unlike most high-end food fests in Delhi, ours has a family feel to it. It is the ambience that attracts our visitors. There is ample seating space with umbrellas for shade and I must say, we are more than glad to see friendly familiar faces year after year. The entry ticket is also reason. It is just Rs 30.”
Rudra, in particular, has been known for her stall selling Bengali food items for the past 18 years. “We work as late as 4 a.m. in the morning around this time. But, you know what, all of this pays off when by the end of the fest, you see everything sold out! I have had a faithful clientele, only growing every year. All the proceeds go to our organisation and I cannot even begin to describe the satisfaction us stall holders feel by the end of it all, because we are doing this for those 1,000 babies living under our care across 18 balwadis,” said Rudra.