“I knew that they loved my bhelpuri. But it’s so overwhelming to know that they didn’t forget us in such a situation,” said an emotional Mitlesh Jha, who has been selling the savoury snack from a stall outside Delhi University’s Jesus and Mary College (JMC) since 1991.
The 48-year-old has been out-of-work ever since the college closed in view of the Covid-19 pandemic in March. Jha had since been struggling to provide for his family of four — wife and three children. “Our family was completely dependent on the snack cart that i operated. I have seen generations pass out of this college. I still remember having served bhelpuri to Priyanka Gandhi, Neha Dhupia and other celebrities when they were students here. The college has given me so much love and respect in the last 30 years. But, then Covid came and was forced to sit at home for months without any work,” he said.
However, things started to change for Jha in the last few days after two alumni of the college initiated an online fundraiser and collected Rs 2 lakh for their beloved “Bhelpuri wale bhaiya”. “Last week I visited the Alaknanda market in an attempt to sell some of my snack. There, I met a college student and she asked me what I was doing there. I told her that I was trying to restart my business. I requested her to spread the word that I was operating out of the Alaknanda market in case somebody wanted some bhelpuri. Back then I was barely getting 3-4 customers a day. The girl put out a message on a Whatsapp group right there,” Jha said.
The text message was forwarded multiple times and finally landed up in the inbox of Aishwarya Mehra, 25, who graduated from JMC in 2016. Mehra, an entrepreneur living in Vasant Kunj, along with her former classmate Vedika Mehta launched an online fundraising campaign for Jha on July 22. “We were really sad to know about him. He had been one of the most memorable parts of our college lives. We wanted to do something for him too. We decided to launch an online fundraising campaign for him and within 48 hours over 225 people, mostly alumni and students, contributed Rs 2,09,567 for him,” Mehra said.
“The support was overwhelming. We have a lot of contributions from our alumni living abroad. The entire money will be transferred to his account by next Friday,” she added.
Overwhelmed by the support, Jha said that he will not have to struggle to provide for his family for the next few months. “My daughter is now in class 12 and she has to attend online classes. We were even struggling to get her a regular internet package. Now, with this support I will be able to help her in her studies as well,” he said.
Teachers also appreciated the collective efforts of JMC alumni and students. Richa Raj, assistant professor at the college, said, “We are so proud of our alumni and students for helping Jha. It’s very important to help people in need in times like these.”