There is an ongoing military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan which has left people homeless from Nagorno-Karabakh region. Many have fled their homes and moved to the capital city of Yerevan.
While the nation has come together to help the refugees from the border areas, an Indian family living in Armenia for the past six years are doing their bit for the country, they now call their home.
Parvez Ali Khan, a 47-year old Indian from Malerkotla in Punjab, has been running a restaurant ‘Indian Mehak’ for the past six years in Armenia. He lives in Yerevan with his wife and two daughters, who are studying.
When he heard of the crisis, he wanted to help the affected people out in any way that he could.
Yerevan said, “When war started I saw the entire country come together. Everyone was extending help with food, medicine, supplies. We also offered clothes. But I saw they needed cooked food not food supplies. That’s when I thought of delivering cooked food to them.”
“This time the Indian staff we have is pretty less. Many went back to India because of Covid. Now, because we had put up numbers and so many people reached out for food, so the first few days were difficult because of shortage of staff,” he said.
“Then we sent out messages seeking help from volunteers. Every Armenian wanted to come forward and help. It was heartening to see. We have fifty volunteers who help us in the kitchen and help deliver the food. Many Armenians have joined our cause,” he added.
Fifty volunteers and the Khan family together feed many people in Yerevan. His kitchen opens early in the morning and people take turns to cook, assemble, pack and then organizations, who reached out to them help deliver the food.
Khan household made it happen through social media.
After realizing that there were people out there who needed cooked meal, Parvez and his daughters put up messages on Facebook. That resulted in many reverting and connecting with them.
Aqsa, his daughter, said, “We put up numbers and people shared it in different groups. People are sharing our numbers with refugees that they come across. They then call us.”
“We are also working with a few organizations, which are supporting us. They contact us with list and food requirements. They come and take food and deliver it themselves. We have two days of advance booking but we are trying to increase the quantity being prepared so as to reach out to maximum people,” Aqsa said.
They started the service on October 4. While the first few days were difficult with the family working from 9 am till 9pm, it got easier when volunteers joined in.
The family was heartened to see so many Armenians join them. They have also kept the food to the taste of Armenians even if some of the dishes are Indian, such as, puris, naan, chole-bhature, vegetables with potatoes. They give that or sandwiches and rolls. But always make sure that the meals are cooked in less oil and almost no spice to suit their palette.
“We cook for children and grown-ups. We are cooking according to their taste. They don’t eat spicy food. We are taking care of them. They are also enjoying some Indian food as well,” said Parvez.
For now, Yerevan is safe but the Indian mission there has asked the Indian diaspora to be on alert and shared emergency numbers with them.
“Yerevan is safe. There are problems in Karabakh areas. The government is very supportive. Our embassy and ambassador are in touch with the Indians. Emergency numbers have been put up on the Facebook. We feel safe and are not scared,” he concluded.