LAHORE: Though dimly lit the basement of Darul Ehsan Langar-Khana, (charity food centre) at Safanwala Chowk in Mozang area, makes you feel moved and open your eyes for good. You realize that this is a totally different world where charity reaches the deserving.

The basement hall has capacity of serving food for around 75 people at one time. The charity regularly provides food three times daily to around 450 people in each shift. Breakfast is served early after Fajr prayers for three hours. For lunch the charity food is served from noon to 3 pm and for dinner from 6 pm to 9 pm. The ground floor serves as restaurant where the food is served on payment at market rates. The same food is available in basement for the poor and deserving.

Who are the people who live by eating this charity food? The Nation talked with a number of people who had their lunch and dinner there. The people who ate there included homeless people, drug addicts, labourers and security guards from other cities and waste-pickers.

Asma Foundation runs the charity Darul Ehsan at Safanwala Chowk. Not much could be known about this charity. They get donations from various people and also use the profit of restaurant it runs on the ground floor. The man who was managing the charity work wished not to be named. “We do not need any publicity. Our work is open for all to see. The charity food centre has been serving the downtrodden people for more than 10 years”, he said.

Bashir Khan, an employee of Darul Ehsan Langar Khanna, welcomes the people with smile on his face. “Everybody gets equal share of food and is also served extra food on request. It is a poor man’s free restaurant. There is never any mismanagement as people all queue up. After using the plates and glasses they return it to us at the counter,” Bashir said.

Security guard Muhammad Jamil, 38, hails from District Vehari and earns Rs 15,000 a month working at a bank on Sharaey Fatima Jinnah. He has three school going children and wife back home. “I prefer to eat at Langar Khanna Safanwala Chowk. If I was to eat on my own there would be money left to send back home. I live in Gowalmandi in a shared room with five other people,” he explained.

Taimur (Name changed as he wished not to be named) is also contributing his due share by feeding the poor and homeless people of the city at Bahawalpur Road near Janazgah.

“After Maghrib prayers I come here to distribute food among people. There is no NGO for which I work. I do the charity all on my own and do not receive any donations. God Almighty has given me strength to serve the poor people,” he said. Interestingly Taimur also runs a restaurant and especially cook food to distribute among the deserving people, whose number varies between 150 to 200 people.

Bahria Town Dastarkhwan on Abbot Road serves two meals a day for the poor is a small contribution to more than 35,000 people throughout Pakistan daily and aims to double the number of Dastarkhwan in future.

Twenty-year-old Abdul Wali Khan, who is waste-picker by profession, hails from Quetta. “My two brothers are in Quetta and our father is an old man now. I send money back home to care for the family. Charity food is a blessing for people like me so that we can save the little money we earn,” Abdul said.

There are langars in areas of Garhi Shahu, Lytton Road, Abbot Road, Firdous Market, Allah Hu Chowk in Johar Town, Township and Saddar. There are many organizations like Minhaj Welfare Organization, Edhi Foundation and Saylani Welfare International Trust are few names which are shinning like stars in the sky.

It is not just the institutions mentioned above that provides free food to deserving people. Lahore is home to nearly 10 million people. According to rough estimates more than 200,000 people eat food provided daily at such charity food centres and hundreds of shrines. Besides that many organizations and individuals provide charity food at the public sector hospitals.

Charity is ingrained in the people of Lahore. People give so much charity but the volume cannot be gauged as there is no mechanism developed to do so.