Every Tuesday afternoon Shrawan Nepali and his team of volunteers gather in Basantapur Durbar Square, Kathmandu, and offer free meals to anyone who is willing to join them.
Aptly named, Curry Without Worry, is not a run-of-the-mill soup kitchen. The service started in San Francisco in 2006. Nepali, who was born in Nepal but attended university in the US, came up with the idea by observing the great amount of hungry people struggling for a leftover sandwich in a rich and “first-world city like San Francisco”.
“I realized that it doesn’t matter where we live in this world,” says Nepali. “Hunger is problem in so many countries around the world.”
The hunger situation in Nepal is ranked as “serious” in the 2013 Global Hunger Index. According to the report, 18% of the country’s population is undernourished and 29.1% of the children under five years is underweight.
In 2010, Nepali decided to start this initiative in Kathmandu. A soup kitchen once a week is unlikely to make a difference to these numbers. But Curry Without Worry is eager to contribute its bit.
The regular menu is nutritious as it is composed of five different items: rice, a mix of vegetables with curry, roti, a tomato pickle and a traditional Nepalese mixed bean soup. As Nepali puts it, the goal is to create a very nutritious and wholesome meal. A string of different herbs and spices, such as timur, chilli pepper and curry, go the extra mile. Preference is given to organic ingredients.
“I find a similarity between the food of Curry Without Worry and whatever I eat at home,” says Shubashi Chand, a volunteer in the kitchen, when asked about the food served by Curry Without Worry.
People who attend Curry Without Worry confirm its high-quality service.
“This is the best meal I can get in a week,” says Ashok Mainali, a homeless man who is a regular at Curry Without Worry. Preet Limbu, a porter, highlights that the food and the pleasant atmosphere are the reasons why he usually has dinner in Durbar Square.
The second aspect that makes CWOW a peculiar soup kitchen is its openness to everybody. Both the haves and the have-nots are encouraged to share a meal and spend some time together.
“The idea is to merge them together so that they can help each other out,” says Nepali. “Creating a community in which needy people can find support and opportunities to deal with their problems.”
As Nepali acknowledges, “this idea is working very nicely in San Francisco,” where 30% of the attendees are workers, students or tourists. However, in Kathmandu those who line up for Curry Without Worry’s food are those with financial difficulties.
For Nepali, opening a kitchen in Kathmandu was like going back to his origins. In fact, Nepali was raised at Paropakar Orphanage in Kathmandu and this experience fostered his desire for social commitment.
“I never forgot my upbringing in the orphanage,” says Nepal. “I always wanted to make a difference in the lives of people.”