There’s no such thing as a free lunch” or so the saying goes. But actually, there is and it’s here in Dubai!
Jobseekers who can’t afford their lunch can drop by Nom Nom Asia Restaurant in Karama and Al Barsha any day of the week to get a combo lunch for free. They can choose a main dish plus noodles or rice, and water.
The meal is free. But jobseekers who don’t want charity and wish to pay once they’re able, can do so, says a signboard in front of the restaurant.
The restaurant in Al Barsha has been doing it for at least one year while the Karama branch has been doing it since it opened in June — in quiet and in the absence of major spotlight or fanfare, long before the Year of Giving was announced.
A photo of the signboard was shared on social media by Labiba Laith, a Dubai-based food consultant.
Laith took shots of the restaurant and the signboard that caught her eye. “As I got closer, and when I read the sign, I got choked up. It’s such a beautiful gesture,” Laith told Gulf News. “Doing good doesn’t have to be big. Everybody is great on big. When a small restaurant tries to do a gesture like this, then it is big in meaning.”
The idea of a free lunch actually came from Vivek Balaney, co-owner of the restaurant, said Sanjay Mohan, his self-effacing business partner.
“These things are done from our heart. They are not meant for telling people and getting any mileage out of it,” Mohan said when prodded. “The sheer joy of being human can be enjoyed by giving, this is my belief.”
Mohan said jobseekers rarely get the help in need here. While residents are quick to help those with disabilities, it’s not the same for the jobless. “I cannot start a job centre, of course, but having a restaurant, at least I can give free food to these people,” he said, adding roughly 100 have benefited from the initiative.
Vijay Kumar, manager of the Karama branch, said some people actually come back to bring them good news.
“After they finish their meal, they feel very happy, they bless us and leave. A lot of people have come back and paid also after getting jobs. We feel very nice when they come back and tell us they’ve got a job, it’s very heart warming,” Kumar said. “If they don’t, it’s OK, there’s no problem.”
Asked until when he plans to do it, he said: “So far, I have no intention of removing the sign on the wall. It will be there for as long as I can manage.”