November 30, 2021 9:00:42 am
Padma Shri awardee Jagdish Lal Ahuja, popularly known as ‘Langar Baba’ for serving free food to patients and their attendants outside the PGIMER and GMCH-32 every day for more than two decades, passed away on Monday. He was battling cancer.
Awarded the Padma Shri award in 2020, Ahuja, 86, had become a familiar face for thousands of needy patients, their attendants, and the poor, serving them a langar of dal, chawal, roti, sabzi, halwa, bananas for more than twenty years.
Ahuja had once said that it was his mission that no one should go hungry, for he had once experienced what hunger and starvation felt like. “I do this out of love, when I see them eat after a long day at the hospital and smile, it gives me more satisfaction than anything else in the world. I am fortunate that in my lifetime, I was given a chance to serve others, and my only hope is that this seva should continue even after I am gone. I hope the city’s people and its administration carries on this work, which is selfless. I will continue this mission till my last breath,” Ahuja had shared a couple of years ago.
Ahuja, despite several odds, and financial constraints, never stopped the langar even for a day. In 2009, because of the paucity of funds, he had for a brief moment decided to discontinue the service. But later he said that he did not have the heart to see a child go hungry and carried on the work, even if it meant selling seven properties that he owned in the city to raise funds for the langars – one during afternoon outside GMCH-32 and one outside PGI in the evenings.
As per records, Ahuja had come to Patiala from Pakistan during the Partition and moved to Chandigarh in 1956. He said he had haunting memories of pain, violence, and hunger that he witnessed as a 12-year-old during the Partition that changed him forever. In Chandigarh, with just a few rupees in his pocket, he began selling bananas on a cart, and slowly built his business.
What began as community langar outside his shop in the city’s grain market on his son’s eighth birthday more than 38 years ago, later became a tradition and commitment for Ahuja.
He recalled that while passing through PGI, where he was being treated for cancer, he saw a man distributing food to the poor. Inspired by this act, on January 21, 2000, he began distributing free food to people outside PGI and later GMCH-32.
On Monday, PGIMER expressed deepest condolences on the demise of Jagdish Lal Ahuja, with the official spokesperson of the institute saying that Ahuja will be remembered for his spirit of giving, his generous gesture of feeding lakhs of people outside PGI and his humanity.
Punjab Governor expresses condolences
Punjab Governor and Administrator of Chandigarh, Banwarilal Purohit, expressed deep condolences over the demise of Chandigarh’s ‘Langar Baba’ Jagdish Lal Ahuja on Monday. Appreciating the fact that the langar continued to be served today despite his death, as per Ahuja’s last wishes, the Governor prayed to the Almighty to grant eternal peace to the departed soul.
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