If humanity had a physical address, it would be the double-storey house in the SBI colony of Kothapet, on the outskirts of Hyderabad. Here is located the house owned by a doctor couple but it belongs to “everyone” – whosoever visits it, all days, and nights of the year.
Anyone needing a place to rest, eat and spend some time is welcome. The only condition is that they must cook their own meals, eat, and then clean up the utensils.
The basic cooking ingredients, groceries, gas stove and the utensils are already in the kitchen that the visitor can use. Between 11 am and 8 pm., vegetables donated by people are in the kitchen but at odd hours, the visitors are encouraged to bring their own vegetables for side dishes.
After using the utensils, the inmates are expected to clean them for use by others.
“Any hungry person can walk in, cook his or her own food, rest a while and walk out. Absolutely no questions asked. No payment at all, it is all free,” said Dr Suryaprakash Vinjamuri, a 50-year old medical professional from Osmania University and a PG in Health administration from Tata Institute of Social Sciences.
“Hunger does not belong to any religion, caste or creed. In fact, every religion espouses serving the hungry, and it is the most satisfying and spiritual act one can perform,” said Dr Suryaprakash, adding “our Open House is Langar plus (place to rest as well),” he said.
Dr Suryaprakash founded the “Open House” (Andari Illu in Telugu that translates into House belonging to all), with donations from friends and earnings from the medical clinic run by his wife, Dr Kameswari, in 2006.
Since then, thousands have been their guests – students coming for short term courses who could not afford hostels or food bills, some wrote competitive exams, and some settled into jobs. The Open House has five rooms, including a hall, where people can come, stay, use the kitchen, toilets, and rest. There are books, newspapers and periodicals for anyone to use.
People with low income – security guards, sweepers, odd job men, poor students opting for short term courses, job seekers in the city, students coming in for entrance examinations in the city, come and stay at the Open House.
“We make them so comfortable with empathy and compassion and ask no questions. Many come to know about us through word of mouth publicity,” Dr Suryaprakash told Tricity Scoop.
K. Bhaskara Ramamurthy, a student who came from Warangal for entrance examinations for MA course in Osmania University said, “One exam I had in the morning and after finishing it, I came here. I will appear for the second entrance examination at 4.30 p.m. Another inmate here has been kind enough to share the food with me.”
There is no count of how many people come each day. During the height of the Telangana movement, the number was as high as 400 per day, Dr Suryaprakash said. During lockdown and afterwards, the numbers have fallen, but still, many people are coming in every day.
Several students who used the Open House have joined the police forces, teaching, nursing, and para nursing professions. They also spread the word about the wonderful place, as would Bhaskara Ramamurthy. (the person who spent a day at the Open House for his entrance examinations).
“We meet the costs of running the Open House from our own earnings (from the medical clinic), and donations in kind from several people who donate rice bags, LPG cylinders, cooking oil, salt and basic groceries,” Dr Suryaprakash said. We keep books, old clothing and also literature on hygiene and nourishment for the visitors.
Sometimes the visitors come here for succour and mental peace. They come here for emotional reasons. “We get visitors not for just food but also for consultation on medical, educational and also occupational issues,” Dr Suryaprakash said.
He and his wife run an ambitious project, an NGO called Life- Health Reinforcement Group- (Life- HRG) and have operations between Hyderabad and Kanyakumari. “I have some 200 villages where I go and do voluntary work,” Dr Suryaprakash said.
His NGO is also supporting nutrition and nourishment in villages, where he and his wife spend a few days every month.