Parvez Ali Khan and his family and staff

Indian Family in Armenia Converts Restaurant to Free-Meal Center for Refugees


By Geeta Mohan

YEREVAN (India Today) — The ongoing military conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has left scores of people homeless from Nagorno-Karabakh region. Many have fled their homes and moved to the capital city of Yerevan.

While the nation has come together to help the refugees from the border areas, here is an Indian family living in Armenia for the past six years who are doing their bit for the country they now call home.

Parvez Ali Khan, a 47-year-old Indian from Malerkotla in Punjab, has been running the Indian Mehak restaurant for the past six years in Armenia. He lives in Yerevan with his wife and two daughters, who are studying.

Parvez Ali Khan, a 47-year old Indian from Punjab, has been running the Indian Mehak restaurant for the past six years in Armenia. Here he is delivering food to refugees. (Photo: India Today)

When he heard of the crisis, he wanted to help the affected people out in any way that he could.

Speaking to India Today from Yerevan, he said, “When war started I saw the entire country come together. Everyone was extending help with food, medicine, supplies. We also offered clothes. But I saw they needed cooked food, not food supplies. That’s when I thought of delivering cooked food to them.”

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Owning a restaurant seemed like a great advantage to them but they were short-staffed since most of their workers were sent back to India due to the Covid-19 pandemic. That didn’t stop this Punjabi family, however.

“This time the Indian staff we have is pretty small. Many went back to India because of COVID. Now, because we had put up numbers and so many people reached out for food, so the first few days were difficult because of shortage of staff,” he said.

“Then we sent out messages seeking help from volunteers. Every Armenian wanted to come forward and help. It was heartening to see. We have 50 volunteers who help us in the kitchen and help deliver the food. Many Armenians have joined our cause,” he said.

How did the Khan household make this happen?

Well, through social media.

Volunteers making food boxes

After realizing that there were people out there who needed cooked meal, Parvez and his daughters put up messages on Facebook. That resulted in many connecting with them.

Aqsa, his daughter, said, “We put up numbers and people shared it in different groups. People are sharing our numbers with refugees that they come across. They then call us.”

“We are also working with a few organizations, which are supporting us. They contact us with lists and food requirements. They come and take food and deliver it themselves. We have two days of advance booking but we are trying to increase the quantity being prepared so as to reach out to a maximum number of people,” Aqsa said.

They started the service on October 4. While the first few days were difficult with the family working from 9 a.m. till 9 p.m., it got easier when volunteers joined in.

The family was heartened to see so many Armenians join them. They have also kept the food to the taste of Armenians even if some of the dishes are Indian – such as, puris, naan, chole-bhature, vegetables with potatoes. They give that or sandwiches and rolls. But always make sure that the meals are cooked in less oil and almost no spice to suit their palette.

“We cook for children and grown-ups. We are cooking according to their taste. They don’t eat spicy food. We are taking care of them. They are also enjoying some Indian food as well,” said Parvez.

For now, Yerevan is safe but the Indian mission there has asked the Indian diaspora to be on alert and shared emergency numbers with them.

“Yerevan is safe. There are problems in Karabakh areas. The government is very supportive. Our embassy and ambassador are in touch with the Indians. Emergency numbers have been put up on the Facebook.

We feel safe and are not scared,” he said.

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