Over the last couple of days, the internet has been teeming with news about the ‘Baba Ka Dhaba’ couple shutting down their newly opened posh restaurant and returning to their tiny roadside stall. The comments sections on social media sites are rife with people revering the ways in which “karma pays”. What has brought a humble roadside food seller into the midst of a nationwide controversy and why are netizens getting so embroiled in this?
Baba ka Dhaba in Delhi’s Malviya Nagar shot to fame in October 2020 when a food vlogger, Gaurav Wasan captured the woes of its owner Kanta Prasad and his wife in one of his videos. In the video, the couple revealed that they were struggling to make ends meet with their shop, their miseries exacerbated by the lockdown.
They would wake up early each morning and make their way to their roadside stall but had almost no business, and were suffering losses. Gaurav Wasan, in the video, recorded their plight and made an appeal to his audience to help out the struggling couple. The vlogger also gave the details of a few of his accounts and promised to make the donations reach Kanta Prasad.
In an almost modern-day social media fairytale situation, the video went viral instantly and praise, help, and love poured in from all quarters. Several celebrities such as Raveen Tandon and Nimrat Kaur also stepped up to support the drive. Not only did people donate but a significant number of people even started turning up at the Dhaba every day following the video going viral, in order to support the hard-working couple.
And thus, the 80-year-old couple went from selling Matar Paneer at a small joint to opening a posh restaurant of their own in December 2020. On the outset it is a miraculous story of citizen initiative and social media helping out a poor couple in Delhi, open a restaurant of their own. But dig deeper and it is ridden with lies and blames.
Around a month after the first video went viral, Kanta Prasad started a row saying that Gaurav Wasan had embezzled public money, diverting the money to the bank accounts of his wife and brother, leaving Kanta Prasad with very little.
Kanta Prasad filed an FIR against Gaurav Wasan at the Malviya Nagar police station accusing him of criminal breach of trust and fraud. He alleged that the vlogger deliberately gave a host of personal bank accounts for donation, and collected huge amounts of money from the public through multiple modes of payments (bank accounts/wallets) on behalf of him, without prior intimation.
He also claimed to be receiving death threats alleging that people were “jealous” of his sudden acquisition of wealth. Although his lawyer Prem Joshi held Gaurav Wasan responsible for these threats too, they had no evidence to support their claims.
In response to this, Gaurav Wasan claimed to have nothing but pure intentions and had not revealed Kanta Prasad or “Baba’s” own details in order to shield him from any harassment and help him further with the collection of the funds. To prove his innocence, he even made public his own bank statements and accounted for all the transactions in them in the relevant period.
In one of the interviews, Baba even said in defiance that he had never called the Youtuber to come and make the video for him. In response to this, Gaurav Wasan said that he was in shock and didn’t understand how to respond, he had never anticipated his philanthropic efforts to take such an unfortunate turn.
In all, Baba was receiving funds through 3 main sources- firstly, the cash donations made directly to him, secondly,the donations made to his account through his QR code (which was shared by an activist by the name Madhur), and lastly, donations made to Gaurav Wasan’s accounts. The story here is rather hazy and muddled with each side advocating their own narratives.
According to Gaurav Wasan, he received an amount of 75,000 in donations within a day of the video going viral. The next day, he deposited the entire amount in Baba’s account and also found that an amount equaling 20 lakhs had been deposited in Baba’s own account overnight, owing to which the bank had seized it. This prompted Gaurav Wasan to upload a follow-up video asking people to cease donations as Baba had already received enough.
The internet is divided on this matter. While some hold Baba for a lack of gratitude and for an unfair spin on the humanitarian efforts of Gaurav Wasan, there are many others who question Gaurav’s intentions too.
In a recent interview Baba revealed that he shut down the restaurant in February 2021 as the monthly expenses in running the restaurant were as high as 1 lakh and on the contrary, his earnings were a meager 30,000 or so. Hence the decision to return to his humble stall, which has a much lower maintenance cost and where he seems to be content with his daily profit.
Kanta Prasad thanked the people for their support and assured them that he has saved almost 20 lakhs to secure his future, and drying up of funds was not the reason for shutting down the restaurant. He says that he is happy doing this, and intends to spend the rest of his days managing his little eatery.
On being asked about Gaurav Wasan, Baba remarked that he is only grateful to the vlogger, and has no complaints against him. He further hinted at being misguided into taking such actions. He also blamed social worker Tushant Adlakha, who he said helped him open the restaurant and manage investments but didn’t give enough time.
While citizens country-wide are relieved to know that Baba has managed to secure his future with the donations, the fact that he is back to square one following the entire drama has not escaped attention. People are invariably treating it as proof of Karma paying back; “what goes around, comes around.”