Baba returns to dhaba: Rise and fall of the social media sensation

a person preparing food in a kitchen: Kanta Prasad is back at his food stall, Baba Ka Dhaba, after an unsuccessful attempt at running a new restaurant. (Photo: Sanjeev Verma/HT) © Provided by Hindustan Times Kanta Prasad is back at his food stall, Baba Ka Dhaba, after an unsuccessful attempt at running a new restaurant. (Photo: Sanjeev Verma/HT)

A video of a teary-eyed old couple who ran a small eatery in Delhi’s Malviya Nagar and were forced into penury due to Covid-19, tugged at the heartstrings of many, last year. Featuring Kanta Prasad aka Baba — owner of Baba ka Dhaba, which was set up by him and his wife to make ends meet — the video became viral overnight and donations poured in, so much so that it enabled him to open a restaurant, last December. But, Prasad, 80, is now back to square one, for the restaurant had to be shut due to insufficient earnings.

“I had to shut that new eatery on February 15 this year, since I was incurring heavy losses. Tushant (Adlakha; social worker) had said he’d help run it, but woh chala gaya (he left). There were expenses in running it, including the rent and workers’ salaries whereas the income was barely anything. So we closed it and sold off all the equipments and that fetched us somewhere around 36,000 out of the 5 lakh we had invested. Wahan parking bhi nahi thi, kaafi dikkat thi jagah mein (There was no parking available there, and other issues as well),” informs Prasad, adding that he wasn’t responsible for managing the funds that came to him as donations via social media.

Many accustomed to Baba, however claim that he wasn’t experienced enough to handle the money that he amassed and that lead to the closure of the restaurant. One, for instance, is Adlakha, who not only differs from Baba’s claims but also presents another side to the resurged controversy. “Baba had received around 42 lakhs through donations. A majority of this sum they had put in a fixed deposit, making their younger son as the nominee, which caused a rift in his family. After the restaurant became functional, neither of his sons devoted time to manage the restaurant, and Baba had to sit at the counter himself. He would also drink regularly at night,” says Adlakha stating that Baba has been retracting from his statements quite often.

a man preparing food in a restaurant: Baba says he is currently earning between ₹500-1,000 daily at his old dhaba. (Photo: HT/Sanjeev Verma) © Provided by Hindustan Times Baba says he is currently earning between 500-1,000 daily at his old dhaba. (Photo: HT/Sanjeev Verma)

“I’ve been reading reports of Baba saying that I advised him incorrectly on opening a new restaurant, or that I’d help him run it,” states Adlakha, clarifying, “The truth is that he already had a plan to open a new restaurant, which he had discussed with Gaurav (Wasan; food blogger), and I was put in touch with Baba via Gaurav. We tried to help him out with everything from looking at possible locations to purchasing the equipment and taking decisions on funds. Baba was involved at every step, and it was him and his sons who managed the money... Later, Baba called me to help him out, but I had personal commitments and college work as well, so I couldn’t. I had plans to call and check on him, but now I’m deeply hurt by what he is saying about me publicly!”

It was reported by us last October that YouTuber Lakshay Chaudhary had accused food blogger Gaurav Wasan, of Swad Official — who had filmed the old couple’s heart-wrenching video, which went viral — of allegedly misappropriating an amount of more than 20 lakh that came as part of the donations for Baba; who even filed a cheating complaint against Wasan. Ask Baba if he still holds grudges against Wasan, and he says: “Koi gile shikwe nahi hain. Agar wo (Gaurav) aayenge toh hum unhe baithaenge sath (There is no ill feeling. If he comes, we will sit together).”

Since Baba is back at his old eatery this month, he tells us that he’s doing just about okay and earns somewhere between 500-1,000 daily. “I’m now doing everything on my own. Humara kam sahi chal raha hai, aur kisi baat ki pareshani nahi hai (Our work is going well and there is no trouble of any sort). After me, my kids will run Baba ka Dhaba!”

Author tweets @bhagat_mallika

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Baba returns to dhaba: Rise and fall of the social media sensation