Asish Jaidev Soni to receive Queen's award for voluntary service
Asish will be awarded ''BEM''
British Empire Medal. (More details about BAM in Wikipedia) for his services to the homeless and the needy. The
ceremony will be at Buckingham palace and could be awarded by the Queen or any
other member of the Royal family, most likely at a garden party at the palace.
The exact date and details will be received later.
Asish is the eldest son of
Jaidevbhai and Anjaliben Soni and grandson of Vadilal and Laxmiben Soni of
Graduated from Brunel
Universaty with a degree in Economics with business finance, and worked in
Private sector while doing his ACCA and qualified as an accountant in two
years. Joined The Home Office at Croydon in their Finance and Budgeting team,
about eleven years ago. He is now a Management accountant, managing a team of
SEO's (Senior Executive Officers), therefore progressed well with his career
Asish became a ISKCON devotee while
he was at Uni, and later became a desciple of HH Radhanath Swami of Chowpaty
Temple at Mumbai. Married to Dipti (Patel), who too is a ISKCON devotee, and
they have twin daughters three years old. They both started food distribution
to the homeless and needy, more than ten years ago. Initially they both used to
cook the food seeking help of couple of others at the
Soho Temple and
taking it to those who needed. They also had to arrange for collection of raw
material through donations. They still do the cooking as well as other tasks
depending on how much help they can get from volunteers. Asish have to
co-ordinate all this as well as drive the van.
His parents were reluctant,
and often tried to stop him from going, fearing for his well being because of
weather, work pressure, and the type of people he would be surrounded by, but
he has always been so dedicated that he would go despite rain,snow,wind or
cold, telling us that if he did not go than those poor people might go hungry.
Brief history of
After living in Croydon since
1975, the parents Jaidev and Anjali Soni moved and settled in Leicester past
two years. They both are now retired. Jaidev's mother who is 94 lives with them.
Their younger son works for MOJ (Ministry of Justice) and is also an accountant
(CIMA). The daughter who is youngest is a pharmacist and lives in Brighton. Jaidev's
last job too was at the Home Office as a caseworker in the Immigration dept.
Jaidevbhai's father Vadilal C
Soni was popularly known as Vadilal Seth. He was very well known figure in
Pattni community, not only in Kenya but well liked and respected in Uganda,
Tanzania, Aden and Mumbai. He was one of the pioneering figures whose advice
was sought by the community members.
Vadilalbhai with Damjibhai Devji Vaya
Lunch at Shamjibhai Lakha
Maganbhai Chaku and his family visited their house in Mumbai in 1950
Jaidevbhai said "I remember
from young age some of the people who regularly visited our house were
Purshotambhai Lakha, Bhagwajibhai Tulsidas, Bhanjibhai Dosa, Jerambhai Kara etc
from Uganda, the
other three Lakha brothers, specially Hirjibhai and
Shamjibhai(Bapu), Hirabhai Virji and brothers Bhagwanjibhai Devji etc from
Mombasa. These are just a few names but there were so many who phoned or met
regularly. Maganbhai Chakubhai, Damjibhai Devji and Lalji Jetha family all were
very close to him. Shri Harshadbhai Rana once called him a legend in one of his
Vadilal left India when he was
about 18 and initially was in Uganda for a while and came to Nairobi around
1940 or before and had a shop in Jiwanji Gardens, which he closed
and went to India around 45 and got married and came back and joined Damjibhai
Devji for a while and again opened his own business. He passed away at Nairobi
24 Aug 2014
Soni serves kitchari to hungry Londoners from the Hare Krishna Food For Life
Ashish serving to the hungry
Ashish Jaidev Vadilal Soni, London is a qualified accountant. He is a civil servant working in
Croydon (London) at the Home Office, and people there call him Ash but at the
Hare Krishna temple he is Acyuta.
He got involved with the Hare Krishna movement in his last year of uni about 10
years ago. A few monks came down, and gave a class on karma and why bad things
happen to good people, and he found
answers he had been looking for.
Ashish was initiated in 2007,
and given a baptism name: Acyuta Charan Das.
Around the same time, Ashishï¿½s wife Dipti introduced him to the Food For Life
project, and he started volunteering. It was started by the founder of the Hare
Krishna movement, AC Bhaktivedanta Swami
Prabhupada, in the 70s, after he saw
poor children fighting with dogs over scraps of food in the street during his
time in India. His vision was that anyone within a 10-mile radius of a Hare
should not go hungry, so he sent his devotees out to feed the
Hare Krishna movement sanctify the food, offering it to God, and that
spiritualised food is called prashad, which means the mercy of the Lord. Hare
Krishna devottes believe that prasad helps you materially
- by satisfying your
hunger with nutritious food - but also brings you spiritual benefit. It's a
worldwide project, with volunteers distributing food in cities everywhere.
The service they provide runs from Monday to Thursday, out of the temple in
central London on Soho Street.
In need of more
They need more volunteers,
especially someone with a driving licence, so they can expand to Fridays. The
main dish they serve is kitchari, which the kitchen staff at Govinda's, the
restaurant next to the temple,
Kitchari is made with rice,
lentils, veg and lots of spices. The beauty of kitchari - which means
"mixture" - is that any leftover veg can be added. So the chefs use
whatever they have to hand and it's different
every day. They also make a
wholemeal cake with fruit.
Ashish arrive with the other volunteers at about 6:15pm, after work. They make
the evening's drink - in the winter, it's usually hot masala tea, and in the
summer, a fruit juice. Once they've made the food prasad,
they load the temple
van up with the food and drink, recyclable plates and cutlery and a table, and
set out for Lincoln's Inn Fields, just outside Holborn station. They give out
200-250 plates every day.
The food is made entirely
with produce donated to the temple, and sometimes we receive other things too -
the other day CoYo donated 12 crates of their vegan coconut yoghurt, which we
the prashad. One of the people who came said that her
personal trainer had been telling her to eat CoYo, and she'd been buying pots
of it for ï¿½3 a pop ï¿½ The homeless guys were loving it, filling up their bags.
Over the years Ashish has got to know a few of the people who come - it's a
real mix: homeless people, immigrants who might not be on the streets but who
live well below the poverty line. And then others come
for the social
interaction. The other day they had to get in the van at the end of the night
and tell this one poor chap that we needed to leave - he just wanted to keep
On a personal level, it's a very rewarding experience. Sometimes they've had
people come who haven't eaten for a few days, and have three or four platefuls.
I used to taste the food, but once a guy came after
I'd eaten the last plate
and wanted food, and I felt so bad that now I don't eat or drink anything in
case someone comes at the last minute.
If you wish to be a
volunteer, please contact Ashish at email@example.com