If you visit the betel shop of Nand Lal, do not be surprised if you are given a packet of condoms for free with you favourite ‘paan’.
From a small wooden shop tucked away in a corner of the bustling Falka Bazar of Katihar district, Lal has been handing out free contraceptives to his customers since November to spread awareness about AIDS and population explosion.
“I read about burgeoning population and the increasing incidents of AIDS and realised that every Indian has to do his bit to counter them. So many adults come to my shop… I thought why not provide them condoms with a request to indulge in safe sex and try limit the family to two children,” Lal said.
As the 45-year-old shopkeeper hands a packet of condom to each of his customers, they stop, smile, and listen to his advice.
“At first a few of my clients took umbrage at this, but when they understood that I meant well, they started liking it. Today I have no problem with any of them. I also realised that many people do not buy condoms out of shyness. They are very supportive of my move,” he added.
On an average, Lal distributes over 75 packets of contraceptives among the people who visit his shop to buy paan and other tit-bits.
But doesn’t he feel any financial pinch over his initiative?
“At first it was difficult to maintain the momentum. Packets of condoms are not cheap. My wife termed it unnecessary expenditure and was dead against it. Lekin usko mana liya (But I placated her). I try to make up for their cost through my daily sales,” Lal added.
Once non-government organisations came to know about Lal’s unique service, they started providing him a few packets on a daily basis to be distributed among the people. The shopkeeper’s noble initiative has become so popular that not only people flock to him, but the state health department has also decided to chip in and provide him with condoms for free.
“This is a positive approach towards spreading awareness about AIDS and family planning. We are with Lal in his initiative, and have decided to provide free packets of condoms to him for distribution among people,” said health department official Dr P K Singh.