Decatur Indian street food restaurant Chai Pani joins over 30 other Indian restaurants from around the world taking part in 1 Billion Breaths, an initiative hoping to raise $150,000 in COVID-19 relief funding for India.
Now through May 29, each restaurant involved in the effort will offer a special on the menu, with proceeds benefiting nonprofits like Oxygen For India and Give India-Oxygen to help provide oxygen tanks and other essential services to patients battling COVID-19 throughout the subcontinent.
India recently surpassed 300,000 deaths since the pandemic began due to a huge surge in COVID-19 cases brought on by the highly transmissible B.1.617 variant. Health experts in India fear that number is much higher, as totals in rural areas have yet to be counted. Hospital beds, oxygen, and other essential healthcare supplies are in dangerously short supply there. Many states throughout India do not have enough vaccines on hand to administer to help slow the spread of the virus.
For its part in the 1 Billion Breaths relief efforts, Chai Pani is offering a lamb burger package featuring four burgers served with Maggi sauce, desi slaw, and green chutney along with bhel puri. The special feeds two people and runs through Thursday, May 27. Proceeds benefit Give India-Oxygen. People can also donate directly to the 1 Billion Breaths website.
“Basu Ratnam from Inday in NYC reached out to me about an initiative he wanted to put together to raise funds towards the Covid crisis in India featuring the support of renowned Indian restaurants around the globe,” Irani tells Eater of his participation in the unified fundraising effort for India. “What I love about 1 Billion Breaths is that instead of only reposting our causes on social media, which can at times feel like you’re shouting into the wind, we get to roll up our sleeves and do what we do best — raise money by feeding people!”
Irani opened Chai Pani in 2013, following the opening of the original restaurant in Asheville, North Carolina, two years earlier. Prior to the pandemic in 2020, Irani expanded the menu at Chai Pani after visiting Gujarat in India, 17 hours north of the chef’s hometown of Ahmednagar in Maharashtra, east of Mumbai. Irani says the trip reintroduced him to the notion that food in India is always evolving and that it was necessary to change up the menu in order to continue telling the whole story behind Indian street foods at the restaurant.
Eater reached out to Irani for comment on the restaurant’s 1 Billion Breaths relief efforts.