• Roshni Indian Restaurant in Mackay will serve up free meals this Christmas to ensure "no-one eats alone". (Facebook/Roshni Indian Restaurant)
"This is what Christmas is all about."
By
Alyssa Braithwaite

30 Nov 2017 - 2:58 PM  UPDATED 5 Dec 2017 - 5:15 PM

An Indian restaurant in Queensland is throwing its doors open this Christmas Day to provide hundreds of people in need with a free meal, friendship and festivities.

Roshni Indian Restaurant in Mackay started the initiative last year, and got a great response from the community of about 115,000 people, serving up meals for about 100 people. 

This year the restaurant is expecting an even bigger turn-out - they are preparing 250 lunches or more if needed - and will not ask questions of anyone who turns up looking for a meal. Owner Raj Sharma tells SBS it is he and his family's way of giving back to the community.

"It's Christmas time again and all of us at Roshni want to spread our philosophy of happiness and light with our Mackay community," Sharma wrote in a post on the restaurant's Facebook page.

"Last year we opened up our restaurant and our hearts to people in the community who are a little less fortunate, without family or just doing it tough.

"We want to again invite our Mackay Community to join us for our now annual free Christmas Lunch. Let myself, Jess and our family cook for you!!!!"

On the menu will be the traditional Aussie festive lunch of ham, prawns, salad and desserts, as well as the restaurant's most popular curries and naan breads. 

Diners can stay and enjoy a big family lunch or take food home.

Mr Sharma said it was his family's way of giving back to the community that had helped them through the tough times.

"We're in Mackay, it's a country town and when we moved up here we came just before the end of the mining boom," Mr Sharma tells SBS.

"[Before long] things went so bad because almost 40,000-50,000 people left because of the mining downturn, and we went from having nine full-time staff members to being a one-man show.

"Now things are improving. It was the loyalty of people that kept us going. Our community has supported us and this is our way of giving back to the community and saying thankyou."

Roshni Indian Restaurant has been operating in Mackay for almost five years, and earlier this year was named Indian Restaurant of the Year at the India Australia Business and Community Awards.

Their post has been shared more than 540 times, and the restaurant has received hundreds of phone calls and messages from people wanting to donate presents, food, their time or assistance.

 

Mr Sharma, who arrived in Australia in 2006 with just $600 in his pocket, says they don't see it as charity. It's about coming together in the true spirit of Christmas.

"Honestly it was the best feeling ever, the best Christmas ever," he says.

"The warmth we got from people, the stories which we heard... this is what Christmas is all about - coming together.

"We want to show [our daughter] Lily what multiculturalism is all about. We're very fortunate to be in Australia, where Australia has given us so much, and we need to embrace this." 

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