Meet and Deep News, also known as the ‘Good Karma shop’ to the Twickenham community, is a hub of support and compassion run by the Patel family. What sets them apart is their genuine commitment to uplifting their community through a series of selfless initiatives.
1. Seasonal community events
Shasi and Pallu Patel have owned the Southwest London store for over 40 years and named it after their sons Meeten and Deep. For more than two decades, the family have welcomed locals to their store on Christmas day. The annual festive tradition saw over 300 people attend throughout the day last Christmas. “My mum made 350 samosa and she spent hours the night before preparing. My dad made hundreds of cups of masala chai. We had Christmas music playing, disco lights up and it was really nice that people were coming in,” says Deep.
The event offers a day full of activities and entertainment for the locals. The family’s festive efforts extended beyond the store this year as they recorded themselves dancing in Christmas outfits and shared the video on their Facebook page. For those who couldn’t make it to the store, Deep and Meeten also livestreamed games on Facebook so that everyone could get involved.
Deep explains that their generosity is motivated by their Hindu beliefs and commitment to spreading kindness. “One of the main things in Hinduism is to be kind to others and it’s all about good karma. Although my parents knew they would have to run the shop for a long time and work seven days a week, they did not let it hinder their practice of faith. They have used the shop as a means to fulfil their purpose in Hinduism and to help others along their path.”
Next month, they are opening their doors to those seeking companionship, by hosting a Valentine’s event for individuals who may not have someone special to spend the day with. They have planned a day full of games and competitions and people will also be able to get involved through their Facebook page as well.
2. Heat Hub
The ‘Heat Hub’ initiative creates a warm space for those facing the chill of winter without adequate heating. “We put a sign outside and it just says, ’If you’re struggling to heat your home, please pop in and warm yourself in our shop’,” explains Deep. “We said to people that they didn’t need to buy anything, just come in and be in a warm environment. We started this when the first announcement of the gas prices going up was made and everyone was really scared.”
Deep reveals that the store has provided a welcoming refuge for the community during cold months, including students and those on low income. “It became more than just heating yourself up. People would talk and interact with each other. It was lovely for people who were lonely. We would place little dinner tables down a closed aisle so people could sit on those with a chair and just be in a warm place.”
3. Food Bank
For the past few years brothers Meeten and Deep have been the driving force behind numerous community initiatives. During the pandemic, Meeten set up a mini food bank, which remains to this day and is now helping people cope during the cost of living crisis. “My brother started a food bank and placed a box outside the shop. We said that anyone who doesn’t have enough money to buy food is welcome to take whatever they need from the food bank or come in,” says Deep. “A lot of people used it and we decided to keep it going even though the pandemic is over.”
4. Safe Zone
For children feeling uneasy or unsafe, Meet and Deep News created a ‘Safe Zone’ where children can seek refuge when they need it the most. Whether they’re lost, scared, or simply need a comforting space, Deep says they are welcome to find safety in the store.
Deep explains that some parents were worried about their daughters walking home alone and whether they could come in if they felt unsafe. To address their concerns, Meeten created a safe zone inside. “Sadly, there have been some instances where children have come in because they felt uncomfortable with an adult’s behaviour. My mum would invite them to come in and call their parents for them and welcome them to stay for as long as they need,” Deep says.
5. Helpline and listening service
Encouraged by parents Shasi and Pallu, Deep set up a dedicated phone line for people who were struggling during the pandemic. “If anyone is feeling lonely or needs someone to talk to, they can search for our phone number or find it in store and they can call us at any time. You don’t even need a reason to call us. We once received a call from an elderly lady who just wanted to know the day and time because she hadn’t seen anyone in four days. It has been four years since we started the hotline and people are still calling us.”
6. Healthier options
The Patel family is embracing a health conscious approach to cater for its customers’ well-being. “We are always trying to do new things and help people,” says Deep. “We are focussing on healthier options, such as lower fat, low sugar, and plant-based products. As a result, a lot of our crisp range is baked, and we want to encourage people to snack a healthier way. Shops are in the position to drive people to make those changes. People come into a shop looking for a snack and they tend to choose from what is available.”
7. London Wildlife Protection
The store has partnered with London Wildlife Protection and serves as a hub where the community can bring in sick, injured or oprhaned wildlife. As part of the collaboration, they also help the charity with their rescue service. ”We’ve had people bring in bats, ducks, pigeons. We all have training and will looking after them until a specialist comes and picks them up to take them to various sanctuaries. We always say every life matters. Some people don’t maybe care about that, it’s still a life and people know us now by being the kind people that care for everything rather than just the shop,” says Deep.
8. Book Bank
With the store located next to a busy bus stop, Meeten felt discouraged when he noticed that everybody was consumed by their mobile phones. In a move to give people a break from the digital world, Meeten created the ‘Book Bank’ which has already seen a positive reaction from many locals and commuters. The initiative involves a trolley outside the store full of books and customers and passersby are encouraged to pick up, return or swap books. “We’ve had loads of people, young business people go rushing, usually on the way to work looking at their phones. Now they’re grabbing a book, taking it with them and putting another one in on their way home.”
9. Sharing positivity through posters
Deep has been recognised by his community for radiating positivity in a unique approach. He has stripped the shop windows of conventional adverts and replaced them with posters inspired by Hindu principles of good karma. “We started to put big signs up in our window,” he says. “I took down all the other stuff that most shops have on their window, things like lottery and Coca-Cola. People have been fascinated, people get off the bus at the bus stop and take a picture. We just had a man come in and say ‘I’m loving all the good karma stuff outside’ and I thought its really nice that people make remarks on the posters we have up.”
Deep explains that as well as giving out words of wisdom to help people feel inspired to be kind, they also hand out posters that promote positive energy. Many locals on Facebook have praised Deep for his good vibes, with one user calling him “one of life’s true treasures”.
“Why oh why can’t more people be like you? Such inspirational folk, I admire your grace and humility,” - wrote one Facebook user.