Wednesday 19 December 2018

Couple to open newsagents on Christmas Day to give lonely people a hug and a mince pie

Shashi and Pallu Patel Credit: Family Handout/PA Wire
Shashi and Pallu Patel Credit: Family Handout/PA Wire

Helen Chandler-Wilde

A couple are opening their shop on Christmas Day to host anyone who is facing the day alone.

Shashi and Pallu Patel have run newsagents Meet and Deep in Twickenham, south west London, for 35 years since arriving in the UK from Uganda.

They run the shop with the help of their sons Deepen and Meeten.

The couple used to take Christmas Day off as their one day of rest in the year.

However, eight years ago an elderly neighbour called Dorothy fell victim to a scam just before Christmas. She was conned by men who came to her door posing as boiler repair men.

The men stole all the money she had saved from her pension.

"She had no family and was scared," said Deepen.

"We warned others about what had happened to Dorothy, then people started giving donations for her, little sweets or food for her cat.

"We invited Dorothy over on Christmas Day. We gave her the big sack of presents we'd collected and she cried and said it was the best Christmas of her life."

From then on, the family realised that other people would be alone and in need of help over the Christmas period.

"Although it's a lovely time of year, it can be tough for others," said Deepen.

"People feel they have no one to talk to because everyone is preoccupied celebrating, they don't want to bring them down."

So they began opening the shop on Christmas Day, welcoming in anyone who was lonely for a mince pie and a chat.

They quickly realised that it was not just older people who were lonely.

"One man who came in had just got divorced, so his children were with his ex-wife. He had all the food and the presents at home but no one to celebrate with," said Deepen.

Even though Christmas Day was the one day off they had all year, the family still think it is worth going into work.

"My parents are getting a bit old, so we asked them if they wanted to not work. But they said no, they want to make sure they are serving the people who rely on them."

Although the Patels are Hindu, they believe in celebrating all religious festivals.

"My parents brought my family up to believe there's just one power with many names, you can celebrate all divinity in every way," said Deepen.

"We have the tree and the decorations, a special meal, light some candles and have a crucifix," he said.

"In Hinduism the main message is to help everybody in life, especially those less fortunate.

"Everybody should have somebody at Christmas, so we try to be that somebody."

Press Association

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