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'We all have a kindness in us': This Easton restaurant is helping cool off the community

Complimentary water at Tandoor Grill
John Huffman
Tandoor Grill in Easton recently put out a refrigerator stocked with free water for passersby, resulting in an outpouring of gratitude from community members.

EASTON, Pa. — As people pass by Raj Muddu's Indian restaurant, Tandoor Grill, at North 3rd and Northampton streets, they bump him on the shoulder, shake his hand and say, "Hey, Raj!"

He and his wife, Priya, are well-known figures in not only the Easton community, but the Lehigh Valley community as a whole, because they bought Jimmy's Hot Dogs in May.

Muddu knows each person by name and greets them back.

"I love my community," he said. "It has such a neighborhood-y feel."

So when the heat index reached the triple digits over the weekend, he decided to help out in a special way.

On June 20, an old refrigerator stocked with dozens of water bottles appeared outside of Muddu's restaurant, which he has co-owned with his wife, Priya, since 2018.

A sign taped onto the fridge reads: "Complimentary water. Stay hydrated. —Tandoor Grill."

"There's an old saying that goes: 'People can live without love, but they cannot live without water, so, I thought to myself; what can I do?"
Raj Muddu

The Lehigh Valley was smothered by a heat dome earlier last week, transforming a region with usually palatable springtime temps into an oven.

The region prepared itself to the best of its ability, but nothing could stop the oppressive heat wave.

Muddu said he loves the heat, (he is from southern India) but he knows that not everyone else does.

He recalled his upbringing in the city of Hyderabad, where he and his schoolmates would have to ration water throughout their day.

"It was just a part of our routine," he said.

"There's an old saying that goes: 'People can live without love, but they cannot live without water. So I thought to myself, 'What can I do?'"

'Extraordinary person'

Muddu said the complimentary water will remain outside of his restaurant for as long as people need it.

"We all have a kindness in us," Muddu said. "We get so wrapped up in our day-to-day world, we forget about it sometimes."

The refrigerator full of water was instantly met with an outpouring of gratitude from the community.

A Facebook post from an Easton community member on June 21 resulted in a love fest for Raj and his kind gesture, tallying nearly 700 likes and 50 shares.

A variety of comments said things such as, "Kindness is amazing...and hopefully contagious!" and "I know where my next meal is coming from" and "This is what a business should be about."

"When you have a combination of humility and selflessness, that makes for an extraordinary person. He is an extraordinary person."
Nanci Hummer

That's exactly what Muddu said he sees it as: a simple and kind gesture.

A soft-spoken man and self-described "shy guy," Muddu said he does nothing for fanfare or attention.

But people such as Nanci Hummer, his next-door neighbor and owner of The Loving Piece, a "magical and metaphysical shop," think he is deserving of more credit than he gives himself.

"When you have a combination of humility and selflessness, that makes for an extraordinary person," she said, glancing over at the 10-foot-tall rubber tree plant he once gifted her.

"He is an extraordinary person."