The entrepreneur in me keeps finding inspirations from the road side hawkers and vendors in Mumbai. I have some how developed a fascination to talk to these guys and know more about them. First it was Bilal, the carpenter, then the unidentified flower vendor at a Mumbai signal and now Ramsharan, a vendor who sells Bananas outside the Bhandup station. So here is the story…
I hadn’t singled out any one vendor as such. However whenever I went to a railway station (which I dont do often), I was always fascinated by the sight of all the vendors outside the railway stations. So few days back I thought of asking one or two of them about their story. Nothing much, I just wanted to know what made them get into this business, how do they live, where are they from and how they cope with MNS 🙂 But believe me, not a single person was ready to give me time. Probably I went at the wrong time. 8pm. It is their prime business hour and no one wanted to answer my silly questions. I tried again next day, this time at 10pm. But the result was same. Finally I got hold of this banana vendor Ramsharan. I had to lie that I was from Times of India (I had a business card of a poor Times Business sales guy. I passed it on to him 🙂 )
Ramsharan (He refused to tell his full name. He said its complicated) is originally from Jhajauli village of Shehdol district in Madhya Pradesh. A 50 some thing man, he came to Mumbai 14 years back in search of, hold your breath, a lead role in movies. Like any other small town guy, he too had starry eyed dreams about making it big in the film line. However as soon as he touched down, he knew he was in a wrong place. He didn’t give up though, and went through the ordeal that life threw at him through out. The closest he came to stardom was holding lights and reflectors during some song sequence in a Hritik Ameesha starrer ‘Aap Muze achhe lagne lage’. That was nothing but he cherishes the moment being so close to the superstars.
By now I had already spent 10 minutes with him and he patiently managed to juggle between his banana customers and me. He excused from the stall for a minute and asked if I could man the ‘tokri’ till the time he was back. I assumed he went for a nature’s call. But when he was back, I was surprised to see two cups of tea. Wow! So he continued. He told me that after the initial struggle, he finally gave up and with few other hopefuls like him, he decided to open a small food stall outside filmcity in Goregaon. Luckily it clicked for him and he continued doing that till three years ago when the 26th July floods swept every thing away. The loss was not huge, but was enough to create a feud between the partners. He was emotionally attached to the stall, since it also connected to the film studios. He could occasionally get a glimpse of big stars coming in and out. But sadly he gave it away and decided never to partner any one. He tried opening a fruit stall in the same location. But being alone, he was driven away by the local goons and other vendors nearby. Finally after some struggle he came to Bhandup station and has been here for last 2 and half years.
By this time we had finished the tea. I offered to pay but he intervened. He said he doesn’t drink or smoke. So a cup of tea for a friend was nothing for him. Moreover no body had asked him about his story till date. So he was delighted. On asking, he said he earlier used to fetch the Bananas from the market in either Vashi or Bhivandi. However it is difficult for one guy to bring the whole bunch so far. So now he buys at the mandai. He makes about 100 or some times 200 bucks in profit per day. He is happy with it. It helps him pay his rent and earn him food for him and his wife. His son works in some garment factory in Surat which he is not aware of. But he sends money occasionally. So he knows son is doing well.
Finally it was time to go. I had to tell him that I dont work for Times of India, but I have a blog and I can give him a coverage on it. He wasn’t upset. In fact he joked saying even if I published his interview in TOI, it would make no difference to him. As he doesn’t understand ‘Angreji’. He might use the same paper to pack some bananas in it. 🙂 A true Indian!