Updated: February 13, 2016 5:12:27 am
FOR SEVERAL office-goers as well as revellers, the last pit-stop for the day before heading home is often a cycle-wallah, one like Sayyed Fazlu whose cycle is parked outside Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus. Fazlu, 68, offers the tired and the work-weary their little ‘sutta break’, a cigarette or a hot cup of milky tea or Boost or a packet of pan masala. Those who manage to make it to CST before 1 or 1.30 am looking for that last cigarette are usually not disappointed.
What makes Fazlu especially sought after is that post 11 pm, there are only a few pan-beedi shops open around CST.
Around 1 am or a little later, Fazlu cycles off to home, in a slum not far from the General Post Office (GPO). He lives there with his wife and a son who has found work as a driver.
Originally from Karnataka, Fazlu came to the city in 1964, worked on a ship as a bhandari (storekeeper), did odd jobs and then served as a cook in several hotels before he began his own enterprise of selling cigarettes from a cycle. “Since the 1990s, I have been selling wares from my cycle from several places in south Mumbai. Earlier I would operate all night long, till 5.30 am, but age has caught up now,” he says. “The most difficult part is to remain standing all night. Now, I wind up around 1 am and go home. My legs cannot take the strain any more,” Fazlu says.
Another irritant for the tired old man is that everyone now is always in a hurry. “They all want to catch a train and insist that I cater to them first. Some people get irritated. But luckily there hasn’t been any untoward incident,” says the man who has been operating from outside CST for five years now.
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He managed to purchase a cycle of his own with the requisite paraphernalia a few years ago. Gushing, he says, “It takes at least Rs 7500 for the entire set-up.” The cycle cost over Rs 3500. In addition, he paid Rs 1800 for a basket at the front where he keeps mouth-fresheners, mints, packets of chocolate-flavoured Boost, a metallic box for cigarettes and beedis as well as two thermos flasks. He incurs a daily expense of Rs 800 on beedi, cigarettes and tea, all of which he manages to sell, he says. He also keeps a small plastic bucket, handy for waste disposal.
The downsides? Every once in a while a policeman will saunter up and ask for a beedi or cigarette and walk off. But Fazlu doesn’t mind — the police are helpful when there are minor problems. Having friendly policemen also means other ‘cycle wallahs’ cannot occupy his spot easily. He knows what it takes to operate out of a prime spot in Mumbai.
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