In Focus

They risked all to bring you your 'daily bread'

The war seems upon us and the enemy is in no mood to relent. Even as most of us wear masks, stay indoors and safe, there are a few who brave the storm and risk all for us, at these times. The Draft Colaba in its ‘Unsung Warriors’ series goes beyond the usual Corona Warriors to pays a tribute to the few unsung others, each fighting personal battles and winning…all for us.
Here goes the sixth of the series Unsung Warriors: The Pavwalas!

Gangasagar Singh doesn’t look half as brave as he is. The Unsung COVID Warrior who has been selling bread and eggs at the corner of Colaba Market for over seven years now, went about his business throughout the lockdown. “The police have been very kind to me,” he recalls. “Even as they shut down the market on several occasions owing to the rise in number of cases, they let me sell my ware, a little distance away from my shop on the road at the barricade created to prevent movement,” he says.

While most shopkeepers chose to shut shop and stay away in the midst of the pandemic, Gangasagar stood his ground. “After all, I had hundreds of my regular customers who depended on me especially during this period,” he says. While two of his staff left for their homes in Uttar Pradesh, Gangasagar stayed back.

WITH A SMILE: Gangasagar Singh worked throughout the lockdown
Jo hoga dekha jayega,” was third generation bread-shop owner Mohammad Islam’s retort when asked about his fears of contracting Coronavirus while selling his wares at Colaba Cross Lane. Travelling daily from Ganesh Murti Nagar that too hit hard with the virus, Islam has been selling bread, eggs and other items at the more than 50 year old shop.

There were timing restrictions on his shop’s functioning but Islam worked around it. “Jab allow kiya tab khola maine dukaan,” he says. So, while now the shop stays open from 6 am to 9 pm, during the lockdown he would keep it open till 5 pm.

DILIGENT: Mohammad Islam worked in accordance with the law in the lockdown
While the largest of shops and outlets selling essential goods like bread and eggs across Colaba pulled down their shutters during the pandemic to stay safe even depriving their customers of their daily bread, some like 55-year-old Shahana Siddiqui braved the virus, even with her co-morbidity – Diabetes.

Mother of four, Shahana lost her husband Moinuddin Siddiqui, suffering from paralysis, in 2017. The business had been initiated by her husband's grandfather whose son Majid Siddiqui handled it before his son Moinuddin. However, due to her husband's illness, Shahana handled the shop - Majid Bread Shop - selling bread and eggs for over fifteen years till her husband passed away after which she rented out her place to a biryani delivery outlet.

IN CHARGE: Shahana Siddiqui resumed work despite her diabetes
Being diabetic, every year Shahana gets hospitalised. That, however, didn’t dampen her spirit. Somehow, the lockdown and the ensuing loss of revenue from the rent she would get from the shop – owing to the closure in business – charged her with a new-found energy. And, Shahana renewed her bread and egg business, albeit in a small way outside her own shop where she sits from 6.30 am - 12 pm and then 6.30 pm till 8 pm, day after day.

The familiar face brings back memories for local residence who drop by, masked and worried, to Shahana’s shop to buy their daily bread before they leave with gratitude. “The lady has some courage,” says 32-year-old homemaker and Colaba resident Madhavi Menon who is on leave from her once-a-week work for fear of contracting the virus, “I feel so small in front of her.”

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