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On the Streets

Mohammed Yusuf

A day in the life of a hawker

You see them everywhere, abortion of course. These men and women selling wares of every kind along the street. When was the last time you stopped to talk to one of them, treatment not to make a purchase but to find out who they are? Journalist Andrea Fernandes decided to do just that one recent afternoon, and here is her report.

Mohammed Yusuf sells clothes at the Mapusa market. A native of Karnataka, he has been a merchandise vendor for many years. He doesn’t look a day younger than his age, 48, but his face lights up when he engages in friendly banter with customers. Mohammed relies on his natural gregariousness to attract attention and enhance sales, unlike other hawkers who advertise through loud street cries or chants.

Currently a resident of Khorlim, Mapusa, Mohammed has been in Goa since he was 11. He is the sole breadwinner in his family, which consists of himself, his wife and two kids.

Mohammed starts off his day at 9 in the morning after reaching his small children to school. He does his duty of a father well by going to pick his kids up from school later in the day (at around 2 pm) after which he has his lunch and returns back to work by 3 pm. Then he stays there till 9 or 10 pm.

“I myself am not educated but I have a great wish to educate my children as much as possible,” he tells me.

Like many people who sell stuff on the streets of Goa, he does not take home the profits for himself. Whatever income Mohammed earns, he gives to his boss, who in turn pays him a fixed amount of Rs 4000 at the end of every month. (I don’t have to tell anyone how difficult it is to live on that amount of money).

“I began selling clothes since the age of 30. I have a boss who brings the clothes from Mumbai. My clothes prices range from Rs 100 to 200 and my rates vary as per the season. Now at the moment since it’s winter and people like to keep warm I am selling sweaters for Rs 200 each. I even sell raincoats during the monsoons,” Mohammed explains.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that life has not been easy for Mohammed, one of the thousands of people in Goa who earn their daily bread by hawking.

“I live in a rented hut-like house. I had built my own hut once but it was demolished by the police. I tried to seek government aid but it was in vain. I dream of building my own house someday,” says this hawker with a million dreams in his eyes.