Name: Shyamlal Adak Das
Profession – Phoolwala – Florist.
21 years young Adak left his studies after the 8th standard 8 years ago, and arrived in Mumbai from Kolkatta, to earn a livelihood, as his parents (both are farmers), could not afford to educate him further. He has a younger brother.
Adak’s day begins at 5 am when he travels to Dadar flower market to buy fresh flowers. He likes his profession because he gets to roam around delivering flowers (walking or riding) and decorating homes and offices during religious festivals or wedding events, or when people buy a new car, etc. He says he chooses to be a retailer selling flowers seated on a pavement as he gets to travel delivering flowers, rather than be a wholesaler of flowers stuck at one spot all day long, even though wholesaling will make him more money he prefers retailing and decorating places himself.
The most challenging time he’s faced was when he arrived in Mumbai and could not find a place to live that he could afford. He says, luckily his uncle was running the florist shop on the corner of perry cross road and turner road, and he handed Adak the reins of the nearly 15 years old florist business and went away to the village; Adak has been running the pavement shop since then.
Back in Kolkatta, when Adak left school due to poverty, he worked with a florist in Kolkatta for a few months and learnt the trade of being a florist.
I asked him what was his biggest suffering when he arrived to a new city without money; he replied he missed his home and parents and brother the most when he arrived here, and that was the biggest suffering of those initial years in Mumbai.
It made me realize once again that a man, or woman, leaves his village, his place of birth, with such a great sense of loss of that old world, his HOME.
I asked him, because he sells stuff on a pavement are there some regular problems he faces; he replied, the biggest nuisance he faces are from the ‘hawaldar’ level cops who do not pay for the flowers they take from him. However the high ranking police officers insist on paying him each and every time they order flowers, and they never take flowers without forcing him to accept their payment! So he has high regards for the high ranking police officers of Mumbai.
I asked him who has given him the most respect even though someone may treat him like a ‘just a phoolwala/ flower vendor’ ; he replied, the one person who has given him the most respect, even though he is just a ‘phoolwala’, flower seller, is, actor Anil Kapoor’s mother, and someone from Anil’s family who lives on perry cross road. When he visits Anil Kapoor’s Mother’s house at Lokhandwala for flower decorations or flower delivery, she always makes it a point to ask him how he is and advises him about life, tells him hard work is the only way to a better life and happiness, offers him water,, etc. Adak paused when he said this, his eyes had turned moist as he looked away in the distance, as though he saw her kind face right then in his mind’s eye, I felt.
Thank you to young Changez (our youngest donor so far!!!, donated from his first job’s salary) and to his dad Shyam Keswani, for donating a new bike to Adak; Adak gave us in exchange his old bike which we will donate to some needy person, most probably to an old gardener I have met.