For many Mumbaikars, their local street food vendors are like their family and it was proven when a pani puri seller died of COVID-19 and the area's residents started a fundraiser to help his family.
Bhagwati Yadav, a street vendor in south Mumbai's Napean Sea Road for nearly 46 years, died of coronavirus in early June.
His death came to light recently when residents of the locality started a fundraising campaign online to help his family.
Yadav was famously known as ‘Bisleri pani puri wala’ in and around south Mumbai because he used bottled water for preparing the popular snack. Bisleri is an Indian brand of bottled water.
"For 46 years, Yadavji always put our health first by serving ‘Bisleri’ pani puri. And his generosity knew no bounds, as he would never shy away from handing out one extra puri,’ a statement explaining the cause on the crowdsourcing platform Ketto read.
A commenter, Vidhan Bhandari, remembered meeting Yadav and wrote: “I used to come from Pune to meet my sister and always used to eat his pani puri. He came across as a strict but warm man and his pani puri tasted the best! RIP [rest in peace].”
Started on June 25, the virtual fundraising drive, aimed at collecting Rs 5,00,000 (Dh24,285) in 42 days, and it has already received over half of that amount in three days. Currently, the fundraiser has collected over Dh18,620.
"He was the sole earner in his house. We are in touch with his daughter. We felt like helping his family, so we didn't think much and posted an appeal on a crowdfunding website. We have received rupees two lakhs donation in just two days," Yash Baid, a resident of Napean Sea Road was quoted as saying.
Yadav's concern for the wellbeing of the community shown through his food and hygienic practices set him apart from other street vendors.
His daughter, who lives in their native village in Uttar Pradesh's Azamgarh with her mother, said she was overwhelmed to see people's love for her father.
"Several of his customers have come forward to help us, especially Girish Agarwal sir, who started the initiative on the crowdsourcing platform, has helped us a lot," she was quoted as saying.