Living in Mumbai? You must have crossed the Haji Ali signal zillions of times. It’s a short signal, which means your wait is much longer. And while you are waiting, looking from your smart phones, you might be fortunate enough to spot Mushtaq Haji Ali, trying to sell you some magazines and books. Even if you do not care for them much, we suggest you buy at least one and help build his dreams.
His dream is very small – he wants to be a runner. He feels its only when he runs that he feels free from his tough life, of responsibilities, of all worries, of wondering where the next meal will come from!
20 years ago, at the very same signal, when he used to sell Mid-day for Rs.1.50, he saw a shoot happening for Procam’s Standard Chartered Half Marathon (Now Tata Mumbai Marathon), scheduled for next day. And people of Procam were kind enough to explain to him what they were doing, he found his calling – to run. On the marathon day, he ran alongside 15,000 people from all walks of life and completed the half marathon in 2 hours, ranking 899.
He had no formal training unlike the others but he ran almost the entire day – when he sold a book to a person in a car and suddenly the signal turned red, he ran behind the cars to get the money. That, essentially was his training.
For seven years now, he has been selling on the signal and many of the regulars, including Ratan Tata and Anil Mahindra know him and put down their window when they see him, asking him about his well being. And then there are others too who unceremoniously shoo him away.
Mushtaq sums it all so well; he says, “I just run in these marathons for my own happiness. It gives me a sense of flying and independence. I have never asked for money to run. God is great and I have often come across good people who help on their own accord.” He further speaks in retrospect, “ Earlier times were different and today is different. On most days, I don’t’ understand what’s happening. I just lose the perspective and feel tired. It is on such days that I run”.