For over four decades, Bhagwati Yadav sold pani-puri at Napean Sea Road in south Mumbai, which made him a known figure in the area, and his use of packaged water for preparing this tangy-sweet snack made him all the more popular.
However, his death due to coronavirus last month moved some of his regular customers so much that they launched a fundraising campaign to help the family of their favourite pani-puri wala.
According to them, this initiative was their way of paying tributes to the late street-side vendor.
Talking to PTI, Girish Agarwal, a tech-lead in a digital agency, said that he was a regular customer at the late pani-puri wala.
"Yadavji had been doing his business since the 46 years, which is much before I was born. Whether summer or monsoon, he was always there between 5 pm and 9 pm and the taste of his pani-puri never changed," 34-year-old Agarwal recalled.
Yadav was famously known as 'Bisleri pani-puri wala' as he would use packaged water to make the popular snack, he said.
"When the lockdown started, his business stopped. In May, I learnt from one of my building residents that Yadavji, who used to walk all the way from his house in Walkeshwar to Napean Sea Road, is no more as he succumbed to COVID-19 on May 23," he said.
Agarwal said he spoke to his friends and decided to collect funds for Yadav's family .
"We felt we should do something for the family. I could not do it on my own. Therefore, we created a fund raiser link on an online crowd sourcing platform and shared it on WhatsApp to our contacts," he added.
"Due to the word of mouth awareness, we have so far received more than 125 contributors who have collectively donated Rs 2.5 lakh so far. Our target is to collect Rs 5 lakh for the family," he said.
The contributors are not only from Napean Sea Road, but from other parts across Mumbai and also from abroad, Agarwal said.
In his online message seeking contribution, Agarwal said, "...The virus that affected the lives of all of us unfortunately took the life of Yadavji. While we can try to find another snacking spot, his family will gravely miss a loving father, husband and provider. They need our support...
Will make sure your generosity reaches his wife and daughter." Yadav's daughter, Kusum, said that she and her family were overwhelmed by the support of her father's customers.