Inspiring! This homeless Mumbai street kid is now the owner of his dream cafe

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Amin Sheikh, an ordinary Mumbai street kid turned his life's obstacles into opportunities and is now providing employment to other homeless kids

Running away from the past and into the future is not new to Amin Sheikh.

It was in 1985, when he first ran away from an abusive home. He then started working at a tea shop and ran away from there too after breaking a few glasses and fearing the consequences.

For the next three years, Shiekh lived on the streets of Mumbai, and would come back to his home only to run away again from his abusive step father.

Then, in 1988, his life changed for good.

He met a nun from Sneha Sadan, a shelter for the homeless in Mumbai. Along with his sister and their friend at Dadar station, Shiekh moved into a place he would call home for the next few years.

Today, Shiekh is 36 and threw open the doors of his plush cafe called the Bombay to Barcelona Library Cafe, near Marol, on Independence Day.

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How did a homeless child start a cafe?

“This restaurant did not fall down from the sky,” Sheikh said in his inaugural speech, as reported by Scroll. “All of you made it happen. I am because of you.”

Although he never really had any formal education, Sheikh worked hard to make ends meet and started a travel agency called Sneha Travels, named after the homeless shelter he lived in most of his life.

Through this travel agency, he dreamt of someday building his own cafe. In fact, his life struggles were chronicled in the book Bombay Mumbai: Life is Life: I Am Because of You. This book sold over 12,000 copies and was translated into Spanish and catalan by a Spanish customer of his travel agency.

Continue reading to know how Sheikh started a Spain-inspired cafe!

How did he open a Spain-inspired cafe?

When Sheikh was just 18, Eustace Fernandes, a creative director at an advertising home took him under his wings. He did odd jobs for new mentor who helped him through his transition into a full-time employee at the Sneha Sadan.

Sheikh soon became close to Fernandes, who often referred to him as his own son. He was then sponsored by Fernandes to visit Spain and this led to his Spanish-inspiration.

But there was another connect.

The news of the book spread as far as Figueres, a town in Catalonia, Spain. Here, Maria Antonia Perez, a retired public official, came across this orange-cover book in a library in April while studying English.

She and her husband found the book so compelling that they decided to spend their annual holiday here in Mumbai, and teach Sheikh some tips and tricks about running a restaurant. How you ask?

Well, the couple have been running their own cafe in Spain for over 25 years, and didn’t mind lending a helping hand to Sheikh!

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Perez’s husband Carlos helping out the staff in the kitchen

Staff is like family

Most of the employees who are currently working at Sheikh’s cafe were homeless street children at some point in their lives. They came to know of Shekh through Sneha Sadan and other NGOs.

But Sheikh does not treat them like employees. For him they are his own children.

“They are not employees,” he told Scroll. “They might not be educated, but they have different talents. Anil has a passion for cuisine and look at him, he is a street boy who is now building his own identity. I want them all to have their identities.”

Sheikh believes that one need not be big to change other’s point of view.

“This is what I want my children to learn. Even though someone has not respected you, you can still take this space for yourself. You do not need to be big to change someone’s life. And if my street boys and girls and can do this, anyone can,” he says.

Now that’s inspirational!

Read: Abused and tortured for 20 years, this Mumbai mum is now a strong and hopeful fighter! 

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Written by

Deepshikha Punj