On 15th July, 28-year-old Mumbai-based IT professional, Vimal Cherangattu was on his way to work in an autorickshaw. He was stuck in a traffic jam at Malad’s infamous Mith Chowki signal when a young girl selling roses approached him.
She couldn’t have been much older but was carrying the roses in one hand, and a tiny baby in the other. Vimal was busy typing away on his phone when she kept persuading him to buy the roses. He quickly handed over a 10 rupee note. But it wasn’t what the little girl had her eyes on.
She pointed out at the umbrella placed onto his rickshaw seat and hesitantly said, “Chhata chahiye. (Give me the umbrella).”
Recalling the incident in an interview with The Better India, Vimal says, “It was at that moment that it struck me that this girl and the baby she was carrying were drenched from head to toe. They were both shivering due to the cold. In the spur of the moment, my hands moved of their own accord and gave my umbrella away. I kept thinking how in the last 28 years of having lived in the city, nobody has ever asked me for an umbrella.
“Most people at a signal may ask you for food, money, but an umbrella was certainly an unusual request. It hit me like a ton of bricks how an umbrella was a luxury to the many underprivileged pavement-dwelling families and especially their children.”
When the need for food takes precedence over pretty much every other requirement they may have, an umbrella certainly doesn’t fit the list. Long after the rickshaw had moved, Vimal couldn’t get the picture of the shivering girl and the baby out of his mind.
She was overjoyed when her gave her the umbrella. She even invited more of her friends inside it to take shelter against the heavy rains. The minute the signal opened, Vimal took to a WhatsApp group with his friends and told them that he wanted to promote this cause.
Vimal may be an IT professional, but he is no designer, he admits. But they say when passion drives you, nothing can come your way. He created a post using PowerPoint where he added the story and asking people to contribute umbrellas. Little did he know that netizens would pick it up and how.
The WhatsApp post went viral, and overnight, he started getting numerous calls from people, not only in Mumbai but other cities and states across India and even across the world.
While most of them decided to send umbrellas at the office address he had mentioned, many of them came forward to contribute cash to buy umbrellas. The initial goal of Vimal and his friends was to collect 100 umbrellas and Rs 10,000. But they crossed that number within a day.
“In a matter of ten days, we have over 700 crowdsourced umbrellas and Rs 40,000 in cash to arrange for more. We have also struck a deal with a local umbrella manufacturer in Malad who is giving us umbrellas at Rs 80 a piece.”
He continues, “I am moved by the support people showed. Even celebrities like Vir Das, Vishal Dadlani and Milind Deora have given the cause a shoutout.”
Vimal and his friends will be conducting their first umbrella distribution drive this Sunday, July 29, 2018. They have reached out to volunteers and divided the city into clusters.
“There is a Navi Mumbai team, a Western Express Highway Bandra to Dahisar team, South Bombay team, Link road and SV road teams etc., which will cover different spots of the city and distribute these umbrellas among underprivileged kids and their families. We will be on the road this Sunday, and we are inviting as many people to join us for the drive. The happiness you feel after spreading smiles on the faces of these street kids will be unmatched, you have my word,” says Vimal.
For all those hoping to drop their umbrellas, Vimal is collecting them at this office, which has extended its support by giving him a separate room to stock all the umbrellas being donated.
“We are surrounded by so much negativity each day that we fail to see the goodness around. People who got in touch with me have been blindly supporting the cause. I am a complete stranger, and yet the love they have showered towards the cause is beyond moving. One of the contributors, Sourav Ganguly who got in touch with me, sent me cash. When I confirmed that I had received his contribution, I also invited him for the distribution. He said he couldn’t because he was physically challenged. I was really touched,” adds Vimal.
An umbrella is a small contribution. If you cannot buy one, Vimal’s team is also accepting broken umbrellas that may be lying around your homes, willing to repair them and give them away to these kids.
Who would have known an umbrella could spread happiness?
To help the cause, send your umbrellas or drop them at the below address:
101, 1st floor,
Goregaon East, Mumbai 400063
If you aren’t based out of Mumbai and wish to donate money for the cause, get in touch with Vimal Cherangattu at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at +91 98706 81380.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)