Although Sunday’s Mumbai Marathon is close at hand, running enthusiast Ashok Patil was more concerned about attending to the customers’ needs when a foreigner arrived to meet him at his tea stall in Crawford Market on Wednesday.
The gentleman happened to be the executive producer of Mumbai Marathon’s broadcasters. The purpose of Australian Raymond Hume’s visit was to meet Patil whom he had read about in MiD DAY last year.
This newspaper reported how Patil sold tea during the day and trained hard in the early hours of the morning at Marine Drive for the Marathon. Hume now wants to feature Patil this Sunday while he competes in his fifth Mumbai Marathon. For the first time, Patil will be part of the full marathon.
While talking to Patil, Hume learnt that the tea vendor’s inferior shoes led to his off-colour performance in the Vasai-Virar Marathon three months ago.
Yesterday, Hume visited the tea stall again, this time with a pair of good running shoes which would not cause more harm to Patil’s troublesome left ankle.
“The shoes which Ashok had been wearing were not appropriate for running. The pair I have given him, has extra cushion, is light and easy to run in,” Hume told MiD DAY.
“I am touched by Patil’s running passion. It’s very hard to work the whole day in front of a stove and then train. His last year’s half-marathon timing (1:19:10) is impressive. He can go way ahead if he is encouraged and well-trained,” added Hume.
Patil was lost for words at Hume’s generosity. “Being a foreigner, he (Hume) knows the importance of running and an athlete’s needs. I wish there were more people like Hume in India to extend a helping hand. I hope these new shoes bring me luck,” said Patil.
Hume also encouraged Patil’s customers to help him: “This is the best tea I have ever had and he is the best tea-maker in Mumbai. I request you to drink more of Ashok’s tea.”
Patil arrived in Mumbai from Sangli to earn a living when his father, Shyamrao went missing in the communal riots that shook Mumbai in 1992-93. He is still not sure if his father is dead or alive. He lives with his mother and two young brothers.
Frenchman Jean-Benoît Jaouen, who took part in the veterans category of the 2012 Mumbai Marathon Open event (42 km) and achieved a third place finish, donated half his prize money (Rs 9000) to Patil in April. Patil told MiD DAY yesterday that he donated Rs 5000 towards the renovation of a temple in his village and used the rest for his household needs.