Humming the tune of Yeh dosti hum nahi bhoolenge... from the movie Sholay, Sheru Rickshawala (aka Mohammed Sheru) spends his last evening in Mumbai cycling around Bandstand in his gareeb rath (poor man’s chariot).
This dressed-up cycle-rickshaw is a kitsch connoisseur’s dream come true. The 180-pound ‘gareeb rath’, as he calls it, is completely handmade. A 7-inch LCD screen connected to a Sony front-loading VCD player fixed under the passenger seat belts out Dharmendra evergreens, with sound courtesy Philips speakers. The setup has a 12v dedicated battery pack. In addition, there are 1.5v dry cells power bulbs, taken out of toy cars and used as mini indicator lights. There is a separate 12v battery dedicated to blue, green and red LED lights that are fit in holes drilled inside the rim of brass bicycle wheels—he calls them his melody lights. The chariot has polished brass bodywork moulding the mudguards, brass fabricated spokes and a cut-out of the Taj Mahal under the passenger seat. The latest addition is a hand-made brass replica of the World Cup.
“I came here from Meerut hoping to give Sachin or Dhoni a ride in my chariot. I prayed hard and worked hard (cycling for 14 days), and Allah answered my prayers—we won the World Cup,” says Sheru Rickshawala. “I’m not a cricket fan, but when I saw the opening ceremony on TV, where the cricketers came on the field in cycle rickshaws, I was inspired and thought it would be a fitting end to the event if the Indian team left the field, World Cup in hand, in a cycle rickshaw. So I approached officials in Delhi, who were encouraging. A UP politician gave me a free ticket to watch the match. Sadly, my rickshaw was not allowed in. So I refused to go in as well. Instead, I went to Dharamji’s house and he took me in.”
This is not Sheru’s first trip to B-town. He’s been here several times, hoping to land a role on the silver screen. He’s had his few seconds of fame in Soldier, Baadal and Yamla Pagla Deewana, all courtesy Dharmendra. “The sentiment people in Mumbai have for Salman Khan, we in Meerut have for Dharamji,” he says. “Inshallah, I will be back next year and will wait outside Sachin’s house. I’m sure, someday, he shall take a ride on my gareeb rath.”