Leisure, Lifestyle & Wellness
From Street Child to Published Writer & Entrepreneur: Amin Sheikh’s extraordinary journey
Amin Sheikh, the runaway kid, is now grown up into an accomplished writer and ready to start his new venture. His library café would provide employment and world of opportunities for those who will be leaving the children’s home after attaining 18 years of age
 
“Everybody deserves to be treated with love and respect,” he says, with equal measures of conviction and humility. “What is the point of an education that doesn't teach one the value of unconditional love?” 
 
These words are of Amin Sheikh – once a street child who ran away from an abusive home at the tender age of five, now the proud owner of a travel enterprise and a published writer. His story is both chilling and inspiring; he experienced unspeakable horrors at a young age as a homeless child on the streets of Mumbai, but he also met people whom he calls his “angels” who brought him out of that nightmare. While he credits these “angels” for what he is today, it is also because of his own optimism and the will to do something good for society. 
 
Amin worked at a tea-stall as a young boy and was subject to abuse by his stepfather and sometimes his mother too. One day, he tripped and smashed many cups of tea while on his way to deliver the tea to a nearby factory. Afraid of what the tea-stall owner would do to him, Amin ran. He ran as far as his feet could take him. He ended up at a railway station, where he spent the next three years of his life. The travails those years left him both wise and embittered. He pelted stones at the woman who came to rescue him, unable to trust anyone at all. Thankfully, she persisted. It was Sister Seraphina from Snehasadan, an institution that fosters and educates homeless children. The day he entered Snehasadan, his life changed. In the eight years he spent there, he made friends and felt protected and loved. Though never keen on academics, he was always a quick learner. He worked with a newspaper vendor, and later set up his own newspaper stall. He learnt how to drive and got himself a driver's license. He then went to work for Eustace Fernandes. He became his son in the thirteen years he worked there and also managed to learn English and later set up his own transportation business. 
 
In 2002, Eustace asked him what he wanted for Christmas. Amin requested to accompany him on his trip to Barcelona. That Christmas, Amin's life took a new turn. “Travelling has been my true education”, he says. Since 2003, Amin has travelled across Europe several times. “What is the difference between them and us Indians? It's just colour, isn't it? But how is it that they know how to respect all people? To be patient and kind to all irrespective of who they are or where they come from?” His questions are simple, but no one has the answers. 
 
On writing his first Book: 
 
His book, the story of his life -- Bombay Mumbai: Life is Life, I am Because of You was published in January 2013. Since then, it has sold over 9500 copies across the world in three languages. It took him three years to write, edit and publish the book. He did all this with the help of his friends from all over the world. The book also has a mission. He wants to use the funds raised from the sale of his book to set up his own Library Cafe – Bombay to Barcelona. His friends help him set up stalls to sell more copies of his book. He himself sells them on the streets. Amin has already managed to raise almost 40% of the funds he needs to set up his dream cafe. He is positive that the rest will fall into place soon. 
 
The experience of writing the book was cathartic, he says. He had to face all the emotions – the joys and the sorrows - he had buried in some corner of his mind for years. “It was very painful sometimes,” he admits. “No one except the one who has experienced the pain truly understands it. Healing takes time and patience. I learned this as I wrote my story.” 
 
Not just that - he already has plans to write another book, a full-length novel this time. 
 
On his dream – 'Bombay to Barcelona':
 
“The name of my cafe has a secret to it. “Bombay to Barcelona” holds meaning. I will reveal it on the day my cafe opens”, he says cheerfully. “Institutions like Snehasadan are a blessing for homeless children. They take care of them and educate them. But what happens after that? Barely out of school, what are the opportunities available to them in this world of tough competition? I want to be there for them. I will take them in and provide employment. They will work at my cafe. Whatever money we make, we will use that to help other children in need.”
 
He has a clear vision in his mind. He knows exactly what his library cafe stands for – it won't be a place to be visited exclusively by the elite. His library cafe, he says, will be one where everyone is welcome. Where everyone will be treated as equals. Where even a poor child can have a cookie or a milkshake because he wishes to have one. Where one can read and enjoy tranquility. A safe haven for all, with none of the injustices of the world outside. 
 
On Life
 
What is the secret to his unending optimism, I ask. His answer is simple. “If I subject others to what I went through, things will never change. The “bad” is a vicious cycle. It needs to break somewhere. I choose to be good. To myself and to others. I forgive my mother for what she did to me. Life is a learning process. And this is what I have learned. To multiply what is good. I was lucky to have found angels in my life, who helped me become who I am today. So I want to do the same for other children, the other little Amin-s who are still on the streets.” 
 
 
Amin will also be present at the Moneylife Foundation's 5th Anniversary Celebration on 7 February 2015 at YB Chavan Hall (Nariman Point, Mumbai). You can meet him and buy your copy of his book for Rs300. To register for the event, please click here

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COMMENTS

Ralph Rau

2 years ago

Interesting story. It made me wonder if Amin Sheikh follows any faith. Is it his personal business or should the state intervene with a "Freedom of Religion" legislation arguing that his adoption
from the street constituted "inducement" of a better life

Ramanathan Ganesh

2 years ago

Great Article well written.

Good to know about such "Love Stories" also amongst so many "hate Stories" filling up all pages of our dailies and magazines..

Ganesh

SookieSkipper

2 years ago

His perception on life is truly simplistic and inspirational. "Bad" is indeed a vicious cycle that once broken will start a path to a better life. Its amazing how one person can bring about change in bunch of young adults who deserve nothing but a chance for redemption.

TracFone Failed Promise to Offer Unlimited Data Costs them $40 Million
The largest prepaid mobile provider in US settles charges it throttled customers
 
When TracFone, the nation’s largest prepaid cell phone provider, promised unlimited data, it really meant, not so much. The company agreed Wednesday to pay $40 million to settle FTC charges that it deceived customers with its $45 per month “unlimited” data plans, such as Straight Talk, Net 10, Simple Mobile and Telcel America. 
 
Instead of actually providing unlimited data, the company drastically slowed or cut off consumers’ mobile data after they used more than a certain amount in a 30-day period, the FTC said in its complaint. Data throttling hinders a smartphone user’s ability to search the web, use GPS navigation and watch streaming video, among other applications.
 
“The issue here is simple,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “When you promise consumers ‘unlimited’ that means unlimited.”
 
In October 2014, the FTC filed suit against AT&T alleging that the company data throttled more than 3.5 million customers since October 2011, reducing data speeds by 80 to 90 percent until the next billing cycle began. AT&T said the allegations were baseless.
 
TracFone slowed data service when a customer used one to three gigabytes and suspended data service when the customer used four to five gigabytes, the FTC said in its suit against TracFone.
According to the lawsuit, one TracFone employee who tested the effects of throttling said: “Customer experience is affected because (it) is very slow… Regular users like me may get upset.”
 
Ya think?
 
Consumers on the Straight Talk, Net10, Simple Mobile or Telcel American unlimited plan can file a claim for a refund at www.ftc.gov/prepaidphones.
 
Read more here about cellular companies and deceptive advertising. 
 

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US Acknowledges Conviction of David Hicks, Guantanamo Detainee, Should Not Stand
US Acknowledges Conviction of David Hicks, Guantanamo Detainee, Should Not Stand
 
The United States has acknowledged that the conviction of an Australian man held for nearly six years in Guantanamo Bay was not legally valid.
 
The Australian, David Hicks, was one of the first people sent to Guantanamo, and he has already figured in a key U.S. court decision that expanded the rights of detainees held in the offshore prison. Initially charged with multiple crimes, including conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism, attempted murder, and aiding the enemy, Hicks ultimately pleaded guilty to a single charge of providing "material support'' to terrorism.
 
Hicks recently appealed, arguing that the law used against him was passed after 9/11 and could not be applied retroactively. In its reply, the U.S. argued that the review court should refuse to review the case because Hicks had entered a guilty plea. But in a crucial concession, the military commission's chief prosecutor said that if the appeal were allowed, "the Court should not confirm Hicks's material-support conviction." 
 
The Jan. 16 brief by Brig. Gen. Mark S. Martins was obtained by ProPublica and has not yet been made public.
 
"Hicks will finally get justice," said Michael Mori, a Marine Corps major who was Hicks' military lawyer. Mori is now out of the military and is no longer involved in the case, but he said he has seen a copy of the prosecutor's brief, as did two lawyers currently representing Hicks.
 
Hicks would not have been convicted in the first place "if the case had been tried in federal court, instead of the politically motivated military commissions," said Mori, author of a book about the case, "In the Company of Cowards: Bush, Howard and Injustice at Guantanamo," which was published last September.
 
The latest development is a striking retreat for the American government. The Bush administration initially described Hicks as among the "worst of the worst," the label used for the men held in Guantanamo. And in 2007, when Hicks was still in Guantanamo, the American ambassador in Australia, Robert D. McCallum Jr., described the Guantanamo detainees as "ruthless fanatics who would kill Australians and Americans without blinking an eye."
 
Hicks' case stands out in any discussion about the use of the military commissions in the war on terror. He was a Westerner, Detainee 002 (001 was another Westerner, John Walker Lindh, from San Francisco. Lindh pleaded guilty in federal court to two-terrorism-related charges in 2002 and was sentenced to 20 years in prison) and he was on the first plane bringing prisoners to Guantanamo.
 
Later, Hicks was a plaintiff in the lawsuit that resulted in the Supreme Court ruling that Guantanamo detainees had the right to file habeas petitions in civilian courts to challenge their detention. And he was the first person convicted and sentenced by the military commission.
Many legal analysts have questioned whether the military process begun by the Bush administration can ever arrive at the truth. How can a judge assess a statement extracted by torture? How reliable are the allegations in the government's indictments when prosecutors overcharged, as they did in Hicks' case? If the Bush administration had allowed suspects to be tried in federal courts, the government's charges and the suspects' claims of innocence could have been put to rigorous test.
 
In the case of David Hicks, opinions remain divided over whether he was a lost soul in search of adventure and meaning in his life or a committed Taliban supporter, who, with his Caucasian skin and Australian passport, was being groomed by al-Qaida to carry out terrorist attacks in the West.
 
A heavy drinker and drug user, Hicks was expelled from school at 14. He was only 5-feet-5-inches tall, but he played Australian Rules football, which is physically more demanding than rugby, and became a kangaroo skinner in Australia's Outback; he then went to Japan to train horses. Tired of that, he ventured to the Balkans where he joined the Kosovo Liberation Army, which at the time was fighting with NATO support against Slobodan Milosevic, Serbia's leader. When that war ended, he returned to Australia, and after trying unsuccessfully to join the Australian army, he went to Pakistan, hoping to ride the Silk Trail on horseback, he told his parents.
 
There, he found Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistani-supported organization battling India in the disputed territory of Kashmir. Lashkar-e-Taiba eventually ended up on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations and executed the 2008 attack on Mumbai that killed 166 people, including six Americans. But at the time, the group was officially viewed as a collection of regional insurgents.
Lashkar sent Hicks to Afghanistan for training. American and Australian officials have said that he attended at least four al-Qaida camps.
 
 
Related stories: Read more of ProPublica's coverage of Guantanamo Bay.
 
Courtesy: ProPublica.org

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