PANJIM: If you’ve strolled through the streets of Panjim, chances are you’ve spotted a familiar figure—a white-haired gentleman cheerfully riding his bicycle with two bags brimming with packets of milk, making his rounds for door-to-door delivery. Meet Sheikh Abdul Gaffar, a true icon in the city’s landscape.
Gaffar’s day begins at 3.30am, when the milk vans of Goa Dairy, Amul, Varna, Mahananda and other companies begin to arrive. “Earlier there used to be theft of milk packets, if I come late, since the vans used to leave the milk on the pavement. So now I work from 3.30am to 11 pm,” Gaffar narrates. He works an unbelievable 19 and half hours even at this age. He used to sell other brands but because of envy, that he was hogging the entire milk business, he gave up selling milk of some companies.
“Now the Goan milk business has collapsed. Outsiders are supplying milk from
door-to-door on cycles,” Gaffar rues.
Besides milk, Gaffar, whose shop is located opposite the Goa College of Pharmacy, sells bread, bottled water, soft drinks, bread and is much loved by his faithful customers for whom he offers attractive discounts.
“This work is more of social service. I offer discounts to my customers. Though the printed price on a packet of parathas is Rs 90, I sell it for Rs 60. I also offer discounts on crates of bottled water. Now I will float a scheme for Goa Dairy milk. If anyone gives me the correct change, I will offer a 500ml packet for Rs 28, while the printed price is Rs 29,” he says.
Before he became the largest distributor of milk, selling about 90 crates of milk a day, he went through a hard life. Born in Panjim in 1947, his family moved to Bombay a few years later. He was the eldest child of Jamaluddin Sheikh from Ratnagiri and Sherifa Bi of Panjim. Gaffar had two brothers and two sisters. Unfortunately, one brother and one sister died during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In Bombay, he recalls labouring through his childhood -making and selling cow-dung cakes, cutting grass, and he also took up a porter’s job to earn money to stay in school, since they were very poor. “I have studied till Class VIII in Urdu. After my father died, my uncle brought us back to Goa,” Gaffar states.
Initially he had a government job and worked for the PWD Sewerage department. After about 25 years in service, he purchased a shop and started the pioneering milk distribution business in Panjim, in 1964. As a side hustle, he also bought 510 cycles (the largest number in Goa) which he rented out for 10 paise per hour and Re 1 per day, in the good old days in Goa, when cycles were rented.
It was during the Covid-19 pandemic that Gaffar went out of his way to help people. He was among the few that kept his shop open for customers. “There would be long queues for milk at my shop during Covid lockdown.
While others sold milk at inflated prices, I sold at the printed price. I also did social service by giving food to the poor and needy,” he says.
Over the years, Gaffar has been
recognised for his outstanding contributions to the community, receiving accolades from companies like Goa Dairy, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, and Rotary Club for his exemplary work ethic
and dedication. Here’s wishing the amiable milkman-social worker of Panjim a long innings.