If you go to the vegetable market in Bhopal’s Bluemoon Colony you might see a kirana shop (a small general store) where 30-year-old Saddam Khan handles sales and operates a photocopier machine. “I open my shop at 10 a.m. and shut it only at 11 p.m.” he tells us. He doesn’t have far to commute, though. He just has to take a few steps to reach his house, since the shop is attached to it.
Taking steps is not very easy for Saddam, who was struck by polio at age three. But his life has been on an even keel so far. “I had a great time in school,” he recalls. “My dearest friend in school was Mohit Saini who is my best friend even now. He runs a flower shop close by. We meet very often and also play chess together.” Although Saddam does like playing online games like Super Mario Brothers on his mobile, chess is by far his favourite game.
Saddam’s father Naseem Khan (61) opened this shop for him in 2015 after he completed Class 12, telling him, “You can either keep studying or take care of this shop.” Saddam did both. He did his Bachelors in Chartered Accountancy (BCA) and would have liked to pursue MCA and “work for a company” except for the exigencies of the family economy. “Once I got married I realised I needed to take care of my wife and kids, and running the shop made more sense.” He and his wife Shehnaz Khatoon (25) live in his parents’ home with their two sons: four-year-old Mohammad Ahad and Mohammad Ali who is just one month old.
Naseem Khan, who is a Class 1 thekedar (contractor), and his wife Khadija Khatoon (55) hail from Bihar but later moved to Bhopal. (Incidentally, we learnt that Khatoon is not a surname but an honorific title of Turkish origin, given to women.) Saddam has two older and two younger sisters: Sabeena, Raveena, Tabassum and Zeenat. “They are all married and live nearby and we meet regularly,” says Saddam. “My family has been my biggest support.” He is especially close to Raveena, who has always looked out for him. Even now she tells him, when there is a chore to be done, “You stay here, I’ll do it for you.” One or the other of his family members looks after the shop when he takes a break.
Saddam got married in 2017. “Shehnaz is my aunt’s daughter and hails from Bihar,” he says. “She is very sweet natured.” He adds: “She is always trying out new dishes – her kababs are my favourite!”
Saddam says he always wanted to work for the public good. Now he wishes his two sons would do the same – earn the respect of society by working for their welfare. “I would very much like them to be a doctor and a police officer – that is, if they show interest in these vocations.”