Today the Kham shop closed its doors.
I first met Shobhana Mistry nearly three years ago at this little shop near Peace Direct’s office in London. It is a corner shop that also houses our local Western union kiosk, and I visit frequently in our quest to send funding to places where it needs to go. ‘Aunty’ as I addressed her, has run her little kiosk in the same place for over 20 years – selling an array of sweets and cigarettes, magazines and lunch time snacks – and also housing our nearest Western union service. Due to renovations of the station, all stores are being closed – and the Kham Shop, the place where Shobhana has worked almost since her arrival in the UK from India, is one of the casualties.
Shobhana works from 6am until lunch time, and is an observant Hindu. Her employed assistant, Hammed, is around in the afternoon and evenings, he is Muslim. We are all on first name terms, and have learnt all of the odd rules for sending money to various places in the world – be it funds for staff travelling, or grants to partners, emergency funds when there is a crisis – to places like Pakistan, Sudan, Congo, Burundi and countless others. Due to the busyness of her kiosk I pretty much enter all of my transactions myself, standing behind the counter, observing the ceaseless flow of customers. If there is a small lull, we chat about chai and religion, travel, about the work Peace Direct does, and the places and reasons the money is going where it is going.
It has been one of those wonderful relationships, breaching so many divides, where is not just about a service provider, but something richer and more amazing. It reflects both the city of London and also the kind of work that Peace Direct does.
I am going to miss the Kham Shop, for all of the practical help is has given me, and also for that unique friendship, struck up in a way that would never have arisen in general day to day life.
I wish Shobhana and Hammed well – we have said we will keep in touch. I know that, practically, this is not likely to happen with much frequency – but I am grateful for having known them, and worked with them. And feeling slightly lost in having to find another place to keep the cash flowing to our partners around the world.