Published20 hours ago
It was a moment of relief when Mohammed Bava’s friend called him to give him some unexpected but delightful news.
The friend told him that he had won 10m rupees ($125,000; £106,000) in a lottery he had been trying to win for almost a year.
This was on 25 July. Four days later, Mr Bava has become a celebrity in his home town of Kasargod in the southern state of Kerala.
The lottery is largely illegal in most India states but a handful, including Kerala, allow it under strict oversight and regulations.
The win couldn’t have come at a better time for Mr Bava. He was under massive debts that he accumulated over the years. He had been struggling to repay money to his lenders and this had put massive financial and emotional stress on him and his family.
As a last resort, the family had decided to sell their house to repay the debt. Hours before the call came, Mr Bava had almost done a deal with a buyer to sell his house.
On 25 July, he was due to meet a prospective buyer at 5.30pm to confirm the sale of his house and accept advance payment.
But fate had other plans and he still remembers the exact moment when his friend Ganesh called.
At 3.20pm, he got the daily WhatsApp message from Ganesh about the the day’s results. His call soon followed.
“I was so relieved. I had run out of people to turn to for help,” Mr Bava told the BBC. “We were ecstatic, we had no words to describe our emotions.”
After taxes, Mr Bava is expected to get 6.3m rupees. It’s unclear when exactly he will be able to get the money. But he’s not worried anymore as lenders have stopped knocking on his doors.
“The debtors have been quiet after I won. People clamour for money when you have none. But once they knew I finally had the money to pay them back, things calmed down,” he said.
The Bavas were once a debt-free middle class family. Mr Bava worked as a contractor in the construction sector but work had begun to dry up in the last few years. Things only got worse after the Covid-19 pandemic hit India and the world in early 2020.
He struggled to find work and his debts kept mounting. He kept the family afloat by taking loans. He has five children, two of whom got married recently. Mr Bava paid for the wedding, further worsening his financial woes.
He also paid for his son’s travel to Qatar in hope that he would get a good job there. He took more money from family as loan for this.
He kept hoping that his work would pick up and he would be able pay off his debts, which stood at around 5m rupees in July this year.
“That debt from the wedding expenses came to around 1-1.5m rupees,” he says.
“I had to pay everyone back but had no source of income.”
The mounting debt became a constant source of worry for the family. After failing to find any other source of income or way to pay back their loan, the family took the tough decision of selling the house.
They had moved into their dream house recently and now they had to sell it. Mr Bava found a house to rent before putting his home on the market.
But he had also been trying his luck with lotteries for a year but without much success. He says it was a desperate move and he knew he needed a miracle to win as his chances were once in a million. He waited for year to get the breakthrough win but ultimately gave up and decided to sell his house.
He would buy the tickets from his friend Ganesh, who ran a small shop that sold lottery tickets. Every day he would buy tickets from him and learn from Ganesh that he hadn’t won. This routine continued for a year.
Ganesh was thrilled when he found out that his friend had won and immediately called him.
“You’ve been saved,” he exclaimed on the phone call to Mr Bava.
Mr Bava remembers these exact words from Ganesh. He had indeed been saved.
He and his family had no words to describe their happiness when the phone call came.
The prize money might seem like a big amount, but not much will be left of it after Mr Bava pays off his debts. But he wants to put the remaining amount to good use.
He wants to help his friend Ganesh in buying a house. “Ganesh is struggling too as he doesn’t have his own home,” said Mr Bava.
He also wants to donate some money to the poor.