50th recipient of livelihood bicycle: ‘…. often I happen to randomly meet my ex-students, while I am cycling or walking on the streets or at a Masjid, they stop to inquire how I am and they wish me well

50 Maulana Abdul Hanan Gazi donor Manish Shah

50th recipient of livelihood bicycle: ‘…. often I happen to randomly meet my ex-students, while I am cycling or walking on the streets or at a Masjid, they stop to inquire how I am and they wish me well, I like that they remember me even though they now grown up and some are even adults and married with children.’

Abdul Hanan.

Profession: Maulana/Teacher of the Holy Quran.

Abdul is both and brought up in Kolkatta, and now lives at Nallasopara. He arrived in Mumbai around 15 years ago, to teach children the Holy Quran and Namaaz in Masjids and at homes. His parents are uneducated, and are farmers, and they educated him and his siblings, 7 brothers, all of them teach the Holy Quran! He has two sisters. They had some land of their own but they had some losses in farming and had to sell most of their land.

Abdul’s family lives in the village and he has one daughter and one son, both study in school. He teaches children in the Bandra and Santacruz area and cycles from one home to the other and to the Masjid near Hill road where he teaches too. He needed a bicycle because his own bicycle was stolen a few weeks ago. He has never encountered anyone who ever offered him a bicycle to better his livelihood.

The biggest challenge he’s ever faced is when he fell seriously ill (a liver related problem) a few years ago and could not work. In that same period even his mother expired, so coupled with that it was a very difficult time for him and his family.

His happiest time so far has been when he passed his SSC exams with good marks, he was very happy that he did well in a family where his parents could not educate themselves, but educated him. He said ‘Sadness and Happiness come and go in turns, so I do not think of a bad time or a happy time. Both are passing phases.’

I asked him which is his favorite chapter in the Holy Quran?, he replied, ‘I like it in it’s totality. All chapters are my favorite.’ (Just like a mother loves her children equally, I thought to myself.) Abdul mentioned ‘…. often I happen to randomly meet my ex-students, while I am cycling or walking on the streets or at a Masjid, they stop to inquire how I am and they wish me well, I like that they remember me even though they now grown up and some are even adults and married with children.’

(Appreciation of your work, and respect even after years, are the true earnings of a Teacher, I thought as I saw Abdul Maulana ji ride away, wearing a white Pathani pyjama kurta.

Nearly after a week, I happened to see him riding ahead of me on a busy Khar Danda road. I was driving, I slowed down, rolled down my window, and greeted him with ‘As-salamu alaykum’; with a friendly wave of his hand he reflected my good wish with his ‘Wa-Alaikum-Salaam” )

Thank you to Surabhi Shah for donating a new bicycle to Egg seller Shabbir; we donated Shabbir’s old bicycle, that we received in exchange of the new, to Abdul maulana ji.

And thank you to Kohinoor Cycles (http://kohinoorcyclestores.blogspot.com/) Siddharth Vora (https://www.facebook.com/siddharth.vora.58?fref=ts) for the good service.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/309043432570135/
https://bicycleangels.wordpress.com/

49th recipient of livelihood bicycle : ‘I rather you ride a bicycle and be self employed…’

49 Egg Shabbir Ahmed Surabhi Shah

49th recipient of livelihood bicycle : ‘I rather you ride a bicycle and earn your own livelihood, however difficult or dangerous it may seem to you now that I too have had an accident. I do not want my children to be someone who have to salute their superior/s and are dependent on them for their livelihood and income. I want you to be a master of your own fate; and not a servant or slaves to anyone!’

Name: Shabbir Ahmed. (22)

Profession: Egg seller.

Shabbir’s father was an egg seller too. Shabir is in this profession since 3 years.

Three years ago, one day it was raining and an autorickshaw banged into his father’s bicycle and his father injured his knee and cannot ride thereafter.
So Shabbir had to give up his education midway, 9th Std., and migrate from his village in UP and come to Mumbai to take over his father’s egg selling profession to earn a livelihood for his family.

Shabbir sounded very sad when he mentioned he had to leave his education midway because of his father’s misfortune. And since his father is immobile, he runs a tiny grocery (Kirana) store at home that earns them a little money. They live in Khar Danda.

Shabbir has a family of 3 brothers and 3 sisters. Two sisters are married. He and his father together managed to bear the expenses of their marriages, both his brothers are younger to him. His sister and his brothers are studying, and Shabbir has a dream to educate his younger brothers to any level they wish.
(Another young man who has a great sense of duty and responsibility towards his family, I thought to myself hearing him talk the impact of his father’s accident on his own desire for higher education and family.)

I asked Shabbir, considering they are a close knit family, and he respects his father immensely, what has been the best advice his father ever gave him?
Shabbir told me, he was not keen to follow in his father’s footsteps and become an egg seller, especially because he felt it is risky to ride a bicycle on our streets and he told his father he wants to apply for a government job, a secure job.

His father replied, advised him strictly, ‘I rather you ride a bicycle and earn your own livelihood, however difficult or dangerous it may seem to you especially because I have suffered an accident. I do not want you, my children to be someone who have to salute some superior/s or are dependent on anyone for their livelihood and income! I want you children to be the masters of your own fate; not servants or slaves to anyone!’
(Wow! I was blown by his father’s pride in self employment! Kudos to him!!!)

Shabbir carries 1200 eggs on his bicycle! 50 to 60 Kgs! Every day!

Two months ago he suffered two accidents and lost a lot of eggs, nearly 600 to 800, in both accidents, luckily he was not injured. Shabir mentioned very often that when he rides, he feels insecure that he too will have an accident!
I realized his father’s bicycle accident has left a deep negative impact on him. I advised him to get rid of this reoccurring and persistent fear in him, because unless he stops thinking of the negatives, the possibility of another accident he may never ever be free of them!
He agreed to be less fearful and more confident hereafter, especially now that he has a new bicycle to ride, he added. I was glad he was receiving a new one in exchange of his old.
(Sometimes, something new can give is the self confidence we lack otherwise, I realized.)

He mentioned no one has ever given him a deal like this ever before, where he will receive a new bicycle in exchange of his old, and his old bicycle will be donated to a needy person who needs one to better his livelihood! He was mighty impressed! It’s thanks to the donors, I assured him. He was very thankful to the donor of his bicycle, Surabhi Shah.

I asked him what has been his happiest moment so far?, He replied, ‘When I earned a lot of money selling eggs, when I had recently taken over my father’s profession, I felt very happy earning that money for my family. He said “I was happy seeing my parents happy that I had earned that money for our family! That made me very happy, their happiness!’ He gave me a wide grin.
(A son, a child, whose greatest happiness lays in that of his parents, he/she deserves a hug from us, I thought looking at him grin at me in delight.)

Thank you to Surabhi Shah for donating a new cycle to Shabbir; Shabbir’s old cycle we will be donating to a needy person.

And thank you to Kohinoor Cycles (http://kohinoorcyclestores.blogspot.com/) Siddharth Vora (https://www.facebook.com/siddharth.vora.58?fref=ts) for the good discount and service.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/309043432570135/
https://bicycleangels.wordpress.com/

48th recipient of livelihood bicycle: ‘….As an employee my salary would have had a limit; however, as an independent professional sky is the limit! So I decided to switch…. ’

48 Electrician  Surendra Varma

48th recipient of livelihood bicycle: ‘….As an employee my salary would have had a limit; however, as an independent professional sky is the limit! So I decided to switch…. ’

Name: Surendra Varma (25)

Profession: Electrician.

Surendra is from Kanpur, and migrated to Mumbai nearly two years ago. He even needed money to get his sister married, so he came here to earn a livelihood as an electrician. He has 3 brothers and 3 sisters. His father is a farmer. He left his home and village so that he can help support his entire family, as his father alone is unable to provide for such a large family of seven children!

Even now Surendra sends money home every month to support his brothers and sisters. He sends nearly Rs 3000 to 4000 to his family every month. All his sisters are educated! Far from them, he misses his family even today and calls them often to speak with them.

He is married, and his wife studies at Rizvi college, completing her 12th Std, and he hopes she can become a tailor someday and be independent too, he is paying for her education.

(‘Commendable young fellow, and progressive, and selfless!’ is what I thought of his sense of responsibility and duty towards his family!)

When he arrived in Mumbai, he first worked at a Grocer’s shop delivering goods before he decided to become an electrician, because, back in Kanpur, whenever he had an opportunity to do any kind of electrical job in the neighborhood, he realized he had a knack for it and everyone would call upon him for fixing stuff. He would also be called to light up wedding functions. He realized he understands the electrician’s field very well even though he did not study it formally. It’s only after he dumped the job at the grocer that he took up a job as an assistant with an established electrician to learn the field professionally. He loves his job, as he is comfortable working with live wires and circuits.

He does not have a cycle, so he says when he has to travel to different locations for his job, or carry his tool box and kit it takes more time and expense using rickshaws. With a cycle he can reach more places faster and at far less cost too. No one before ever gave him such a deal, a cycle for free for his livelihood needs, he mentioned.

I asked him who is his best customer, he said it’s a woman in Sherley Rajan, Bandra, Anita (Madam), she treats him with respect and talks to him with kindness and enquires how he is when he visits her on jobs.

I asked him when was the most challenging period of his life?; he replied, ‘It was when I could not attend college, even though I had got admission. (His eyes became moist when he said this to be.) We could not afford the college fees. And that is when and why I decided to migrate and earn a livelihood for myself and my family. If I cannot study, then I will work, I decided. Even when I worked with the Grocer, I would sometimes not get paid. I realized if I become an independent electrician, I will be working for myself and thus be paid fairly for the amount of work I do. Further, as an employee my salary would have had a limit; however, as an independent professional sky is the limit! So I decided to switch from being a grocer’s errand boy to being an assistant to an established electrician and learn the trade professionally!’

(“Wow! This young fellow has got his fundamentals absolutely correct!’ I was really impressed by his clarity of thoughts and his consequent actions. )

After a few days of giving him the bicycle, I asked him which was his happiest moment in life so far?; he replied, “When I got married, and when your friends gave me the bicycle to help me. Both these made me the happiest so far!’

Thank you to the donors of Surendra’s bicycle (which we got in exchange of the new bicycle they donated to milk man Murugan) – surabhi shah, murali krishnan, dr. niraj vora, javed mahadik, and farzana suri; Thank you dear all.

And thank you to Kohinoor Cycles (http://kohinoorcyclestores.blogspot.com/) Siddharth Vora (https://www.facebook.com/siddharth.vora.58?fref=ts) for the good service.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/309043432570135/
https://bicycleangels.wordpress.com/

47th recipient of livelihood bicycle: ….. ‘The happiest moment of my life was when my two daughters were born… and, when they….’

47 milkman murugan yadav

47th recipient of livelihood bicycle: ….. ‘The happiest moment of my life was when my two daughters were born… and, when they….’

Name: Murugan. (40)

Profession; Milk man (by morning, and rest of the day works as a Peon with a Cable TV network Franchise in Vikhroli)

Murugan is from Tamil Nadu, and the first time he came to Mumbai was in 1992. He is in the milk profession since 20 years. Earlier, he was working as a Peon, but the income from that one job was not sufficient for his family, so he began delivering milk early morning. He begins his day around 4 am, and finishes delivering milk to various households in Chembur by 8 am. He was recommended to me by one of the donors of his new cycle, Murali Krishnan, my rider pal.

He arrived in Bombay because there was no rain in the village he lived in, and they could no longer farm; his parents and he being uneducated, (he has studied in Tamil up to the 3rd Std.) he had no options but to leave his village and look for work in Mumbai. He comes from a family of 6 brothers. His family would grow vegetables but the wholesalers would not give them a fair price and exploit their poverty, so he decided to leave farming and his village for good.
His most challenging times were the years he spent in his village, they hardly had food to eat, sometimes just once or twice a day. His father even sent him away to Udipi to work in a restaurant. He has been working every single day of his life ever since he was 11 or 12 years young; he has hardly seen any other good life, other than that of work, he said.

Murugan has two daughters and he says proudly they are very good in their studies. His wife is uneducated so she is a homemaker, he said. Because he was uneducated, he was very keen both his daughters study, so he put them in an English medium school when one of his customers volunteered to give him a friendly loan for their school fees. He purchased his own house lately, his wife helped by selling her gold jewelry. He is very proud that he finally owns his own house!

One of his customers in Chedda Nagar, Chembur, gave him a loan of one and a half lac rupees, to help him buy his own house. Murugan told me, ‘Every day, before I would go home with the little money I had earned from delivering milk, I would first go to my customer’s house and give him back some of the money from my daily little earnings, however small they were; That way, I paid him Rs 5000 every month, and I paid him every day little by little until I had paid him all the money he had so kindly lent me.’

Hearing that he has received help quite often from some of his customers, I realized many people living in Mumbai are most willing to help the needy, especially someone they know. Furthermore, hearing him tell me that he paid off his loan on a daily basis, made me realize Murugan is not only an honorable man, but also super intelligent! Because, before it becomes a burden for him to return the large amount of money loaned to him, Murugan had realized its best to pay off the big loan bit by bit daily, that way he will not feel any burden of paying back his huge debt.
(‘Someone else’s money laying with you is a very sticky thing – just like super glue, the longer it sticks with you the harder it is becomes for you to part with it.’ @Muhamad Yunus, Founder of The Grameen Bank, a micro finance bank. Furthermore, borrowers like Murugan are dream clients for Micro Finance banks; banks that lend money without collateral! A sure shot re-payer!)

I asked Murugan, what is the advantage of getting a new bicycle?, he replied, ‘When we service our bicycles, some shop keepers do not use good spares and then we face problems of our bike breaking down en route; we lose working hours then. Every year in the rains our bicycle gets nearly ruined with rust, and that is why every year we have to buy many new spares, and some shopkeepers cheat us by putting duplicate spares on our bicycles. A new bicycle gives me the confidence all original parts have been used, and I can ride without any insecurity of it breaking down en route.’

I asked him what he thinks about the milk he sells?, he replied, ‘Milk is a good thing; it’s also something children drink and go to school. It is something that gives us good health, so I like my job of being a milkman’

I asked him which has been his happiest moments in life?, he replied, ‘When my two daughters were born. (he smiled); and now when they get good marks in school, I am very happy. (now his whole face lit up with his widest smile possible!) I tell both my daughters that after your daily bath, and before your studies, you must pray to God. God is everything. That is even what my mother and father taught me.

I asked him what was the best thing his mother taught him?, he replied,’ The best thing my mother taught me is – Never rob or steal or eat someone else’s money; earn your own money, eat from your own money. And never trouble others with your problems. This is what I will pass on to my daughters too.’

Our highest salute, to Murugan and his Mother! And his two daughters for doing well in their studies, making their father proud.

The following donors contributed towards buying a new bicycle for Murugan: surabhi shah, murali Krishnan, rakesh bakshi dr. niraj vora, javed mahadik, and farzana suri; Thank you dear all.
(Murugan’s old bicycle we will donate to some needy person who needs a bicycle for his livelihood. Murugan spent around Rs 600 I think, on his old bicycle to make it worthy enough for donation, before handing it to us in exchange of his new bicycle.)

Thank you to Kohinoor Cycles (http://kohinoorcyclestores.blogspot.com/) Siddharth Vora (https://www.facebook.com/siddharth.vora.58?fref=ts) for the good discount and service.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/309043432570135/
https://bicycleangels.wordpress.com/

46th recipient of livelihood bicycle: ‘I am in this profession because it is only farming that I know best; it is only plants and trees that I know best; and I like to create and see greenery.’

46 malee salik ram

46th recipient of livelihood bicycle: ‘I am in this profession because it is only farming that I know best; it is only plants and trees that I know best; and I like to create and see greenery.’

Salikram. (45 years old)

Profession – Gardener. (Malee)

Salikram is from UP; he is a gardener since 8 to 10 years. Before this, he was a farmer and even a farm laborer.
He arrived in Mumbai around 8 to 10 years ago, when he could no longer sustain his livelihood of farming, and when his father died; the income being generated from farming was too little for him to meet his family’s needs, so he had to migrate to a city.

(He told me later, that if he can get a loan of Rs 25,000 he will be able to go to his village and buy seeds and necessary earth and manure etc and farm his land and thus earn a return income from it. He did not ask me for a loan, nor did he imply it. He simply stated a fact.)
As a gardener, he said he earns around Rs 8500 a month.

Salikram has five children, 2 girls and 3 boys, he is educating them all in schools. He has three brothers and is educated till the 10th Std. His family lives in the village, he lives alone at Juhu, in Mumbai.

This bicycle we donated to Malee Salikram, (thanks to Dr. Niraj Vora; btw, this bike is Dr Niraj’s 4th bike donation), he said he needs it to ferry earth, manure, fertilizers, gardening tools, etc. and also to travel to the four places at different suburbs he works at.

I asked him what does he like about his gardening (Malee) profession; He replied, ‘I am in this profession because it is only farming I know best, it is only plants and trees that I know best, and I like to create and see greenery.’

I asked Salikram when was the most difficult period of his life?; he replied, ‘When my parents died, around 10 years ago, he faced a very difficult time. Both died of Asthama, and that is when he had to migrate to Mumbai to earn a livelihood better than the farming they were doing.
Even his elder brother died of Asthama, and that was also a very sad time; Salikram provides for his brother’s widow and family too, along with his own.
He said being the eldest child, he must take care of all his brothers and their families. ‘A man with a great sense of responsibility, and noble indeed…’, is what I thought of Salikram, as I was getting to know him better.

He told me he has never owned a bicycle before in Mumbai, and this is the first time in his life someone offered one to him for free!
He was immensely grateful to the donor, Dr Niraj Vora. ‘With the help of this cycle I will not have to walk the many Kms I do from one job to the other… so, what can I say but just Thank You to the donor of my bicycle for making my daily existence much easier.’

I asked him when has he been the happiest ever?; He replied, ‘I was the happiest ever while my parents were alive. Also when I got married.’ ;
This is when Salikram smiled, and a big one, finally. 🙂

Thank you to Kohinoor Cycles (http://kohinoorcyclestores.blogspot.com/) Siddharth Vora (https://www.facebook.com/siddharth.vora.58?fref=ts) for the good service.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/309043432570135/
https://bicycleangels.wordpress.com/

45th recipient of livelihood bicycle: ‘….. Because, I ride very carefully. I am always thinking of my family waiting for me back home.’

45 Paan Kamlesh Chaurasia

45th recipient of livelihood bicycle: ‘….. Because, I ride very carefully. I am always thinking of my family waiting for me back home.’

Kamlesh Chaurasia – age 34.

Paan (Beatle leaves) leaves seller.

Kamlesh is from Allahabad, UP, and he has been selling paan leaves to retail outlets since nearly 15 to 20 years. He was brought up by his grandmother mostly. He arrived in Mumbai when he was 8 or 10 years old. His father died two years ago, due to failure of both kidneys. (His eyes exposed their wealth of tears when he said this. We were into his interview for less than 2 mins, and he had become emotional I saw. He looked away and gathered himself together.)

His father was in the same profession and would ferry them on his bicycle. His family consists of his mother, his wife, his son, his sister (married), and two brothers. His one younger brother also sells Paan leaves, and the other youngest one works in Titan Watch co and is unmarried as yet because he had to look after his father.

He chose this profession only because his father was in it, and he had no other skill or education to fall back on that would have provided him options and knowledge of career choices, because he is just 8th Std pass; When he said that with such a regret, even though he likes his profession, I realized, how important education is; it offers us knowledge and thus more choices in the world beyond our immediate home and next meal. Education can lift us from the circle of poverty, I feel too. The reason Kamlesh could not study beyond the 8th was because his father suffered a kidney problem and he had to start earning his living to support his family. He said proudly he is educating his son in an English medium school so his son can have better chances in life and career than his father ever had.

He likes his profession, but Kamlesh himself does not eat Paan. He too said it is not good for our health when had with tobacco. Every leaf he sells has to be cleaned with a cloth before he sells it, it is a time consuming and delicate job, as the leaves arrive almost covered with black and brown earth.

I asked him if he has ever met with an accident while riding his bicycle; his reply – ‘Never. I ride very carefully. I am always thinking of my family waiting for me at home.’

I thought about what he just said so simply, as a matter of fact. I also wondered about the fact that he does not wear the most important gear that we privileged well to do professional and hobbyist-cyclist wear – the Helmet; Amazingly, almost none so far, Kamlesh is the 45th recipient, have ever met with an accident, and I know this because I had asked almost all of them this question!

Kamlesh’s wish for the donor of his bike, Dr Niraj Vora, – ‘God bless the Doctor saab who gave me this bike, with happiness and success in his life. Shukriya.’

Kamlesh willingly spent nearly Rs 500 to 600 on refurbishing his old bike, before handing it to us in exchange of the new one we donated to him, because he wanted the receiver of his bike to receive a bike in good/worthy condition. This is the first time someone offered him such a deal, he said. He added, ‘…Its good for people like us (Ferry-walas) to receive a new bike, because it assures us it will not breakdown during work, as it is our vehicle of self and goods transportation; the day we don’t work, we don’t earn.’

A big thanks to such recipients of new bikes who willingly and happily spend nearly Rs 400 to 1000 on their old bikes before they hand them to us, making them most worthy of further donation to someone who needs one to better his livelihood. Kamlesh’s old bike will be donated to someone who needs one for his livelihood.

I must add, some donors and many non-donors sometimes call me or message me saying, ‘… You know Rakesh, what we really like most about Bicycle Angels is not just the donation, but the way the such-brief stories of the recipients long lives unfold here in a few pages…!’
Their observation makes me think to myself, ‘Hmmm, maybe it’s thanks to the fact I meet each and every recipient (of the donor’s hard earned money entrusted to me without a single question) myself, and the fact that someone they (the recipients) do not know is helping them better their livelihood, I guess these two facts help them speak straight from their hearts to me, and thus they touch you lovely people.

“I have never met with an accident riding my bicycle in over 20 years! Because I ride very carefully. I am always thinking of my family waiting for me at home.’…. Is what remained with me on all my pleasure-rides or cardio-rides thereafter, long after he had left my place; My loved ones waiting for me back home keep my speed in check, I too realized.

Thank you to Dr Niraj Vora; (I think this is the 3rd or 4th bike he’s donated!) And thank you to Kohinoor Cycles (http://kohinoorcyclestores.blogspot.com/) Siddharth Vora (https://www.facebook.com/siddharth.vora.58?fref=ts) for the good discount and service.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/309043432570135/
https://bicycleangels.wordpress.com/

44th recipient of livelihood bicycle: “…. Saab I have come to return this bike to you; because, I do not have …’

44 Samosa Guddu Yadav

44th recipient of livelihood bicycle: “…. Saab I have come to return this bike to you; because, I do not have …’

Guddu Yadav (35-36 years old)

Samosa seller. (Samose –wala); Village Benaras, UP.

Guddu looked so weak and frail and was limping when I saw him on the street, I immediately stopped and approached him. I found out he is selling Samosa and Chatni. (A flour and Potato snack) and he has arrived in Mumbai nearly 20-22 years ago. I asked him for exact year of his arrival, and he could not figure the year, but after a little thought he cutely described the period so simply, in terms that really matter for a poor man, ‘I arrived in Mumbai when the train fare from UP to Bumbai was about Rs 200. It is around 400 to 450 now.’ He continued speaking, without me asking him any more questions, – ‘I have no land nor house nor cows in the village, nor do I have a house of my own in this city. I live on rent and my wife works and contributes to the rent and house expenses. My foot is injured and that is why I am limping, the doctor told me he needs to operate on it to make it go away. ’

In the village he would work as a daily wages worker lifting bricks and sand at building and road construction sites, for Rs 50 to 100 for a day’s work. He is uneducated, never been to school. His father too was a construction site laborer, and they are 5 brothers.

Guddu is selling Samosas since 15 years. Before that he used to work in a Milk Dairy and a relative of his who was a Samosa seller introduced him to this profession.

When he told me his income from Samosas, I had no words to express how little some people manage with: he buys one Samosa for Rs 5, sells it for Rs 6, earns Re ONE on one samosa, and that does not include the cost of the Chatni he gives with each and the cost of the paper plate. He sells around 60 in the morning, then goes back to the seller to buy another 60, and before midnite sells them all off. His customers are the livelihood bicycle people who ferry goods on their bikes, the Bhangaarwala (waste goods man) and auto rickshaw and Taxi drivers and Tea sellers, Paan shop owners, and sells them in the lanes of Bandra and Khar.

Guddu has two children, one boy and one girl, both study in a Municipality school.

I asked him when was the most difficult period of his life; he replied ‘My childhood was very difficult to live, because my parents could not educate me and ever since then my life is still a struggle even today. My wife has suffered a heart attack twice because of tension and stress. Even I have a pain in my abdomen and some people say it is appendix, some say I have kidney stones, I do not know what it is but it pains a lot very often. The medicines keep me going. If I do not take the medicines it pains so much that I cannot go to work. This cycle you are giving me will make my life so much easier, I will be able to travel more easily from one lane to another.’

Guddu sticks to the lanes because the Police harass him if he walks on the main road pavements to sell his snacks, but even in the lanes he is harassed so often has to hide when he sees a Police man or Police vehicle. I think because he is an unlicensed hawker he gets into trouble with the cops, I guess. When he said that I thought how sad that some people live their lives just in lanes all life, and never get to the super highways that we rich walk and fly on.

I asked him if he would like to say something to the donor of this bike, Javed Mahadik; he replied, ‘I will pray for him that he be blessed always. As for my profession, I will sell Samosas until there is breath in my body. I will walk until I can walk and do my profession.

A day after I gave him the bike, I left a message with a tea seller and kulfi seller who knows him (because he had mentioned he even sells to them at the corner of Turner road and Perry Road) that I forgot to ask him to give me a copy of his ID card, Election Voting card, etc., so to inform him to give it to my building gateman the next time he passes my street. The very next day, Guddu came over to my building and said, ‘Saab, I have come to return the bike to you.’

I asked him why he is returning the bike; he replied, ‘Saab, I received the message from the tea seller that you need my ID card as proof of my ID; But, Saab I do not have a mobile, I do not have a Ration card, nor do I have any Election Voting card, etc. And if you cannot give me this bike because I cannot give you any proof of my identification, I will return this bike, take it back please, I can manage without it, I have managed well all these years without one.’

I assured him his ID proof is not mandatory, only his need for a bike is.
And as he limped and got on his bike and rode away, I looked at him turn around the corner and disappear, but the thought that then appeared in my mind was – ‘Guddu Samose wala proves to us once again, that many people who we think are just poor beings are also truly rich and honest.’

Thank you Javed Mahadik for donating this bike to him. And thank you to Kohinoor Cycles (http://kohinoorcyclestores.blogspot.com/) Siddharth Vora (https://www.facebook.com/siddharth.vora.58?fref=ts) for the good service.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/309043432570135/
https://bicycleangels.wordpress.com/

43rd recipient – ….My wife asked me to bring your photograph after meeting you

43 Paan Basant

43rd recipient of livelihood bicycle: “……my wife told me to bring a photograph of you after meeting you…. because,….’

Name : Basant Kumar De. (45)
Profession- Paan (beetle leaf) seller.

Basant is from Odissa (Orissa), lives in Null Bazar, Mumbai, sells Paan leaves in Bandra west area. He is in this profession since 22-25 years.

Basant arrived in Mumbai in 1993, under the most vivid circumstances, stuff that movies are made of! He was a young boy aged around 15, living in his village at Odissa, and one night he was watching a Nautanki (travelling drama, song and dance show) that was performing in his village and he fell asleep watching the show.

When he woke up, early morning, he realized he is traveling in a Truck!, and the truck is travelling in a area he is not familiar with! He raised an alarm and the truck driver stopped, and was shocked to find him (a stranger, a boy) on board his truck. Though he could not understand Hindi, Basant was smart enough to tell the driver that he has originated from the same village from where they got the consignment of paan leaves.

The driver and cleaner soon realized young Basant had fallen asleep at the back of their truck watching the drama show that they too had been enjoying last night in his village. The truck was carrying paan leaves meant to be delivered to Mumbai, and had already crossed the Odissa border and was moving towards Maharashtra. The truck driver decided to continue on his journey and assured Basant they will take him back to his village on his return trip from Mumbai.

The driver knew some families staying in Mumbai (from Basant’s village in Odisaa) and he kept Basant in their care, while the truck was in Bombay delivering the consignment.

However, during the return trip back to his village, Basant decided he wants to continue to live and work in Bombay because his father was too poor to do anything for him by way of his education or food needs, and so at Busawal (near Nasik) Basant jumped off the truck when it stopped someplace, and he escaped into the darkness of the jungle.

At daylight, he emerged from the jungle and hitched a ride back to Nasik and began looking for work in Nasik. He was not meant to suffer in hunger and die, because of his spirit of survival which was evident in what he thought while the truck was carrying him back to his poor family and village –“Main idhar (Bumbai) aaya hoon toh kuch toh karoonga, bhooka nahin maroonga!’ (Now that I have happened to come to Bombay, I will do something here itself, I will not return home to my village to starve to death!)

When he reached Nasik, he worked at a tea stall for Rs 20 a month for about 2 years. Then he found his way to Bombay and traced the people the truck driver had sold the paan consignments to, and began working for one of the suppliers, wholesalers, of paan leaves. It’s evident he succeeded, because he made a family and life thereafter, selling the very same leaves that accidently had carried him to Bombay!!!
‘Wow! That’s taqdeer, the power of destiny!’, I thought fascinated hearing his most fascinating story!

Basant worked for the whole-supplier (Manoharji) for around 10 years, and because he served him loyally and worked hard, his master (Manoharji Babulal Sitaram) encouraged him to start his own wholesaling-line of paan leaves, by offering him an interest free loan of Rs 10,000; thus made him financially independent! My salute to Manoharji, because he also gave Basant money when he needed it to get his sisters married! Truly an angel!

Though Basant has faced many financial challenges even thereafter, he has not looked back in regret since that day when he travelled on that truck accidently, as his paan leaves selling profession has fed him and his own family, and his many brothers and sisters too! He told me, ‘Yes, I earned money, but I could never save money, because I was the one who bore the expenses of my four brothers and two sisters, even though my family earned little from the farming they did back in the village. (Main apna kuch khaas banaa nahin saka.) We were rich people when I was a child, but were financially ruined when my grandfather cheated my father of his land and inheritance, by making him put his thumb impressions on some documents.”

He told me he is highly respected in the trade for his skill in ripening the paan leaves, he does it with the help of 1000 watt bulb; its dicey, because too little heat or too much heat ruins the delicate and moist paan leaves, and the ripening process takes about a month or bit more; he said is very proud of this acquired skill, and he smiled when he said that. When does the leaf reach the correct temperature that makes it ripen and not get ruined, he comes to know the correct temperature by simply placing each leaf on his cheek!!! “What an awesome and natural thermostat his cheeks have become, I thought and looked at them in amazement! (But they were as regular as mine! ;)) 

Both his children, daughter 14, son 4, are studying in English medium convent school; and both are first class students, he beamed in joy. He told me, ‘I want to educate my daughter to very high standards, I want her to do what I could not.
They (both my children) can speak in English, (he smiled) and though I cannot speak it, but I can now understand what they are saying.’ (he smiled even more.)

About the leaves he sells he had to say that he cautions people from adding tobacco in banarsi and culcutta paan leaves, while having them, and assured me it’s a medicinal leaf if it’s had without the poisonous tobacco; its very good for digestion and one must have a paan leaf after every meal, he advised me.
I asked him about his most challenging or difficult period in life; he said, it was around ten years ago when he fell off the local train at Dadar and came under the train, but somehow escaped the wheels and did not get dragged because some vegetable vendor pulled the Stop-chain immediately. (He carries 100 Kgs of paan daily on his back before he places it on his bike’s carrier, so that weight unsettled him.)
The hurt he received from the fall was not the painful part of the experience, the most painful part was he had to sit at home for ten years without working, and that made him feel miserable, that he is not able to work and yet is a burden on the family’s scare food supply for ten years. Nd because he could not ride his bicycle for ten years, he gave his profession of selling the leaves to someone else and in return took a small commission from that man’s daily earnings for introducing him to his customers and for using his bicycle too, that meager income kept his family going for ten years. He is able to ride now, and sells the paan leaves himself riding shop to shop.

Just before he left, he told me, “Last night when I told my wife and children about you, that you are donating a new bicycle to me in exchange of my old one, she told me to bring a photograph of you after meeting you; because she wanted to see for herself who is this kind man doing something for us that no one has ever done for us in our life till now. Honestly, I too was very keen to meet you, just so I can see your face, because we had only spoken on the phone, as I could not believe this can be true, that someone like you exists. We pray for you.’

He was so dam sincere in what he had just said, I tried hard to assure him, (in-between hiding my tears quite well), that his sincere kind words and prayers for me actually do not belong to me, because I am not the donor; I am just like that bridge between the water well and the thirst, I told him while accepting his sincere gratitude and prayers on behalf of the donor of his bike.

Even long after he had left, two thoughts lingered in my consciousness, – his vivid road journey to Bombay in a truck delivering paan leaves, the very leaves that eventually fed him for life by becoming his profession!, and, his wife asking him to bring home a photo of me, the alleged donor!. Naturally, I never gave him a photo of mine, but only after he had cycled too far away I realized how stupid I really was, for not having logged on to FB when Basant had asked me for my photograph to show his wife! Because, I felt I should have logged on to FB and shown him a picture of Javed Mahadik, the kind donor of his wonderful new bike.
Basant gave us his old bike in exchange, which we donated to a samosa seller.

And thank you to Kohinoor Cycles (http://kohinoorcyclestores.blogspot.com/) Siddharth Vora (https://www.facebook.com/siddharth.vora.58?fref=ts) for the good discount and service.

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https://bicycleangels.wordpress.com/