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.