56th recipient of help: His brains do not work, but he can feel pain.

56 Mrs Kapse2

56th recipients of help: “His brains do not work, he cannot even express what he feels, but he can feel pain ….”

Vikas Ramdas Kapse (13), and Manisha Ramdas Kapse (16)

Vikas, and his elder sister Manisha, live with their widowed, single, working mother, Shakuntala, in Chembur. Their father died around 7 years ago. Shakuntala, single handedly brings them up ever since!

Vkas and Manisha have CP (Cerebral Palsy) with profound mental retardation! 😦
Vikas cannot walk at all, Manisha can walk, but very slowly.

Both children travel to a NGO medical centre near their house, nearly one to two Kms away, where they receive physiotherapy, and are made to do physical activities that will hopefully improve their motor skills. They have an old wheelchair on which now Vikas rides to the centre, because Manisha is now capable of walking.

(Dr Indu, daughter of my rider pal Murali Krishnan, visits this NGO medical centre to give them and other children like them physiotherapy. It is she who informed us about this family’s need for a wheelchair. Thank you Murali and Indu.)

Their mother, Shakuntala, told me her children may have suffered Cerebral Palsy because her late husband and she were close relatives.

She continued, ‘…. But, back then in our village in Goa we were not aware that close relatives should not get married and have children.

-Their father was a mason, he died due to an accidental fall in the rain. Ever since he died, I work in two homes as a domestic help. I have somehow managed to bring them up so far on my own, without any help from anyone, but yes, my dead husband’s relatives who live next door do supervise my children when I am absent.

-God has been very kind to me, even though both my children are handicapped mentally and physically, I have work and I can feed them and myself at least daily. Your presence in my house is a sign to me he listens to our prayers.

-I have been wanting to buy a new wheelchair very badly, but I just cannot afford a new one. The wheelchair will not be the end of my problems, even though I need one. Both my children cannot even eat their own meals!, I have to feed them. My son can’t speak at all. My daughter barely manages a few words.

-I have to be around them all the time when I am not at work, because otherwise they drop nearly everything around them in the house. They are not aware of the value of even a bucket of water or a plate of food, or even aware of the necessity of wearing clothes, or having a bath, etc, because of their profound mental retardation.

-I get a few hours early in the morning with them, I take them to the toilet outside in the chawl, and bathe them out too, feed them and only then I go to work. I return in the afternoon and spend time with them or take them for medical therapy. Then I again go to work in another house and return to them only later in the evening.

-I have no other life, other than working for a living and looking after them at home. Where can I possibly go with two children with CP? And how can I even go socializing anywhere without them?
(Then she went silent for a bit and said…) I often fear what will happen to them if or when I die.

-I take Vikas, on the old wheelchair we have, to his NGO medical centre almost daily, Manisha walks along with us. The centre is about 15 minutes away, about two Kms away. But because the wheelchair is quite battered with time, I fear that the loose arm rest or back rest may suddenly give way someday while Vikas is riding on it. I fear that if that happens and a vehicle is passing by, what if he gets run over in that accident?

-Furthermore, his old wheelchair does not have a foot rest, so I fear my son’s foot can get hurt if it hits a stone on the road while he is travelling in it. Our roads are so bad, there are so many pot holes and big stones too. Please give us a wheel chair with a foot rest, the footrest will keep his legs safe. See, he does not have a brain that works like ours, and he cannot even speak a word, but he can feel pain. And even though he cannot express pain verbally, he can cry in pain.’

Shakuntala was so deeply concerned her son may hurt his leg if the wheelchair does not have a foot rest, she reminded me very often to ensure the wheelchair we wish to donate has a footrest.

She continued -The government only provides Rs 300 a month to my daughter for her CP condition. My son, though he has CP too, does not receive this monthly stipend of Rs 300; because they tell me the government cannot give a stipend to two patients belonging to the same family.’

When she said that, a whirlwind of anger erupted in my mind! OMG! What an insensitive and ridiculous rule the government has made for these special children! I wondered, who is that biggest idiot who framed such a rule!? And who are those bigger than that original idiot who have not revoked such a rule as yet!? I am certain they must be the same bureaucrats and politicians who have been loudly claiming India has arrived!)

One thing I noticed was, while we were there, she often held her daughter back from disturbing things in their house, and sometimes even stopped her from coming up to us, (Sahil and me). Manisha’s condition is medically termed as profound retardation, but I felt she was so eager to talk to us, even though she lacked the tools of speech.
Naturally, we both not being trained social workers we had to keep our distance from her CP children. Hmmmmm it is at such moments I wish we had a trained social worker along with us during such visits in future, just so that we come across as a bit more humane, and not someone who ignores an innocent child’s curiosity and friendly advances.

Anyways, while we were there, I was speechless most of the time, because it was the first time I had encountered a CP patient so closely, that too two in the same room that was in volume not bigger than the vehicle we had arrived in, and both CP patients within the same family!

There were things she told me about their condition and how she manages to look after them which I decided not to publish, because they deserved their privacy. (PS – I usually audio record my conversations with the recipients of our help, and send them to the donors who provided that particular help, so that they can share my experience firsthand; but this time I had pre decided not to record our conversation, because these were very special children.)

In hindsight, on an instinct earlier that day when I decided to go see the family in Chembur, I asked my donor pal Sahil Sheth to come along with me. He promptly agreed to accompany me as he had always been wanting to assist me in any social initiative as and when any opportunity arises.

I was glad Sahil could make it, because had he not been around with me when I met this family, I think I would have probably broken down at this resilient stranger’s home on seeing her two CP children and hearing her story. And I would have felt terribly embarrassed of shedding tears out of pity for them, because what a family in their circumstances really needs is our help/support, not our tears! Tears dry forever, but help remains forever.

As we were leaving her house, I realized that their entire world, home, was probably one third the size of a modern residential complex Car Garage; yet it was neat, clean, minimalist. Even her children were dressed in clean and colorful clothes. Sahil and I had felt at ease in their most humble home.
Commendable indeed, is what I thought then, a single mother with two CP children, and two jobs, keeps her kids and her house in such good order!

I asked her later, after the wheelchair was delivered to her, when is the happiest moments of her life?, She replied, ‘When I see them laugh, whatever be their reason of erupting into laughter, I feel the happiest! See, its very simple and practical, I have to find happiness in them alone, not outside of them.’

As we drove away from their house in an air conditioned vehicle, I think Sahil and I must have had one common thought bouncing around in our heads:- ‘Every day we must say ‘Thank You’ to God, to the Universe, to Nature, whoever is responsible for us, even our parents, for all that we have; because many of us really have Everything, Everything, and Everything!!!
And our story will be even more sad than the story of any family in such circumstances, if we complain and crib in spite of all that we have been blessed with!

Another thought that appeared to me was, strange are the ways of Mother Nature. We, who are considered medically and socially ‘normal’, sometimes do not smile in an entire day. And here were two kids who were medically termed as ‘suffering from profound mental retardation and CP’ , yet both smiled at least 21 times during the nearly 20 mins we must have spent in their home!
I wondered for long after I left their home, have we ‘normal’ peeps forgotten to smile? Hmmmmm.

Our gift of this precious wheelchair to Vikas would be horribly incomplete without our sincere thanks to:
1) Himanshu Shah’s medical equipments company, HCE, based at Vile Parle, for the discount on the wheelchair; and for delivering it to Shakuntala’s house in Chembur, at no extra cost to her or to us. His voluntary deed saved me, and even Shakuntala, a lot of time and expense.
2) Thank you to Sahil Sheth and his family, Jay Sheth and his family, Sonika Munjal and Rajeev Munjal and their family, (and even to Rohan Juneja and family) for donating a wheelchair (‘… with a foot rest!’ J ) to this family headed by a resilient lioness, Shakuntala; for me she is nothing less than a lioness looking after her two cubs while her lion is impossibly-far-away to ever help her.

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55th recipient – I remember my father would put food from his plate into mine…. and…

55 flower bimal adak dr gupte

55th recipient of livelihood bicycle: ‘I remember, when I would eat my meals, my father would share his meal with me, he would put food from his plate into mine. (then, Bimal paused, I realized he has gone further back into his memories, some most fond memory) …. And, ….’

Bimal Adak. (17)

Florist.

Bimal has been selling flowers since two years, he assists his elder brother Shyamlal Adak, they sell flowers on the corner of perry cross road, bandra west. Shyamlal is an earlier recipient of a new bicycle, he had given us his old bicycle in exchange of a new one we donated to him. But, Shyamlal’s new bicycle was stolen two weeks ago from outside their house in the night. They were all so sad when they informed of the theft, we had to help them, I felt. They are 4 young adults who survive on the income from this one pavement stall of flowers, and the bicycle they need will be shared between the four of them to now and then; to buy flowers from Dadar west flower market daily and to deliver flowers to their customers. I thought I’ts important we donate at least a used bicycle to Bimal, with the thought that it will help sustain the growth of four young adults earning from a single business.

He is from Kolkatta, and his parents do house work and also live on agriculture income from their own little bit of land and also work on agriculture land belonging to others. He is educated till the 8th standard but could not study any further because they did not have the money for the fees. One challenge they face often is that the BMC carts away their flowers and then they have to pay a fine/penalty to get back their trade goods.

I asked him when has faced the most difficult time in his life?, he replied, ‘Thankfully, I have not faced any very bad times, my elder brother has always taken care of our problems. Even now my brother sends money home every month to our parents.’

I asked him about the happiest times he has had?, he replied, ‘My happiest times were when I was a child, I would play and have so much fun. Now I only work, no time for any play. I remember I would play cricket too.’ (As he said that, I realized how super privileged many of us are, that we have the super luxury of work and play, often both quite well balanced. I hope he can revisit those fun days as an adult someday.)

Shyamlal purchased an old used bicycle, and since Dr Satish Gupte, my neighbor, had donated to our initiative, I handed his donation to Bimal; the other half cost of the bicycle was paid by Shyamlal himself. Later that evening, Bimal gave Mr and Mrs Gupte a beautiful two roses bouquet as his thanks for their kindness.

I asked Bimal, other than the days of his childhood, what else does he remember or miss about home?. He replied, ‘‘I remember, when I would eat my meals, my father would share his meal with me, he would put food from his plate into mine. (then, Bimal paused, I realized he has gone further back into his memories, some most fond memory) …. And I remember that my mother would walk me to school. I miss that. I miss them both, living so far from them.’

Right then, I had to stop questioning him, because he was not the only one who was interrupted by tears. I miss my mother too, she would walk me to school, my hand in her firm yet soft hands. I had always longed to see her in the recess break, not for the tiffin of food, but her eyes, how they longed to see me, everyday in my recess break she looked at me as though we had been parted since many months.

Thank you Mrs and Mr Satish Gupte for helping these four resilient young adults, who had suffered a theft, buy a used bicycle for their trade.

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54th recipient – I ride very carefully, I have no family in Bombay.

54 pau mohamad54th recipient of livelihood bicycle: ‘Never; I ride carefully. Because, I have no one in this city who is family, if I meet with an accident, who will care for me!?’

Mohamad Siddiqui (30)

Profession: He is a bread (pau) seller until noon, and in the remaining hours thereafter he works at the canteen at Bandra East Terminus. (Before this, until 2001, he would work on his own agriculture land, and that of others, back in the village.)

Mohamad is from Allahabad, UP; He arrived in Mumbai in 2001 to earn a livelihood, because his family could not earn enough from their agriculture activity (they have a little land of their own, and also work as laborers on the land belonging to someone else) to feed their family of 2 bothers and 3 sisters. The family managed to earn just enough to have meals, but could rarely save any money. Their crops have always mostly got destroyed during unseasonal rains, giving them consistent loses over two decades.

His brother is a rickshaw driver, and one sister is married, the other two are studying. One younger sister of his is of marriageable age and they plan to get her married next year, and the two brothers are saving money for that now. He said, ‘Our one sister my parents managed to pay for her marriage; but for the other two sisters it is only we two brothers that have to make their marriages happen… so.’ (I bow to these two brothers for their sense of duty towards their sisters.) His sisters are all educated, even though he could not study at all.

I asked him if he has ever had an accident riding a bicycle for his trade in Mumbai?, he replied, ‘Never, I ride carefully, because, I have no one in this city who is family; if I meet with an accident who will care for me? I have to ride cautiously.’ He has a daughter (and she goes to school), his wife and daughter live in the village.
I hope my cyclist pals read this, and ride carefully, even though they have family in the city they ride. 

I asked him what does he like about being a bread seller?, he replied, ‘I like that I can earn how much I work, depending on how much I can ride and deliver goods I can earn equivalent to the efforts I make.’

What is the advantage of getting a new cycle (in exchange of his old bicycle), I asked him.
He replied, “At least for a year or more I will not have to spend any money on its repairs and servicing. Otherwise, I am spending at least Rs 400 to 500 a month on some kind of repairs and service always. I will now save that money at least. We can never afford to buy a new cycle costing nearly Rs 5000, this is the first time someone has offered to buy a new one for me in exchange of my old one. God bless the person who did this favor on me, donated this new bicycle to me.’ He spent some money on his old bicycle to make it worthy of handing over to some poor needy person.

I asked him when has been his most difficult time ever?, he replied, ‘When my parents fall ill, and I have to get them medicines and medical care, that is a very difficult time for me. Because when they are suffering I too suffer.’

I asked him about the happiest times he has ever had”, he replied, ‘When I got married, and when I had my daughter, I was the happiest.
(I was glad he is yet another father who felt happiest on the birth of a daughter!)
My one sister is married, and when the other too gets married I will again be very happy.
I like this thing you and your friends are doing, you give us a new bicycle in exchange of our old one, and you will give our old bicycle to some poor person who walks for his trade and does not have a cycle and will do better in his trade if he is given a bicycle. It is a very good thing. If someone I know needs a bicycle I will let you know. Thank you.’ (A man who lives for his family!, is what I thought of him.)

Thank you to Rohan and Tony Juneja and family for giving Mohamad a new bicycle in exchange of his old cycle, we will donate his old cycle to someone needy.

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/

53rd recipient – We know what charity means, we have been doing charity too….’

53 coconut sofikul skeikh

53rd recipient of livelihood bicycle: ‘Yes, we know what you mean by charity, and we are willing to be part of your charity too; because, even we have always been doing charity. My father taught me, if you ever find a coin or note fallen on the street, whatever be the value of that currency you find, never pocket it, give it to someone poor. But before you give it to a poor person you must…’

Name: Sofikul Sheikh. (19 years)

Profession: Coconut seller. (Lives at Khar Danda village with friends, all coconut sellers, from his village)

Sofikul is from Jharkhand, he arrived in Mumbai a week ago to earn a livelihood. His cousin brother, Saajan, is a coconut seller in Mumbai since a few years and he received a bicycle from us sometime last year.

Both of Sofikul’s elder brothers have left home long ago to be on their own, and have left him the sole responsibility of earning a livelihood for their huge family of 7 people! His father is kind of invalid, because after his brain surgery, a tumor I think, he loses his mind very often, so he is unable to work.
He cannot take his father to a doctor because they just do not have any money for his cure. Sofikul is the sole breadwinner! He has been working since the age of 6!!!

(My God!, at just 19 he is a bread earner! I thought to myself, ‘Where was I, when I was 19?’ – I was in junior college; and even bunking classes to watch movies and hang at a restaurant near my college that sold the best samosas!)

Sofikul has never been to school, so I asked him quite innocently, how come he never went to school…?, He asked me back, quite challengingly, ‘If I could go to school, how would my parents have fed my younger 4 sisters and brother?!’ (I did not know where to look! :p !)

Anyways, I continued with my questions, and found out that until a few weeks ago he used to work as a laborer in the fields, back in the village, and from that money he has also been educating his sisters and his younger brother too!!! He sends his younger siblings to a teacher who teaches them languages.

However, the income from working in the fields was far too less to support his parents and family, so he left his village a week ago and came to Mumbai.

He told me, one of his sisters is now of marriageable age, so, he needs to earn money to help her get married! Because invariably, the groom will ask for ‘dahej’! (Dowry!), he lamented, so, he needs to make enough money to at least give his sister a good enough dowry!

I asked him, which has been the happiest moment in his life so far?, he replied, ‘None; I just need to earn money for my family, and only when my profession does well will I be happy. And when I can manage to get all my 4 sisters married, only then I will be the happiest! ’

Hearing Sofikul’s speak of his immense sense of responsibility towards his invalid father and his marriageable sister, I simply had no words to express my admiration of this young adult’s spirit and grave mission statement!

I explained to Sofikul, that the old but good condition bicycle that we want to donate to him, for that, would he be willing to donate Rs 500? I assured him it is not a fee for the bike, so he does not have to donate anything and can just take the bike for free.
I explained to him that his donation will go into a kitty to buy a new bicycle for donation someday when the kitty amounts to nearly Rs 5000.

Sofikul agreed immediately, and his cousin Saajan handed me Rs 500 as their donation!

Once again I tried to impress upon them, that by giving us this donation of Rs 500 for the old bicycle, they too are doing a charitable act, along with the donor of this bicycle Javed Mahadik.

And this is what Sofikul, and his cousin brother Saajan who was also present, told me, (and I have never heard something like this before!!) :
– ‘Yes, we know what you mean by charity, and we are willing to be part of your charity too; because, even we have always been doing charity.
My father taught me, if you ever find a coin or note fallen on the street, whatever be the value of that currency you find, never pocket it, give it to someone poor. But before you give it to a poor person you must add to it the same amount you found. What you found on the street was not yours to begin with, so by giving it away to a poor person you are not doing any charity. It’s only when you double it, add something to that amount from your own earnings and then give away that sum, only that is true charity!’

I was rendered speechless! As a kid, I had usually pocketed coins I had found while riding my bicycle or playing in the park and had ice-lollies from them! Hahahahah seriously!
And as an adult, I would hand fallen coins and notes to beggars. Now, these two coconut sellers taught me a great and true lesson in charity! Thank you!!!

Thank you to Javed Mahadik, for donating a new bicycle to Dhobi Rajendra ; it is Rajendra’s old used bike we donated to Sofikul.

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.

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https://bicycleangels.wordpress.com/

52nd recipient of livelihood bicycle – I was the happiest when we were a joint family

52 dhobi Rajesndra - donor javed mahadik rs 4200

52nd recipient of livelihood bicycle: ‘…I was the happiest, when we were a joint family.’

Rajendra Kanojia (47 years)

Dhobi (washing and ironing)

Rajendra has been in this profession over 25 years. He was born in a village in UP, near Benares. He arrived in Mumbai to earn a livelihood and had to leave his education in the 7th Std because his father was too poor to educate him any further. He has 5 sisters and one brother. His father was a Dhobi too.

Rajendra has one daughter and one son, both are studying in school, and his wife works with him sometimes at their room where they iron clothes, even cooking their meals. He resides and works at a place at mount mary, bandra west.

The downsides in his profession are, sometimes clothes get burnt and then his customers demand he pay them for their burnt clothes, rightly so he added. He does not mind paying for his mistakes, but some of them demand much more than the value of the burnt garment, is what he feels is taking advantage of him. Finally, he pays whatever they demand, because there is no way for him to ascertain the cost of those garments nor can he challenge them as he needs the work. Most customers are sympathetic to his rare mistake of burning their clothes, and for such clients his sincere apology is enough, he says; most people, he says, are good hearted and understanding from his experience of being a Dhobi.

I asked Rajendra which has been his most challenging period?, he replied, ‘Currently I am facing a very difficult time, actually it’s been like this since ten years, after my father died my elder brother divided our work and our one room house between us. And because of this division, and the fact we have just one room to work and live in, we cannot live and work together from that one room any longer; Therefore, 6 months of the year my wife and I live and work from that one room, and the other 6 months we go to our village and live there and supervise our farming land. In those 6 months that we are in the village, my brother comes to Mumbai and lives and works from the room and clients we share. We both service nearly the same clients alternately every 6 months.’
He continued, ‘…This causes immense financial problems, and irregularity in our domestic lives, as our children have to live in the village without both parents for 6 months every year ever since our division. So, we leave my two children with their maternal uncle in the village while we work in Mumbai. Their uncle loves them like his own children, so in that sense they are safe, but they certainly miss us and are sad that we are separated every 6 months. In those 6 months that we spend in the village every year, we have a little land left that we manage to cultivate. It has been given to some other people to cultivate, we two bothers just supervise the harvest and expenses on our land and we get a share of the harvest from the cultivators.’

I asked him, when was the happiest period of his life?, he replied, ‘When we were a joint family, living together as two bothers and both our families, when we both brothers worked and lived together in one room in Mumbai, I was the happiest ever.
After our separation, it is no longer the same now, with the division that my elder brother enforced on us around ten years ago after our father died; our father had passed away, and along with him so did my happiness.’

(As he said this, I thought to myself, the joint family systems, though nearly dead now with the arrival of the nucleus family and smaller homes in cities in particular, had such a great benefit of making a family member feel secure, surrounded with love, and the small children in the family too get looked after quite well in the absence of both working parents who need to work to make ends meet in a city environment.
Moreover, it reminded me of visits I had made to my dad’s friend’s house in New Delhi, when I was a child, they were a joint family, and thing I clearly and fondly remember from those many annual summer vacation visits was the number of kids around in that house (a joint family of four brothers) always ready to play and have fun, and of course, any meal any time of the day would be a grand affair, with nearly two dozen people eating chatting together! So much noise, crowd, yet such fun those summer days were!)

Rajendra seemed so close to his father, I asked him what was the most wonderful thing he learnt from his father?, he proudly replied, ‘My father was very respected in the village, he never spoke against anyone, and he would always tell me – never be angry with anyone, never fight with anyone, always meet everyone with understanding and love.’

Thank you to Javed Mahadik for donating a new bicycle to Rajendra; Rajendra’s old used bicycle we will donate to someone needy who needs one to better his livelihood.

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/

51st recipient of help: ‘… an accident ruined my life forever.’

51 Beggar Khan - donor javed mahadik rs 800

51st recipient of help.

Name: Not being disclosed.
Age 60 plus.
Profession: Survives on the kindness of people.
Place of profession: Bandra, carter road.

He was once an autorickshaw driver, but an accident severely damaged his legs and he became crippled for life thereafter.

Thank you Javed Mahadik, for servicing and repairing his tricycle, gifting him a smoother ride. Thank you Kohinoor Cycles Siddharth Vora and Gazi Ali for doing the needful.

(His photo has been cropped to protect his privacy.)

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