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.