61st recipient – If my father had not died…

61 Bread Mohamed Moiuddin

61st recipient of livelihood bicycle: ‘If my father had not died, I would never have come here; I would have preferred to live and work in my village.’

Mohamed Moiuddin. (58)

Bread and Farsan seller.

Moiuddin is from Madras (Chennai). He has been selling bread since 30 years. He arrived in Bombay (Mumbai) in 1978.

Back in his village in his childhood, they were a family of three brothers, and his mother. His father died when he was a child.
After their father died, their Mamu, maternal uncle, brought them up. God Bless his Mamu, I thought, because he helped an entire family walk on their own feet someday.

When they became adults, naturally they had fend for themselves, and poverty became the reason for his leaving his village and traveling to Bombay to earn a living. Bombay was a milestone he had to reach so he can leave that of poverty far behind.

Thanks to Bicycle Angels, I, and our donors, must have experienced this often. Some of our earlier recipients of these bicycle had to leave their village and travel to Mumbai when their father expired; it was mostly because their widow Mother was unemployed and uneducated too.
So, this morning, I was happy to read in the news that PM Modi has raised the Ministry of Women and Child Development (http://wcd.nic.in/) from being just a regular ministry to becoming a CABINET Ministry. It will now be in a position to take more proactive decisions….,; The development of women and children will help the entire family, especially in times of crisis when one parent dies a sudden and premature death. More power to our new government!

Moiuddin has two children, one boy and one girl; both are educated. Moiuddin himself is educated till the 11th Std. His daughter is married. He had to take a loan for his daughter’s marriage, but he managed to pay it back. and his son is seeking a job at the moment.

The bread he sells daily takes up at least 7 to 8 hours of his day. Post that, he sells Farsan, snacks, until evening. He does that so he can make two ends meet in a city like Mumbai. A metropolis like Mumbai!
But the bicycle he rides to sell bread belongs to the bread agency, so he has to return the bicycle after he delivers their goods. And sells his Farsan later in the day by walking to the various shops or sometimes in an autorickshaw.

Giving him a bicycle would not only help him save time and money in selling his Farsan, but give him the independence to work for any other bread agency he wants to in future. I thought that after 38 years of selling bread he should no longer be dependent on any employer for not having his own bicycle to ply their goods of trade. More power to his independence! 🙂

Moiuddin said to me, ‘If my father had not died, I would never have come here, I would have preferred to live and work in my village.’ He was three years old when his father died, so he has no memory of him nor how he looks. They don’t even have a photo of him, because those years they did not have access to a photographer, etc.
And this is when Moiuddin got a bit emotional, and I had to pause. He is 58, and yet, he got emotional while speaking of a parent he does not have a memory of because he lost him when he was just 3
The loss of a parent is a wound that never heals, I too realize.

The most difficult period he’s ever faced was when he had malaria and could not work for two months and that drained his savings. He does not earn the day he does not ride. Only when their legs and bicycle wheels move does the money trickle in, however less it be its earned in a very very hard way!!

Moiuddin was very easy to talk with, he did not ask me as many questions as some others ask, he trusted me very easily, and was soft spoken, I really liked the guy and wanted to do something for him. He also agreed to paying nearly one third of the cost of the new bicycle if we give him one. Now I really did not need any more convincing, I promptly agreed.

Thank you to Surabhi Shah for donating this new bicycle to Moiuddin.

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. Thanks to Gazi Ali for sending me his pic.



60th recipient of our help (a wheelchair)

60 wheelchair Vinayak Burla Rajendra Lavania

60th recipient of our help (a wheelchair) : “…. When someone gives him a toffee, or any kind of gift, he will always say, – Please give me two more!, or, … next time please get me three, because I have two brothers!”

Vinayak Burla (7)

Vinayak lives at Prabhadevi; he was named after God Sidhivinayak, being born premature he had a poor chance at survival, so they named him Vinayak, as they wanted their premature born to be safe in His care.
He studies in the 1st Std at ADAPT. ADAT has a school bus that collects the children from their houses and brings them to school and drops them back home too. I visited the school, it was so clean, professionally run.

Vinayak was born with CP (Cerebral Palsy) He can speak a bit and comprehend speech and his limbs are quite able, but he cannot walk. He is a partly-functional CP child.

Vinayak’s father is a kind of electronics service engineer, he repairs gadgets like TV and Mobile phones, etc.

I asked Vinayak’s mother, Lavania, to tell me something’s about her son, things that are challenging for him, what makes him sad, happy, joyful….

She responded to me nearly in one breath! She was so eager to speak about her son, and I must add, she held him so close to herself I remembered a TVC of Fevicol! It seemed they were kind of glued to each other!

Lavania said to me, (she was smiling nearly all the while when she spoke, a very positive woman), – Vinayak likes to play with his elder brother and his younger cousin brother. He can see them walk, run, do things he cannot do. That is when he, and even I, feel some level of sadness and even frustration, about his inability to be able to do what fully-functional kids do at his age, so he cannot be a part of their physical activities how much ever he wants to.

At this age he does not realize why he cannot do things that his own brother and cousin can so easily. So sometimes he cries, and I feel it too… So I tell him every day to get up and at least try and walk, does not matter if he falls one day he will be able to run I tell him. But that is only if he will try. I tell him that every day.
(This is when Lavania got emotional. Soon, I had to hold back my own.)

However, his elder brother and his much younger cousin brother love him immensely, and they go out of the way to spend time with him. Play with him. Let me tell you, how protective they are of him, if anyone dare teases Vinayak they both get enraged, and his younger cousin is half his age and yet fights for him, they both fiercely take up for him! (She smiled.)
They cannot bear to see anyone tease him or harm him even in the slightest of ways.

But Vinayak is also as loving towards his brothers, when someone gives him a toffee, or any kind of gift, he will always say, ‘Give me two more.’, or, he will say, ‘… Next time please bring three, because I have two brothers.’
His speech is not totally audible sometimes, but if you listen with more attention its audible, because his CP is not very severe like many other CP children.

He can play some games on his father’s mobile phone. When he watches TV serials, he gives all of us the names of the TV characters! He is naughty, everyday he changes our names depending on which TV serial he watches! (She laughed).
He reminds me of my house chores sometimes, or of any message that has been left by some visitor for my husband, even though I forget to pass them on, he remembers. He is more alert than us!

One of my happiest and proudest moments was when he received an award for being a good student at school (ADAPT), and he received a trophy in sports. Even he is so proud of it that sometimes he tells his elder brother – ‘You are bigger than me, stronger than me, but look do you have any awards and trophies like I have, and you can even walk and run. Even Mummy and daddy, even you both do not have trophies like I have.’

The meeting was soon over, and as I was on my way to work I thought of what I liked about him – This fragile 7 years young and so called not-fully-functional Vinayak knew the value of what he has, even though he has far less than what we so called fully-functional people are blessed with. Because he was aware his fully-functional family does not have the awards and trophy he has earned!

Freedom to travel the world on his legs, is what we wish on Vinayak. May the donation of this wheelchair become redundant as soon as possible!

I also realized in hindsight, why Mother and son were stuck together like araldite/fevicol sticks things. = Here was a mother who was confident one day her fragile bird is going to get up and fly!, leave her and his wheelchair (his nest for now) far far behind! Then she will not see him often, because the grown up and stronger Vinayak will be busy with his new friends who run, cycle, swim, skip, jump, play football with him.
She was a mother who was keeping her bird as close as possible now to her chest, so that she can savor these precious moments years later when she happily misses her bird who has finally and surely flown.

Thank you to my sister, Suman Datt, (and Vinay Datt) for donating a wheelchair to Vinayak, she and her husband Vinay had told me buy one for any needy child or adult for her Birthday that was in May. Happy Birthday to her, once again.

And, thank you to Varsha Hooja and Amena Latif of ADAPT (Able Disable All People Together) http://www.adaptssi.org/ (Bandra west); for helping me meet this worthy recipient of our help. Both wonderful people doing great jobs in their social welfare cum education profession.


59th recipient – She stopped, she got off, she asked me if I was okay. For me that was good enough.

59 pau bread david

59th recipient of livelihood bicycle: ‘…. She stopped, she got off, she asked if I was okay. For me that was good enough.’ (Smiles)

David Rajakani. (62)

Bread seller.

Over the past few months, ever since I founded Bicycle Angels in September (with the immense help of my donor pals, Thank You peeps), I would often notice on my walk or rides, an old man, a bread seller, quite frail, riding his bike, an old and frail looking one, very slowly, lost in deep thoughts, stopping shop to shop to sell bread.

I had always wanted to stop him en route and ask him if he would agree to donate his very old frail looking bike to me, in exchange of a brand new one, provided he spend some money, maybe Rs 500 to 1000 on his old bike before handing it to me.
Last week I did. He agreed. His name is David.

However, on second thoughts David realized he cannot give us his old bike in exchange of a new one, because the bike he was riding belonged to the bread agency he is employed with.

I felt, he works so hard at this age and still does not own a bicycle; maybe we should donate an old used bike to him. We had received an old bike from Dhobi Atul last week, when Sonika and Rajeev Munjal, and Sahil and Jay Sheth, had donated Atul a new bicycle.

I asked David he has ever owned a bike?, … He replied, he once had a bike, on which even his son learnt how to cycle, (he smiled), but then they sold it when he needed some money for his daughter’s marriage; they were not really riding the bicycle often so he thought its best to sell it off and use the money for the wedding.

I asked him if he would like to have a bike of his own, an old/used one not a new one; and if yes, would he be willing to donate a small token amount for it? It is not a fee, but just a small donation he will have to make; and if he is willing, then he needs to tell me what will he do with the old bicycle we donate to him?

David agreed to donate some money to receive the old bike we were offering him, and said he will send the bike to his village (Kanyakumari), so that his elder son can use it to travel to college, a polytechnic; and he too can ride it whenever he visits his village. They do not own a bike back home.

I decided then to donate the old bicycle to David. I must add, David told me that for the first time in his life someone has offered to donate a bicycle to him. Even an old bicycle no one has ever offered him one.

David is from TN, Kanyakumari. He has been selling bread since 1975. Back in the village, his father owned a tiny shop that sold Beedi/Cigarette, but the income was not enough to sustain their large family of 11 people.

David wanted to somehow earn a little more than Rs 50 a month, so that he can remit at least Rs 50 a month to his parents for the education of his 7 siblings that were younger to him. He felt responsible for them.
So he arrived in Mumbai in 1970 to earn a livelihood. He wanted to earn money for the education of his 7 younger siblings, (they were in total 6 brothers and 3 sisters.) Over the years, his brothers and he have contributed to the expenses of the marriages of their 3 sisters, and they have settled them in good homes, he proudly said.

David now has his own family of two sons and one daughter, his daughter is educated and married. (Hooray, I thought! He educated his girl child.)

I asked him when was the biggest challenge he ever faced in life?, He replied, the biggest challenge he faced was when he had to take loans to meet the expenses they had during the marriages of his sisters, and even for his own daughter’s wedding. Thankfully, he has paid them all off, he said.

On hearing this, I realized that from the many recipients of these bicycles I have met so far, some of them had to take loans for the weddings of their daughters or sisters. However poor we may consider some people, parents and brothers (even earning sisters) often do more than they possibly can for their daughter or sister’s wedding.

Normally, I would have asked David (just like I would have asked any other recipient of an old bicycle) if he would be willing to donate Rs 500 for the old bike we were offering him. The old bike we were offering him was now in good condition, because Dhobi Atul had spent nearly Rs 500 to 700 on it before handing it to us in exchange of the new bike we were donating to him.

David was willing to donate some money; and when I realized he will be spending nearly Rs 500 to 600 for its transportation to Kanyakumari, I decided to ask him for only Rs 100 as his voluntary donation towards the bike.

He promptly agreed and paid up. (I will add it to the kitty of donations to benefit another needy soul someday. I believe, never give anything for free, many people do not value freebies; I try to make the recipient pay a tiny token if possible, unless the recipient is a destitute.)

I noticed, David smiled a lot as he spoke, I felt he seemed content with whatever lemons life has given him. I really liked this guy, very caring towards his 8 siblings, seemingly content in spite of his less privileged state, riding a bicycle with so much weight even in his 60s!

I asked David if he’s ever had an accident while riding his bike?, he replied, “Twice; once a young girl driving a very big car took a sudden turn, and I fell off my bicycle and landed on the street. However, she stopped, got off and asked me if I was okay; only when I assured her I was okay, she drove away. Later that day, I suffered some pains later, and then I spent nearly Rs 1500 on X rays etc over a week. But I was okay soon.’ (He smiled)

I asked him then, ‘After you had to spend some money on curing the pains and aches you suffered, did you ever feel then that you should have claimed some money (compensation) from the car driver, that young girl…?’, He replied, ‘She was a good person; she had stopped her car, got off and apologized to me, and asked me if I am okay; for me that was good enough. I never thought of claiming anything from her.’

Long after David left, I thought ‘In America, or any other developed nation, had this happened, David could have purchased a car as big as hers on suing her for bodily damages and mental exertion!’ 😉

I think David forgave her for sending him flying to the ground, not just because it seemed to him then that he wasn’t badly hurt, but also because that erring stranger had shown genuine concern, sympathy, and care in stopping her car, (stepping out of its safety and luxury, leaving behind her comfort and safety zone), and coming up to him and asking if he was alright, and apologizing to him. Now, how many of us will do this, not ZOOM away without a care, if we, God forbid, ever make such an error in judgment/mistake while driving… Well….

Thanks to Sonika and Rajeev Munjal, and Sahil and Jay Sheth, for donating this bicycle to David.

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.


58th recipient – What is not my earnings cannot belong to me.



58 Dhobi Atul -sonika sahil jay




58 th recipient of livelihood bicycle: ‘….I don’t feel any need to keep money not belonging to me. The money was not mine in the first place, to begin with, because it was not my earnings. What can I possibly do with money that does not belong to me!?’

Atul Kumar. (18)

Dhobi. (Washes and iron clothes)

Atul is from UP, he arrived in Mumbai a few weeks ago. He lives with his father’s brother in Bandra west; his uncle is a Dhobi too. Even his father is a Dhobi. He has two brothers and two sisters, both sisters are married. His younger brother is studying, and his elder brother works with POP (Plaster of Paris) on jobs in his village and sometimes at Lucknow.

About his education he said ‘…. In the 8th grade, my class mate tore my book, and I asked him to pay me for a new book. He refused to pay up, so I slapped him a couple of times. He complained to our school master, and the master abused me. I told the master not to abuse me, but he kept abusing me, and even began hitting me. See, I have a lot of dormant anger in me, and it comes to the surface only when someone abuses me! My father had taught me never to abuse anyone, and not to hear abuse from anyone. I decided I will not study under him, but he refused to give me the year’s mark sheet of my grades of Std. 8th. So I could not study elsewhere. Then I decided not to study anymore, and began working with my elder brother, learning the POP application profession from him.’

I wonder, why did his father or elder brother not take up the issue with higher authorities of the school or village…. ?, Maybe Atul himself was not inclined towards studies, and chose to assist his bother at a young age post that incident.
When I asked him if he would like to continue his studies in Mumbai, at the various MC run evening schools, he said he would like to do that while he is learning the profession of being a Dhobi.

Atul has always liked to iron clothes, and he came to Mumbai this year to assist his Uncle in the laundry profession, to learn ironing. He likes the laundry profession. He has an old bicycle that he uses to collect and home deliver the laundry to their customers. He is happy living here, his uncle looks after him well and teaches him the skills of laundry.

I asked him which has been the most challenging or sad times he has faced in his young life, he replied, ‘My father and uncle have always looked after me well. However, some people from our village promised me a good job in Lucknow, and I took some money from my father and travelled to Lucknow with them for this job opportunity. However, once we were in Lucknow, they took away all my money, and stranded me in a strange city I was visiting the first time. I had no belongings, no money to even have a cup of tea. I could not contact my family since I had no money to make even a phone call. But I knew one person, he was a friend working in Lucknow, he was from my village. I knew where he lived and went to visit him, and told him of my circumstances, and asked him to lend me just the fare to return home. He did, he loaned me the money to return to my village and even put me on the train. The time I spent there was the worst period of my life so far.’

I fear to imagine what could have happened to a young teen in a strange city without any means to contact his family and without any money to have his next meal!

I asked Atul to tell me of the happiest moment of his life so far; and he delighted me with his innocent response,…’A few years ago, I was in my village and going about my day, when I chanced to come across money fallen by the way side. I picked it up, and looked around but there was no one around to claim it. I counted the money, it was Rs 1500!!! I was so happy I found this money! So much money!
However, my father had taught me never to take something that does not belong to me, so, I waited at that spot for some time, waiting for its owner to claim it. But, no one turned up nor approached me. Then I began to ask a few people around, if the money was theirs, and they said it did not belong to them.
I pocketed the money and returned home. I handed it to my father and said I found it by the road side. My father hoped I had not stolen it, and if I have stolen it then he will beat me; I assured told him it’s not stolen, and that I even waited there at that spot for the owner to claim it, and even asked some people hanging around at that spot if the money was theirs. Only then my ‘daddy’ relaxed, and he was happy that I had not stolen it. I felt very happy. That is the happiest I have ever been.’

What I really appreciated was when he told me ‘Mujhe unn paison ko rakhne ki koi zaroorat nahin thi. Kyunki woh meri kamai thi hi nahin. Toh main unn paison ka kya karoonga, jo mere the hi nahin.’ (I don’t feel any need to keep money not belonging to me. The money was not mine in the first place, to begin with, because it was not my earnings. What can I possibly do with money that does not belong to me!)

I appreciated this young adult’s sense of ownership, his belief that only what he earns can belong to him, nothing else will. Yes, true, innocence and honesty stands upright across demographics and income groups. They are not the prerogative or copyright of the privileged few just because of their higher status.

Thank you to Sonika and Rajeev Munjal, Sahil and Jay Seth, for donating a new bicycle to Atul; Atul’s old bicycle we will donate to someone worthy 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. Thanks to Gazi Ali for the photo of Atul.


57th recipient – The only thing I can take with me on my death is goodwill.

57 bhel chaurasia - donor rohan juneja

57th recipient of livelihood bicycle: ‘… I am satisfied with the knowledge that whatever I earn will not leave with me. The only thing I can possibly take with me on my death is the goodwill my family and I will earn in our lifetime.’

Chaurasia. (50)

Profession: Bhel seller.

Chaurasia sells Bhel at the corner of Perry Cross Road, Bandra west. He is from Benares, UP.

I asked him when did he arrive first in Mumbai?, he replied, ‘When I first came here, the fare to Mumbai from UP was Rs 75. The fare now is around Rs 500.’

He arrived in Mumbai to earn money for his family. They are a family of four brothers and 3 sisters, all his sisters are married. His close relative had a Bhel stall on hill road, Bandra west, next to Elco Pani Puri, and he learnt to prepare Bhel from him. He was 16 then.

Chaurasia has two sons of his own. (A few months ago, his son, Nitesh, who needed a bicycle to travel to college, was donated a MTB bicycle by actor Pravin Dabbas; Pravin had purchased a new bicycle, so he had wanted to donate his old one, so we gave his bike to Nitesh.)

Chaurasia is educated up to the 8th Std. He could not study any further as the family lacked the money. Before he migrated to Mumbai, back in the village he would work in the fields. The family still owns around 4 acres of land of their own, which they cultivate as a joint family.

I asked him when did he face his most difficult period?, he said, ‘… It was in 2007, my younger brother took over a room we had together purchased in Mumbai. When we purchase the room, he told me he is putting his name on the property document only because one of our names has be on it, so let it be his name. I agreed, as I trusted him. However, later, he told me to get out of the room where we lived together, saying it belonged only to him and now needs it for his own family. Because the room was on his name I could not do anything about it. I let the matter be and decided to move on. Thankfully, I have finally managed to buy my own room at Nalasopara, where my own family reside, and both my sons are being educated, one is in school and the other in college. So God has been kind to me.’

Well, he gives God the entire credit, good, whereas I think he reached the shore from mid ocean not only because he prayed to God, but also because he picked up the oars to himself row his way out of the deep end.

When Chaurasia narrated this incident to me, about his brother betraying him, he had tears in his eyes. I admired that he was not bitter about his brother’s betrayal of his trust, and his decision to move one, to keep working and thus someday earn a permanent shelter of his own once again.
So, life does give us a second chance, a second hand, its up to us to grab it, is what I thought while listening to him.

I asked him what has been the happiest moment of his life?, he said, “This last one year has been very good, I have good number of customers who visit my stall, I have many repeat customers. I am able to look after my own family from this profession, and even send money to my parents. I am satisfied with the knowledge that whatever I earn will not leave with me. The only thing I can possibly take with me on my death is the goodwill my family and I will earn in our lifetime.’

This used cycle we donated to him, we received it in exchange of the new bicycle Rohan Juneja donated to Mohamad Siddiqui the egg seller and 54th recipient. Chaurasia said he will use this bicycle to fetch water for their household daily use early in the morning, and then to shop for the ingredients he needs for preparing Bhel.

The commendable thing about Chaurasia too is (and another recipient of an old cycle in the past), he willingly donated Rs 500 to us for receiving this bicycle; his donation of Rs 500 will be added to the ongoing kitty of donations which we will dip into to someday purchase a new bicycle for some needy person. I too have always believed – We always have enough to be able to help another.

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