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.