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)
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.