63rd recipient of livelihood bicycle: “I have only heard of ‘happiness’. I have never seen it.”
Naimuddin Ansari. (48)
Bread and Pau seller.
When I walk around Bandra early morning, I would often see a middle aged man on his bicycle, a bit over weight, riding at a slow pace with effort. He would stop en route his journey and sit down on one of the benches on the pavement by the sea side. To me he seemed to be contemplating on his past present or maybe future, he would always be seated quietly and I never saw him chat on his phone.
I would wonder sometimes, what is going on in his mind when he comes and sits here on this bench in solitude en route his work. Though he wasn’t old, he always seemed fatigued to me and his shirt was always largely wet with sweat and marked with the pollution none of us can escape when we ride in our streets.
One day I stopped to chat with him. And I explained to him what we do. He just could not believe what we were offering! He stood up and asked me to repeat the whole conversation again, about us offering him a new bike in exchange of his old one! As I repeated, he stared at me with wide open eyes.
His name is Naimuddin, he sells Bread and Pau in Bandra. He is from UP. His family still lives in the village. His father, now no more, once owned his own bakery in Sion, and they were doing well. However, he died a premature death due to appendicitis many years ago when Naimuddin was very young.
When his father died, Naimuddin’s elder brother took over their family bakery business, (literally took over completely!!!) and told his family they will have no share in the bakery thereafter, because their father has left the bakery in huge debt. So either the family should pay up their share of their father’s debt, or else just leave the bakery to him for good and he will pay the debts of the family, and if he does that then they cannot claim any share in its profits or its ownership thereafter. Basically, his elder brother ‘kicked’ them out of their rightful inheritance!
When Naimuddin told me this, his eyes turned moist. He continued…. His mother told her eldest son to keep the bakery and they do not want any share in it. She instructed Naimuddin to travel to Mumbai and earn a livelihood for their family. Naimuddin had two brothers and one sister, his sister died a few years ago. Naimuddin’s eyes went moist when he spoke about the circumstances of his sister’s premature death. What he said about her death was too sad for me to share here with you people.
After his elder brother betrayed their family, under the instructions of his mother Naimuddin arrived in Mumbai in 1980 and began working in a bakery. He worked as a baker for a few years, but then realized if he ferries bread and Pau on a bicycle from shop to shop he can earn some more money. He needed the extra money because his entire family was now dependent on him and his brother.
Naimuddin made it in Mumbai by selling bread and Pau from shop to shop. Fortune favors the resilient and brave! He is married and back in the village he has his own family of 3 daughters and 3 sons. What is most commendable is that all his 6 children are educated!!! In spite of the fact that Naimuddin himself is just 4th Std fail! Most of his children are graduates or will soon be graduates, and the youngest two are in school!
Ironically, his elder brother (who betrayed his family by taking over the family’s bakery and business) has not been able to achieve what Naimuddin has achieved even though Naimuddin had to begin his livelihood from zero. – Naimuddin’s elder brother’s children are not educated, most of them either dropped out of school mid way, or just never went to school!
Naimuddin said, ‘I have made all my 3 daughters graduates so that they never have to suffer the evil of Dowry. My sister was uneducated, she suffered in her life, my daughters should not, so I made them all graduates, of BCom and BA.’
I asked him which has been the happiest moment of his life so far?, he replied, ‘Saab, Khushi toh…. Khushi ka toh sirf naam suna hai. Humne khushi kabhi dekha nahin.’ (I have only heard of ‘happiness’. I have never seen it.)
I asked him, ‘But are you not happy that you are receiving this new bicycle in exchange of your old one?’ And suddenly, Naimuddin’s face lit up like a million dollar note! He admitted he is very happy that he is receiving this new bicycle in exchange of his old one and no one in this world has ever given him such an offer before!
Before he left, Naimuddin joined both his hands to shake my singular hand, both his hands nearly giving my singular hand a gentle hug. He was almost hesitant that I may not like it that he reached out to give my hand a hug. But he does not know his sense of immense gratitude touched me deeply!
Thank You to Meghna Rodrigues for donating a new bicycle to Naimuddin; his old bicycle we will donate to some needy person. Naimuddin also contributed, in his own humble way, towards the purchase of this new bicycle that Meghna donated to him.
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. And thank you to Gazi Ali for the pic.