67th recipient of livelihood bicycle: ‘These humble livelihood bicycles, just like parents, hope and strive relentlessly to give us an uninterrupted ride on our various journeys through life.‘
Shabbir Shaikh. (42)
One morning during my walk I stopped a man selling bread on his bicycle. I asked him if the bicycle he is riding belongs to him? (because, sometime they ride bikes belonging to the Bread agency or bakery they employed with)
He replied, aggressively, ‘What’s it to you, about the ownership of this bicycle that I am riding!? Is there a problem? First tell me why you want to know, and then I will give you my reply’
Okay Bro!!! So I braced myself for his aggression. But then, just for a second, I felt I should simply walk away from this seemingly-rude fellow. However, I thought, my random question to a random stranger can certainly come across suspicious; Did he misunderstand that I suspected whether his bike is a stolen one!?; furthermore, it’s probably a question no one has ever asked him, because that’s what many earlier recipients had told me; moreover, it’s certainly not written on my bloody face ya, what Bicycle Angels is all about! So, I stayed put and explained to him with patience who we (Bicycle Angels) really are.
He just could not believe what we offered was true. Once he did, he turned friendly and finally smiled.
Shabbir is born and brought up at Chimbai, Bandra west. He has been living in Mumbai since 15 to 20 years, and he also lived in his village in UP during his formative years and early youth as they still have their family house in UP. In Chimbai, he lives amongst the Koli fisher folks community (The Kolis are the oldest know native inhabitants of Mumbai) and he said the Kolis are a really fine community.
Shabbir’s father was a bread seller too, and ferried them shop to shop, and to houses, on a bicycle. Shabbir got into this profession when his father told him (Shabbir was living in their village then, and working on the family’s agriculture land) that he is now getting old, and since he (Shabbir) is now an adult it’s time he took over the reins of his trade-cycle in his able hands. Shabbir agreed and became a bread seller just like his father was. Fortunately, Shabbir had a ready clientele that had been nurtured by his father over many decades.
Shabbir has two daughters, one is in school and the other is still too young to go to school. He is educated till the 5th (because his father asked him to come to Mumbai and take over his profession.) He has two brothers; one is a farmer and the other is a farmer too, but he looks after the bread business when Shabbir goes to his village twice a year to assist his family in their agriculture profession.
I confessed to him, that he was kind of rude when I asked him about the ownership of his bike. He replied apologetically, ‘In all the years I have lived here and been in this business, I have never heard or seen anything like what you described and offered to me. I thought you were joking or making a fool of me! You see, it’s not believable for people like us that someone in this world will take our old bicycle and give us a new one!’
I asked him how old his bicycle is? He replied, ‘Its three monsoon’s old!’
His reply made me realize that some of them rate their bicycle’s age by the number of monsoons it survives! Water is the biggest enemy of their vehicle of livelihood. The rains and the sea-salt laden monsoon winds corrode their bikes, faster than corruption corrodes human existence. These tradesmen ride their bicycles for 5 to 6 hours in the morning and 4 to 6 hours in the evening, nearly 365 days. They cannot stop riding during the monsoons like many of us privileged cyclists can do. My rider pals and me are truly blessed we can choose not to ride.
I asked him if he has ever faced any challenges and difficulties in life that may have overwhelmed him?
He replied, ‘I earn my livelihood and I have food to eat, so I feel I have never faced any problem that I can say was a very difficult period of my life.’
I asked him, ‘Which has been the happiest moment of your life so far?’
He replied, ‘I have never felt very happy in my life, life has moved at quite a steady and regular pace for me. However, today I feel very happy because someone has given me a new bicycle in exchange of my old one! Also, my parents have passed away, so all the ‘tensions’ of life are now upon us three brothers. Till they were alive the ‘tension’ of our existence was on them.’
His reply made me realize, how much freedom from ‘tension’ we children enjoy until the passing away of those two precious souls who willingly take upon themselves the weight, the burden, the unconditional bearing of our existence from even before we are born.
And our salute to the amazing livelihood bicycle, for bearing the weight of the rider and rides, irrespective of the season, and the weight of their goods. These humble livelihood bicycles, just like parents, hope and strive relentlessly to give us an uninterrupted ride on our various journeys through life. My salute to my parents who did that for me! I Love them. I Miss them.
Thank you to ‘K’ and to Meghna Rodrigues for donating this new bicycle to Shabbir. Shabbir contributed too, towards the purchase of this new bicycle; his old bicycle we will soon donate to someone needy.
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. Thank you Gazi Ali for the photo.