81st recipient of help (livelihood bicycle) : “Wasted is that moment which will never see the light; wasted is beauty which will not have an admirer.”
Sohanlal Nirmal. (72)
Dhobi/Laundry services (Ironing)
I saw Sohanlal riding while I was on a walk. Though he seemed very old he rode sturdily, even though his old dilapidated bike seemed to be a few hours away from surrendering to her gross misfortune. I decided to stop him and chat with him, and he obliged me.
Sohanlal is from UP, and resides at Bandra west. He has been in this profession since more than 50 years. He is educated till the 4th, and could not study anymore because they did not have the money, even though he was very keen to study further.
Even the agriculture land his family continues to own in the village is not cultivable every year, because of the lack of rains and even lack of irrigation-water canals.
Before he came to Mumbai and joined the laundry services profession, he worked for 16 years selling cloth for a cloth merchant. He was keen to do his own business, but he could not establish one because could not find the necessary finance to buy the cloth from wholesalers.
Twice in the past, two of his bicycles, along with his customer’s clothes, have got robbed, and both times from Pali Hill. Luckily, all his affected customers did not demand that he pay them for the loss of their clothes, and that was because of his old age, he says gratefully.
Sohanlal has 3 daughters and one son, and his son is married and shares the work with him. Two of his daughters are married. All 4 children are educated at the school level.
I asked him why did he choose this profession of ironing clothes…?
He replied with a rhetorical, – ‘Saab, is there anything better than being one’s own Boss?… is there anything better than having one’s own business or profession!?’
Sohanlal’s belief reflects his daring. It is the business of the very few to be independent; being independent is a privilege of the strong indeed. And whoever attempts it, being self-employed, independent, proves that he or she is probably not only strong, but also most-daring beyond measure. I had read this someplace and he reminded me of it.
I asked Sohanlal which has been the happiest period of his life so far?
He replied, “It’s only now, lately, sadly only when I have become old, that I am now beginning to see what I can say are pretty good times. I am making enough money to look after my family, (pause) but I feel sad that a better time has come for me when my body has got old. I wish this stability had come a little earlier.
Thought these times are good, I have not been able to save money, because I had to spend on three weddings. However, my true earning has been that I have been able to buy a secure roof for my family, make my son independent, and get my two daughters married. Now only one daughter remains unmarried.”
Sohanlal also seemed very pleased about the opinion his children have of him, which is – “Few fathers have provided for their children like you have for us. You have secured us with our own house and work. And you continue to work and look after our needs even at this age.’
I believe, the affection and appreciation from his immediate family is what (makes Sohanlal ride his bike like a far younger person!) keeps him so able at 72 and love his work too. His will, right from the days of his youth, ‘to be independent’, along with the appreciation and gratitude of his family, is what really keeps this young man rocking!
I asked him, “… Considering you have left many many many miles behind on life’s ride, can you share with us an interesting proverb, something colloquial, from your experiences, from your learnings..?”
Suddenly, Sohanlal smiled; his eyes gleaming in delight; He had got transformed into a little boy dying to reveal what he has been hiding all along in the bulging pockets of his shorts.
Raising his right hand in a ‘shaiyar-ana’ (poetic recital) manner, he said lyrically to me :– “Woh Samay bekaar hai jismein Ujala na hua; woh Husn bekaar hai jismein Chahanewala na huwa!”
(Wasted is that Moment which will not see the Light; wasted is Beauty which will not have an Admirer.)
Hahahahahahah! Lovely!! I complimented him. I asked him to repeat it, such was my delight. He was so happy, and this time said it with even more vigor!!
Sohanlal left me in not just pearls of hearty laughter, but also enriched with his colloquial expression and raw wisdom.
Thank you to Varsha Kalani for purchasing this new bicycle for Sohanlal; he contributed more than half the cost of the same.
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 to Siddharth for Sohanlal’s photo.