91st recipient of help (livelihood bicycle) :
“People can unknowingly tell us stories; revealed not by their lips, but by their footwear, even though they come and go in absolute silence.”
Datta Laxmax Sherekar (31)
Milk man and cobbler.
Datta is born and brought up at BDD Chawls, Worli.
A happy go lucky fellow, is what I thought of him on meeting him. His father was a cobbler and sold shoes, chappals, footwear for the lower middle class.
Datta sells milk in the morning, and post 9 am he works as a cobbler and footwear seller; his shop is at BDD chawls, Worli.
Datta has been working as a cobbler since the age of 9 after his father died, and he began selling milk 8 years ago, to supplement their family income, after his father sailed away. He is educated till the 9th Std., his father’s early death stemmed his chance to educate himself any further.
His father died due to an illness related to excessive alcohol consumption, when Datta was 9. His mother died in 2000.
He was not as sad when his father died, but he cried only when his mother died, as she was his constant companion through her life; and that’s the only time he has cried, he said, in his life so far.
What he remembers most fondly about his mother is, when she beat him black and blue with a stick, because he went roaming around the city with his friends without informing his parents, and returned home very late. They were worried to death that something terrible may have happened to him, and when he returned home he got a beating of his life, which even left a scar on his head.
Yet, he misses her the most. He learnt such a good lesson from that good-beating, he never did anything thereafter against her wish, or anything they considered morally wrong.
Datta is married and has two children. He has a daughter and a son, both go to school. He got his sister married from his own earnings when he was 22; he was very proud he could do that, as he still is the only earning member of his family.
I had heard from some people that there is a lot of violence and gangs in and around BDD chawls, and when I have been in that area I have felt the buildings could fall first if there is a cloud burst over Mumbai. So I have sometimes wondered what’s it like growing up in such a place. So I asked him that.
Datta said, ‘It can be very challenging growing up in BDD chawls. Often fights break out between residents of the buildings, and sometimes fights break out between rival ‘groups’.
But it’s not as bad as it seems. You know, the buildings we stay in are so tough, (even though from the exterior it seems, God-forbid, that the buildings may crumble like freshly baked butter cookies on a day of very heavy rain) that to push even an one inch iron nail into any wall it takes the greatest of effort!
Most regular drill machines with a regular drill head fail to make a deep enough hole for a nail to be driven in! Even though these buildings, (nearly 151 of them), are more than 150 years old I think, built by Angrez log (the English), they are very strong!’
It’s not just those British era buildings that are tough, I thought, looking at this resilient fellow, harder than any drill head, a cobbler from age 9 who gets up to sell milk at 5 am daily, without any holidays too I guess, it’s his spirit that is more formidable than all those 151 British era foundations put together!
Even the nail of his father’s very early death, and later his mother’s death, did not stop him from bringing up his sister and earning enough to help her get married, when he was just 22.
To put that in perspective, when I was 22, I bunked my second year Engineering Degree course exams to watch a Hindi movie! That, is the difference between him and someone like me, I thought.
Datta being a cobbler and shoe seller, working so close to the ‘ground’, day in and day out dealing with shoes, slippers, footwear, something that directly ‘connects’ us to the ground we build our dreams on, I asked him can he guess what people are like from looking at their footwear or its condition?
Datta said, he often can look at a person’s footwear and from it’s condition somewhat gauge the wearer’s character and or nature; how well or how badly they keep their footwear, how often they repair it, or get it polished, irrespective of their finances.
So, people can unknowingly tell us stories; revealed not by their lips, but by their footwear, even though they come and go in absolute silence.
In retrospect, when he spoke about his father, there was a scar, unhealed, and hurt that continues to pain, born probably from his father’s alcoholism, which I decided not to probe.
Somethings are best left un-probed. For me it was enough that here is a boy who relied solely on his instincts, even if it meant dealing with people through their footwear, getting up after every set back, after every nail that pierces the self.
“I am someone who always gets up again, even if there are setbacks. I have a survivor instinct. I’m not sure where it comes from, but probably from all the little things that make you into who you are.”- (Super Model) Heidi Klum.
Thank you to Surabhi Shah for donating this new bike to Datta; Datta too contributed substantially towards the cost of the bike.
(I met Datta on my ride one morning, he was delivering milk near Worli Naka, on a bike that was in bad condition. That is what made me stop to speak with 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.
(PS – Rs 3000 is what it takes to donate a new bicycle; yes, because the balance, 2000 to 2500, is contributed by the recipient. J)