Post my nearly 350-400 kms trip, a bicycle charity-ride from Pune to Ratnagiri, over 6 days, riding nearly 50 to 70 kms daily, (on which my friends, and family and the NGO donated 9 livelihood bicycles to needy and rural people, across 6 towns and villages of Maharashtra, Pune, Umbraj, Kokrud, Pali, Ratnagiri, along with the NGO Mukul Madhav Foundation);
some of my friends asked me, ‘So, What was the trip and ride like?’
Well, the cycling was great, but so was the experience of knowing these children, up close.
Quite many lessons and feelings from my ride across five towns of Maharashtra, I decided to share today.
Every Zilla Parishad school I visited, four, as an observer and not a social worker, I noticed everywhere the midday meal was exactly the same; Dal and Rice. No chatni, no papad, no achaar, no onions, none of the frills I regularly relish with nearly every meal.
Yet, every child smiled just as I do when I relish Cocoberry cold yogurt ice cream, or Alphanso Mangoes every summer!
They ate from steel plates, everywhere we went, and yet held them like they were eating out of pure Silver.
The NGO involved with the medical camp for these children, gifted each child a toothpaste, toothbrush, a Gluco biscuit, and soap. to teach them to brush their teeth, wash their hands, and enjoy the sweet biscuit. It was a sight I saw at every school we went, that the child on receiving his goodies packet would run with such joy to his or her classmates to show them what he has just ‘miraculously’ received! Its the kind joy I have experienced on seeing exotic places in India or abroad after spending far much more money and effort.
Another, most touching incident for me, was that some of the schools, the younger children wanted to simply touch me, which is evident from this accompanying picture. They would invariably, boys and girls, come up to me shyly, and when I would chat with them and ask their names and age and which class they in, they would open up like sunflowers smile on seeing the Sun, and after just a while sit right besides me, or touch my arm or even my bald head, and sometimes just rest their shoulder against mine just like deep friends do.
Why!? I really do not know from what source arrived their fascination or affection for me, or maybe just a cyclist in clothes so different from what they used to seeing.
Maybe they were fascinated by the presence of a cyclist, just like maybe one of their dreams that they feel they may never ever be able to achieve.
I returned a billionaire, and had even put on more than a kilo of weight on my return. It was the kilos of love, and not fat, I know.
Thank you Ritu and Prakash.