102nd recipient of help (livelihood bicycle) : The only real and tragic disability in life is a bad attitude to your circumstances and to what you suffer.
Sudarshan Yadav (50 plus)
He sells dry grass (hay) to people who feed cows outside temples. He gets paid Rs 10 per bale of grass.
Sudarshan is from UP, and he is absolutely uneducated. Reason being, his parents could not afford to send him or his siblings to school.
His father was a farmer, and what was cultivated on their little bit of land was just enough to clothe them and bring just-enough-bread under their roof.
However, Sudarshan could not break bread for long with his family. At a very young age he had to migrate to Mumbai, along with a kind relative who showed him a path to walk, to supplement the paltry income of his father.
He has word hard over 40 years being here, city of gold, yet today, he has no shelter of his own in Mumbai. He lives off the mercy and generosity of some very gracious people who hold the power to deny him shelter under their roof, and he says are kind to allow him to park his bicycle at this secure shelter.
I asked him, how does he manage this? He replied, ‘With folded hands I ask them to allow me to sleep under their shelter. To them I seem too poor and harmless, so they allow me to live there in the nights.’
Initially, when he arrived as a youngster in Mumbai, he worked as a laborer, and he remembers so clearly he would easily carry sacks weighing 100 kgs on his back or head all by himself. The strength and ability to do that could and did earn him good amount of daily wages, he proudly said.
However, those days of ‘glory’ were quite short lived. One day, one very sad day, while Sudarshan was in the fields in Mumbai some place and cutting dry grass, along with a work mate, his work mate’s long knife’s, (the sickle’s), blade hit Sudarshan’s lower leg, and a very significant tendon, the Achilles tendon mostly, got cut and he bled so much that he fainted on the spot.
His work mate thought he had killed Sudarshan by mistake, so he ran away not just from the spot but left Mumbai. His work mate left the city forever, however, thereafter Sudarshan lost the ability to stand or use that leg on its own. (medically termed ‘foot drop’ I think) Now he has to put most of his body weight on his other good leg to walk or bicycle, or carry any loads.
Sudarshan mentioned the saddest thing that happened to him was not his poverty, nor the injury of his leg; but, it was that because of that injury he could no longer carry those 100 kg sacks, which robbed him of a substantial monthly income which had helped him raise his own family and his old parents. Now when he rides his bicycle for work, and if he brakes, he has to rest his good leg on the street to balance himself.
Thank God for even his small mercies, I thought to myself, that Sudarshan has one solid good leg. God keep it safe and strong.
Sudarshan’s employer knew him to be hard working and honest, so though he had injured in his one leg for life, his kind employer allowed Sudarshan to continue to work for him. He gave him the job of cutting grass and sells it to him for Sudarshanji to sell it outside temples in Juhu.
Sudarshan pays his employer for the grass and then carries it on his bicycle and rides to Juhu to sell it outside temples, and to people who own cows in their bungalows. He makes about two to three trips daily between Vile Parle East and Juhu for his profession.
Sudarshan has a family of 4 daughters. He had two sons, but they died during childhood. He said the reason for their death was simply their ‘destiny’.
I told him, considering and worrying that he is already seemingly old and frail, I hope he will be able to earn enough to marry off his FOUR daughters in his lifetime!
He said, ‘… I save money for them. I have deposited Rs 30,000 in the name of my eldest daughter. It will come of use to her someday.’
To give you some perspective on what Rs 30,000 can bring for someone as privileged as us, each of my three bicycles cost me nearly that much!
And here is a man who has saved and deposited that amount as his life’s savings for his eldest daughter, and he has three more to save for.
I probed further, and asked Sudarshan, does he worry that he may not be able to educate or marry off his four daughters, as all of them are still in school, and he is already 50 plus.
He replied, ‘I have told my nephew to look after them if anything happens to me. To help my daughters get married and help them keep their house. He is a good boy, I know he will be there for them if I die an early death.’
The most astonishing thing about his features was, he said he is 50 plus, yet, to me he seemed more than 60. He had so many wrinkles at 50 plus! I remember something most significant from Mohammad Yunus’s biography. (Mohammad Yunus is the founder of the esteemed Gramin Bank of Bangladesh, and he won a Nobel prize for his foundation which lends finance charitably to the poorest of poor women without taking any collateral from them. Yet he has no defaulters.)
In his biography, Yunus mentions, the turning point in his life arrived, (because of which he founded the Gramin Bank), when he happened to see some people struck by a famine. In his words he states, ‘… I could not recognize whether the victims I saw were male or female, nor could I guess their age; … I realized, that’s what prolonged starvation does to the human body. Ages it, withers it, annihilates it, even faster.’
I must mention, thanks to our friend Anushka I happened to meet Sudarshanji. Because I happened to see him on the street that leads to her house on our way to her place. Sudarshanji was waiting on the pavement to order a samosa, from a vendor selling them from a bicycle. I happened to be parked right next to the vendor. I was on the phone, with a friend, yet I heard him order just one samosa for himself.
However, he looked so terribly starved, I ordered some more for him, and then naturally we got chatting after my phone conversation was over. His bicycle was in a shape worse than his wrinkled skin. I offered to buy him a new one on behalf of my donor pals. He agreed, even to my terms, that he will have to contribute Rs 1500 if we buy him a new bicycle costing Rs 4500 to 5000.
Sudarshanji came to meet me the next day, for his interview, the day after I met him at Juhu, and after he told me about his life and times, I decided to forgo his contribution of Rs 1500. I knew that my donor friends will be most willing to pay the complete cost of Sudarshanji’s bicycle, on reading this anyways. I know them so well, they will find Sudarshanji most worthy of this humble gesture on our part, just as I did being one of the donors myself.
People say we have donated many bicycles and helped many worthy people to date, even though its just 102, but for me Sudarshanji was one of those few, out of the many other worthy recipients, who made me feel blessed that my friends and my God and our universe has placed me in such privileged circumstances that we are able to serve humbly people like him. Thank you to you all.
Thank you Satya, Siddhi, Pavitra, Ritu and Prakita and Hansika, Anushka, Raman, Ashiesh and Bharat, Keigan, Richa, Rohan, Shivam, and myself.
We together donated this bicycle to Sudarshanji on behalf of our dear friend Ambi, as it is her Birthday on the 8th; We all wish her a very happy Birthday. Love.
Ambi, knowing her so well, we know will be very happy Sudarshanji received her gift of this bicycle; and she will count this gift amongst those few most worthy gifts any one has gifted her. Gifts that do not need any kind of expensive wrapping, because such gifts arrive wrapped in a selfless love.
I could not stop thinking of this old looking man’s injured leg, and his slightly bent back. Bent not from carrying 100 kg sacks, but bent probably from having four young school going daughters at this advanced age, and the only real monetary security for them he has is one fixed deposit of Rs 30,000 for the eldest!
Sudarshaji had told me the saddest thing that has happened to him was not unfulfilled hunger, but the injury that caused him a lifelong limp and thus a loss in his daily wages income.
I asked him, does he feel anger towards his work mate who did this, unintentionally, to him, giving him a limp forever and a big fall in his livelihood income.
Sudarshan replied, ‘I forgave him long ago. I did, because I had found peace.’
Forgiveness and peace. Sudarshanji made both sound so easy! We all know forgiveness is not easy. At times, it feels more painful than the scars we suffered to forgive the one who inflicted the wound on us. Yet, there is no peace without forgiveness.
And Sudarshanji knows that. But had he not mentioned, regretfully, that he is ‘uneducated’.
Uneducated? Really?! I think he is not. Because Sudarshanji has what many educated people do not. Wisdom.
Sudarshiji makes us realize, the only real and tragic disability in life is a bad attitude to your circumstances and to what you suffer.
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. 🙂 )