108th recipient of help (livelihood bicycle) :
“I am always riding or walking with two other people. Each of these walking or riding companions serves me as my two walk-the-talk teachers…”
Sitaram Pokle (62)
Dabbawala (delivers lunch)
(The official site of these amazing professionals, http://mumbaidabbawala.in/ The dabbawals have been serving Mumbai’s population since more than ONE HUNDRED years.)
Sitaram is from Maharashtra; he migrated to Mumbai to earn a livelihood around 1979.
Sitaram’s father was a farmer, but the limitation of rain stemmed the output of their cultivation efforts year after year.
Of course, it would rain, but not when the crops needed water, so they would get ruined. And sometimes their prayers for rain were answered, but answered when the crops did not need water, so they got ruined.
Agriculture could not provide him more than a second standard of education, so Sitaram says he had no available option than to become a dabbawala. People from his village were dabbawalas, so he got introduced to this profession, and has been one since then.
Thankfully, he has been able to educated his son and daughter from this very profession, and his daughter is married. His son works at a hotel in Vile Parle and wants to progress in the hospitality industry, even though he is only ten standard pass.
I asked Sitaramji, he has been delivering meals since more than 35 years, and, has any one of his clients, ever offered him a spoon, a katori, a plate of the mouth watering meals, fods having mouth watering aromas, he has delivered religiously on time day after day six days a week?
Sitaram replied, “No. Never.”
I realized, even i never did. Water was the maximum I had cared to offer them.
Sitaram and his brother are dabbawalas of Mumbai, feeding the population of Mumbai home cooked meals made by their loved ones, or chosen ones.
I myself received my lunch by the dabba for a couple of years, when I was in business.
My wife, (now my ex) would send me notes (sometimes love letters, sometimes jokes and doodles) in the dabba, often hidden inside the wrapped rotis/breads. She was inventive, ya, so I had to explore every tier of the dabba and unfold the rotis, least I gobble up her hand written notes.
She had written those notes, but they were delivered to me by the dabbawala-courier-messenger. He was someone I saw often when he arrived, ON TIME always, but he never spoke a word, never asked us for ‘diwali bakshish’, and he had an army discipline for time, punctual like good old Big Ben of London.
I found my dabbawala to be silent, hard working, dedicated, sincere, dignified. Shamefully, I never knew his name. I never asked his name. In retrospect, I wish I had and greeted him at least once in those three to four years he had loyally and royally served us.
I had savored every bite of those meals and notes sent to me with such affection, I wonder why I was not mature enough to pass on that happiness to the messenger and courier himself, my amazing dabbawala.
Since many months, I had been very keen, and so was my friend Siddhi, to donate bicycles to these amazing Dabbawals, someday we must….we had decided.
So, when I met the Dabbawalas association members, I told them if possible Bicycle Angels’ would like to help one dabbawala every month, God and donor willing.
Hmmmmm maybe this ambition is my payback time, our payback time, for these messengers cum couriers who delivered us, and continue to do so, happiness warm and fresh in a sealed dabba.
The Lunch Box, a Hindi film starring Irrfan Khan, is one film I would recommend people watch, in which a dabbawala happens to accidently deliver more than just a dabba of meal to two strangers. He delivers to two lonely beings, in a bustling city, companionship; something that each and every one of us sometimes lacks, and often desires. After all, we are social and lonely beings at the same time.
I asked Sitaram “What have you faced the biggest challenge or adversity in your life so far?”
He replied, “Humko kabhi bhi bahut zyada takleef nahi hua. Kaise bhi kar ke, hum chalte chalte yahan tak pohonch gaya.” (“I never faced so severe a challenge or adversity that overwhelmed me completely; somehow, I managed to slowly, gradually trudge, plod, tramp, march up to here, up to today.”)
Reminds me of something Confucius had said, from which I can say “I am always riding or walking with two other people. Each of these walking or riding companions serves me as my two walk-the-talk teachers. As we walk, together in a threesome, I pick out the good points of one to imitate them. And I pick out the bad points of the other to correct them in myself.”
Thank you to Amit and Priyanka Bakshi for donating this bicycle to Sitaram. Sitaram contributed nearly half towards its cost. We propose to refurbish Sitaram’s old bicycle and donate it to a dabbawala.
Hopefully we will, because, his old bicycle which has delivered thousands of meals and happiness, does not deserve to go to the kabadiwala, the junk dealer. No way.
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. 🙂 )
Many weeks after I met Sitaram, I happened to be with some people of immense wealth and status, and one of the guests, a stranger to me, cleaverly weaved into his non stop jabbering that he has dined with Prince Charles at a private ocassion he was invited to, privy to is what he actually meant. His shirt buttons almost tore, I thought, as his chest swelled with such ego, when he non-solicited-ly informed us, a motley group of people, as though we his poor country cousins, around at the dining table.
Cool ya, I thought of his privileged status to be able to dine with the ‘Rajah of England.’.
However, I am reminded of a warm conversation I had with Sitaram Pokle. I had asked Sitaram, which has been his happiest moment so far?
Sitaram gazed in the distance and quickly returned to meet my eyes and tell me in a soft voice, “Humko bahut kushi huva tha, jab ‘Englaandd ka Raajah’ hum dabbawala log ko milne ko aaya tha, bahut saal ho gaya. Abhi bhi yaad hai humko..”
There was a difference in their feelings; the stranger had narrated his tale about ‘VIP’ him going to meet Prince Charles at a private gathering with immense pride, and his chest buttons had almost burst with his ego.
Whereas, Sitaram shared with me his tale about the ‘Raajah of England’ coming over to meet his fraternity and him with an immense pride overwhelmed in happiness, not ego, and his kurta buttons too had busted with his chest swelling with pride, but it was pride in his fraternity and not himself alone.
Two people met the ‘Raajah of England”, one went to meet him, and the other the Raajah himself walked over to meet. :)))