117th recipient – I may be just a Banana, but this is what I have to say…

117 fruit shankar lal gupta

117th recipient of help (livelihood bicycle) :

“I may be just a Banana, :p but this is what I have to say,
Hangin-in with my buddies while you peeps go about your day.”

Shankar Lal Gupta. (50s, I think)

Fruit seller.

Shankar is from UP. He sells fruit off Carter road and at Rajan Sherley village, Bandra west.
Shankar arrived in Mumbai in 1985. Even before he grew up to be a youth, his childhood had vanished. His father, a brick kiln worker, expired when he was one year old.
His mother took the reins of their household in her hands, and doing odd jobs she brought up her family of three brothers and two sisters. His elder brothers also pitched in, working as daily wages workers for landowners and farmers.
The sad thing, he has no photograph of their father. The saddest, he has no memory of him. 😦

There were so many questions, Dad,
That I needed answers to,
But why did you leave so early?
That there was just no way to ask you.

And then you also left no photos,
For me to remember you by,
Now every time I look at the empty frame in my heart, I can even no longer cry.

When Shankar was in class ten, his widowed and working mother arrived at the choice of either feeding the family adequately or paying for his studies. Illiteracy was more bearable than hunger. He had to stop his studies thereafter.

Shankar’s elder brother arrived in Mumbai before him and became a Banana seller. When Shankar came here in 1985, he began assisting his brother at Nalasopara, and later be began working for a Banana seller at Khar west. Shankar has two daughters and two sons. They live and study in Mumbai.

Shankar’s choice of becoming a Banana seller set him on the path to becoming a fruit seller. And a successful one. The biggest advantage of migrating to Mumbai, he has become financially independent, because of which he has been able to give his family a life of dignity. They have never had to aim their open palms towards anyone for alms. I shuddered as I thought, looking at this proud yet humble man, did his circumstances during his childhood ever force him to open his tiny innocent palms to the kindness of others?

I persisted, out of sincere curiosity and empathy. I asked him, if he ever had to swallow his dignity to gain something.

Shankar replied, back in the village when he was growing up, poverty bent their backs. Though they never had to beg, they had to bend their back forward on most occasions. Not just to find work, but even when they had done the hardest of work they had to bend forward and choose the politest of words to ask for what is due to them, ensure that they are paid adequately or paid at least something. And if not money, then at least paid in grains or vegetables.

I felt sad, that many millions have to beg for what is owed to them by the economically powerful, and maybe also by those powerful by caste and economically powerful, considering the caste system was exploited by many higher ups.

Dignity. So important to people across demographics. Across caste and race.
As a tribute to people like Shankar who with hard work managed to keep their dignity un-hurt, un-broken, un-shattered, or all of these, here is a tribute by Sandra Juanita Nailing:

Your dignity should reflect everything you are.
If you use it wisely, you can go really very far.

Your dignity should reflect what you stand for; no matter what is said.
It will cause you to soar high, far above others’ deeds and heads.

Always keep your dignity, regardless what others do.
Having a sense of dignity will surely carry you through.

For someone like Shankar, who patiently resurrected him family on the formidable shoulders of the fragile, soft and sweet banana, I thought, the humble Banana must be definitely an equal to the mighty king of fruits, the Mango. 🙂

Speaking of bananas, yummmyyy, I decided to express what a really crazy, but really sweet, banana once confided in me, before willingly surrendering and sacrificing his existence to my ravishing hunger:

“I may be just a Banana, :p but this is what I have to say,
Hangin-in with my buddies while you peeps go about your day.

Peeps without any patience can go Bananas, and it has nothing to do with having me, :p
My core is healthy, and I keep the patience that my lover will eventually come peel me. 😉

My lovers they crave me, and besides being sweet I have a very sexy shape, 😉
I get treated so royally, to get my soft core to their lips they first me-undrape! 🙂

I may be tiny and fragile, and not a king of fruits, and not as sweet as the delicious grape,
And though I am tiny and soft hearted, I am loved even by the mighty Elephants and Apes.

My humble peel below your mighty feet can make even a formidable giant slip,
Those who can carry me on their shoulders street to street, their livelihood I can uplift.”
@ RB.

Thank you to Surabhi Shah, and Kkajal & Ujjwal Sarin, for donating this new bicycle to Shankar; Shankar contributed nearly half towards his bicycle. 🙂

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.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/309043432570135/
https://bicycleangels.wordpress.com/

(PS – Rs 3000 is what it takes to donate a new bicycle; yes, because the balance, 2000 to 2500, is contributed by the recipient. 🙂 )

116th recipient – Initiated by Prashant Neha Taneja, Gurgaon.

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A voluntary intiative by Prashant Neha Taneja, inspired by Bicycle Angel’s donors. He located this recipient and gathered a pool of donors, on his own accord, inspired by us.

Therefore, I permitted Prashant to post his donation and deed here. Not that I do not post about strangers who do less or more for the less privileaged across the world. – Rakesh.

(116th recipient of help (livelihood bicycle) – Gurgaon Chapter, by Prashant Neha Taneja):

Life is full of difficulties specially for those who are under privileged and fall below the line of poverty; even a drop of help will bring happiness to someone’s life and will ease out some of their daily problems.

Our sharing of these instances is not intended to show that we have been helping people, but to motivate others to break their shells and extend their helping hand. Like Bicycle Angels’ donors motivated me.

Bicycle Angel’s donors is my motivation for help. I came to know through Raksh’s articles on Beautiful Bicycles Beautiful People/ and Bicycle Angels (Donate a ‘livelihood’ bicycle/a bike.), and decided to pitch in, in my own humble manner, with some help from some precious people I could reach out here at Gurgaon.

Recipient – Dinesh Dubey (31)
Security Guard in our society – Orchid Petals, Gurgaon.

Mr.Dinesh Dubey is a security guard, he and his brother spend around 40 bucks daily to commute to their work to earn their living. Both brothers are working hard to bring up their family and satisfy their daily family needs.

Now both of them will commute on their own vehicle – a bicycle. They are happy to have it, since now onwards they would be saving approx. 1200 per month! which is quite significant for them and their family.

I do not have words to explain their feelings, happiness and respect that reflected on his face when he received our tiny help, and that man was teary eyed while talking to us the next day as he commuted to work on this bicycle.
I am not a writer and always fall short of words, in fact sentences when it comes to describing their feelings. I wish I was one.

Thanks a lot to Gauri Agrawal and Skilled Samaritan Foundation for giving me two cycles which I could donate to people post their repair.

I am also thankful to my team and my colleagues ( Sanoop Yadav ) who extended their help and contributed towards this noble work inspired by the donors of Bicycle Angels.
– Prashant Neha Taneja. Gurgaon.)

https://www.facebook.com/groups/309043432570135/

115th recipient – “Message in a glass bottle I threw out to sea, hoping my soul mate will come looking for me. That exactly, is how kindness will find me. The kindness that I will send out for those at sea.” @ RB.

115 milk Balaram by surabhi and deb mohan

115th recipient of help (livelihood bicycle) : A poetry-baazi post! 🙂

“Message in a glass bottle I threw out to sea, hoping my soul mate will come looking for me.
That exactly, is how kindness will find me. The kindness that I will send out for those at sea.” @ RB.

Balaram Mahipat Bare (43)

Milkman from 4.30 am to 9 am; post that, he works as a upper level domestic help and even as a Peon at various places in south Mumbai.

A ride along the sea coast, in the dark of the moon,
Was no great challenge, or so it was said;
So I mounted my beloved bike, turned on her head lights
And away, far before dawn, on well-lit streets, I sped!

I was riding very fast. Bathed in an orange-yellow glow from the lamps above. Cutting to shreds and humiliating the furious bitter-cold winter breeze challenging me on Marine Drive, riding past Chowpaty beach, early last month.

That’s when, I happened to notice in my peripheral vision a man carrying crates of milk on his shoulders. His back not bucking under the weight. It must have been around 5.30 am. He was carting the milk crates on the pavement opposite Chowpaty beach.

I made it a point to stop and talk to him, on my way back from my ride to the southern tip of magnificent Queen’s necklace of Nariman Point. The glowing street lamps providing the queen the glory of diamonds.

The man who had not buckled under the weight of the milk laden PVC crate, Balaram. I found out, he does not own a bicycle. However, if he could get one, he told me, thanks to our little help maybe, then even his son would use it, to help him in delivering milk sometimes, and in doing some other chores for himself and their family.

A good reason to buy him one, I thought. Most importantly, Balaram had agreed to contribute nearly half the cost of the bicycle, that’s if we bought a new one for him.

I gave Balaram my number, and told him to come meet me in Bandra someday. I rode off, rode on to challenge winter’s pre dawn chilly-tempest. 🙂

I am now reminded of a Poem, The Tempest. A really sweet poem of hope by James T Field. I googled it:

We were crowded in the cabin;
Not a soul would dare to sleep:
It was midnight on the waters,
And a tempest storm was on the deep.

’This a fearful thing in winter
To be shattered by the tempest blast,
And to hear the rattling trumpet
Thunder, “Cut away the mast!”

So we shuddered there in silence,
For the stoutest held his breath,
While the hungry tempest was roaring,
And the sea-waves threatened death.

And as thus we sat in darkness,
Each one busy in his prayers,
“We are lost!” the captain shouted,
As he staggered down the stairs.

But his little daughter whispered,
As she took her daddy’s icy hand,
“Isn’t our God upon the oceans,
Just the same as on our lands?”

True. Then we kissed the little maiden,
And we spoke in better cheer;
And we anchored safe in harbor
When the morn was shining clear.

Yeah, I agree. That was so random! Mentioning a poem just like that! 🙂 But I did because sometimes in life just like how a humble cycle can challenge a tempest and ride through, a little girl on a ship carrying mighty men who steer her to great wars remind them that they need to keep the faith in God. Little things can help us achieve mighty things.

Balaram is from Maharashtra. Raigad. His daughter lives back in their village at Raigad, along with his old Mother. She is a good student and even looks after her grandmother and village home singlehandedly. His wife works in south Mumbai as a domestic help at various homes, their son lives with them in Mumbai.

Balaram was very worried that his son, who did not fare well in the tenth standard, is not studying any further beyond the tenth, so his future may not be good. However, his son has no completely given up on educating himself. He is doing a technical course. Learning the technical skills to work with gems and jewelry, and he hopes to find a good livelihood in that sector eventually.

I decided to send Balaram’s son some unsolicited, but pretty good, advice. I told Balaram that when he takes the new donated bicycle home, he must tell his son – “This new bike we have received is due to the kindness of some strangers. The donors are educated people, and because they studied well and went to college they were able to reach a position in life from which they are able to reach out to someone like your father. In today’s times, and with me, your father, still being alive and able to pay your fees, a university education is most likely to help you find a pretty good mainstream job.”

If his son takes it up, our advice, and continues his education beyond the tenth, then this bicycle donation, made by Surabhi Shah and Deb & Beni, would become truly worthy.

I must share an interesting anecdote behind Deb’s contribution towards this particular donation.
Deb is a multiple times past donor, a very enthu one. Last month, Deb found a wallet someplace, and, somehow, he managed to trace the wallet’s owner, after much difficulty, as there was no ID of the owner in this lost and found wallet.

Eventually, the owner of the wallet having been traced turned out to be a Jordanian, and he came to collect his wallet. Deb was not around, and before he left, he left behind some cash, maybe as a gift, a reward, or maybe simply as gratitude, I think.

When Deb arrived and saw the money the Jordanian had left behind for whatever reason, he had no option but to accept it. Immediately, Deb messaged me and told me about the incident, and said he wants me to invest the Jordanian stranger’s money in a bike donation, any day that I can. He sent the money across to me via a bank transfer.
The Jordanian’s gift money he remitted was tiny, only in monetary terms. But the Jordanian’s action was larger than the many oceans and continents his gratitude travelled to reach me. Deb lives in the US.

The token of gratitude the Jordanian left behind and Deb transferred to me, when put to such humble use, like a bicycle donation, or any other charity, it cannot be quantified. Even the best mercantile minds will never be able to quantify charity’s real benefits. The benefits to its eventual recipient, in our case Balaram and his family!

That is the true beauty of engaging in any kind of charity, I believe. See, the world is always putting a value on everything we own, even if we are not wealthy. What we choose to own and retain, they will evaluate and cherish. But, they will never be able to quantify the benefits of what we choose to give away to help another. That is where we can be one up on those who are always trying to put a value on our real ‘worth’. 😉 :p :)))

Like a poet out of work I romanticized, that the Jordanian’s money reaching us was akin to a message in a glass bottle thrown into the ocean by the Jordanian, hoping that a benevolent current will carry it to someone who can really benefit from its contents. Deb became that sea current that carried that Jordanian’s message in a bottle across to Balaram, who I happened to find close to a sea shore, Chowpaty beach. This is inspiring stuff, I thought!

“Message in a glass bottle I threw out to sea, hoping my soul mate will come looking for me.
That exactly, is how kindness will find me. The kindness that I will send out for those at sea.” @ RB.

Now you may wonder why I, randomly, wrote this verse. Yeah! Me too wondered, after penning it. I have no clue why I wrote it. Well, if it sucks, well, then suffer it! Just like I suffer me all the time! 😉 :)))

Anyways, one particular moment with Balaram, which was memorable, was, his response to my question, “Who does Mumbai belong to?” Because, some influential people say it belongs only to the ‘sons of the soil. I wanted a common man to give me an answer.

Balaram laughed aloud. As though it was the dumbest question he had ever heard. Or, that the answer should have been evident to me, someone who may have come across to him as a ‘knowledgeable’ person.

He replied, “Mumbai usski hai, jo subha jaldi uth kar kaam kar sakta hai. Jo mehanat karega, roti rozi kamane ke liye. Mumbai uski nahi, jo sotaa hi rahega, ya phir apna time aur zindagi faltu mein waste karega….”
(Mumbai will belong to the one who will, is willing to, wake up even before dawn to work, if need be, and not loiter about aimlessly by day or night. Mumbai can be his, belong to the one who will respect work, find a job that will occupy his dreams and his life.)

Noteworthy. Because, Balaram did not mention any caste, creed, race, or religion to who Mumbai belongs. I think, he left that for a few regressive politicians to express solely to their vote banks. 😉

Anyways, enough ‘gyan baazi’ for now, 😉 and before I sign off, let me lighten up our mood, just a bit, with another random poem baazi:

Bikes rides through, or beyond, my neighborhood
Are such a bloody ‘very relaxing thing’
Who knew that a task as hard, yet cool, as this
Could make my heart fly, and my soul sing.
@ RB.

Thank you Surabhi, Deb and Beni; 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.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/309043432570135/
https://bicycleangels.wordpress.com/

(PS – Rs 3000 is what it takes to donate a new bicycle; yes, because the balance, 2000 to 2500, is contributed by the recipient. 🙂 )

114th recipient – If you are faced with mountains, you have several options.

Bal Reddy

114th recipient of help (livelihood bicycle) :

“If you are faced with a mountain, you have several options:
You can climb it and cross to the other side. 🙂
You can go around it. 🙂
You can dig under it. 🙂
You can fly over it. 🙂
You can blow it up! 😉 🙂
You can ignore it and pretend it’s not there. 😉
You can turn around and go back the way you came. 😦
Or, you can stay on the mountain and make it your home!” :p 🙂

Bal Reddy (33)

Milkman.

Reddy is from Hyderabad. His father is a farmer, (owns around two to three acres of agriculture land) and when he was a child their bore well could not supply the quantity of water they needed to cultivate their land, mainly due to inadequate rainfall in the region, so the meager income from agriculture was not enough to even feed their family. In these circumstances, further education was simply not an option for the children.

Often, in many rural families dependent on agriculture, most often, crying or migrating to better pastures are the only options when the clouds fail to deliver to their prayers. So, post his 4th standard, Reddy migrated to Mumbai, when he was 12, to supplement the family’s income for the marriage expense of his sister.

With immense pride he informed me, his first job as a tea-boy, chaiwala, earned him Rs 300 a month. He smiled. I smiled along with him. Before he started delivering milk to households, he even worked as a domestic help wiping floors of homes.

I liked this fellow already, helping out his sister, his family, in their hour of need, and I was happy we were helping him, in our own tiny way, to better his livelihood prospects.
(I came across Reddy at 5 am one morning, while on my bicycle ride. His bicycle was old and junked, and I offered to buy him a new one if he was willing to contribute nearly half towards its cost. Thankfully, he agreed.)

After he began working as a tea-boy, Reddy happened to befriend a Maharashtrian, and this man advised him to deliver milk to households, as that will help him earn more money than selling tea. Reddy accepted his advice, and today, after more than a decade of being a milk seller, he says he is earning enough to help his family back in the village. However, though he is independent and hard working, he harbors a regret. 😦

A regret that he did not have the opportunity to study further, because of which, he says, he is having a very hard time finding a suitable woman willing to marry him, an ‘uneducated’ man! However, Reddy has not given up hope, and keeps the faith his parents and or relatives will eventually find him a suitable bride back home. One who will not regret marrying an
‘uneducated’ man like him, I think.

Life is about choices. Some we will come to regret, some we will be very proud of. Some will haunt us forever. But choices we MUST make, without thinking of the outcomes beforehand. 🙂

To help Reddy begin his milk delivery ‘business’, beyond the Maharashtrian fellow, one of his employers, a woman he worked for at Bandra west as a domestic help, gave him Rs one lakh to buy a bicycle, and invest the remaining however he thought best in the milk delivery profession.

And the Maharashtrian acquaintance who had advised him to begin the milk delivery profession, himself a milk man, gave him all his clients before leaving for better prospects in the Middle East. These two major acts of kindness stabilized Reddy financially in Mumbai! The fortunes of the chaiwala and floor-sweeper changed soon. God Bless them.

There are so many silent angels flying through our wonderful city, who do what they think they must, and unlike us do not or cannot blog about what they do. Having said that, I am very glad we blog what we do. I believe it is very important to share, to spread information, about our tiny acts of charity and or kindness, even those not instrumented by us, share information about others who do things for people they cannot benefit from.

Because, kindness is bloody infections! Moreover, just like evil impacts the mind negatively, Kindness impacts our mind positively. So sharing the good that is going around is one of the ways to counter the negativity that does the rounds even from the news that pours out of the press and Tv headlines so often. Yes, sensationalism sells. But Kindness, does not suck! Let it be known!! 🙂

And this is one reason I always encourage some of my ‘shy’ donors to allow me to mention their names in my post, so that even some people they know, who happen to read about their humble acts of kindness and charity, just may be inspired to emulate them and someday do their own bit of goodness in their own way sometime, somewhere.

After all, I too was inspired to donate livelihood bicycles to people who use bicycles to ferry their goods of trade not just when I began noticing them when became a bicyclist, but also because I happened to read a blog Campus Bicycle Project, who were donating bicycles to rural underprivileged school children to ride to school. If they can help children I thought, why can’t I help somebody too, and eventually decided to donate a ‘livelihood’ bicycle, to a tea seller with the help of a few my donor friends. That one random donation we made together somehow one day founded Bicycle Angels.

Reddy too in his own humble but significant way has helped people from his village settle in Mumbai. On seeing their financial plight he helped them find jobs. Reddy passed on the kindness he had received from the Maharashtrian acquaintance, and even from his ex-employer who gave him one lakh to begin his start up.
I do hope a man like Reddy finds a good bride who sees the positives in him, and does not judge him from his one and only regret his limited education.

Honestly, I can empathize with him, because I myself am not a graduate, having left my Computer Engineering (Mumbai University) Degree course in the second year. 😉 And I suffered from an inferiority complex for very long for not being a ‘product’ of University education 😦

I began to feel ‘adequate’ only when I came to the movies in my early 30’s, I began reading lots of fiction and nonfiction, educating myself through books, especially biographies, and even stories of people who had never been to college and yet they had earned immense respect, happiness and fame for themselves. These people had shared their lives in their biographies with us.
For me, your kindness can be in you sharing yourself through your biography, I believe, of a life inspiring. Because I benefitted from their lives without ever having met them.

I hope many of us can live such a life that one day an inspiring biography be written on us. Only so that there be more inspiration going around, and this tsunami of inspiration drown the negative news doing the rounds.

Just like Bal Reddy is doing; riding his way ahead on a bicycle laden with milk, providing not just his family a better standard of living, but somewhere along the way inspiring us too who will happen to read this post about his challenges and the manner in which he found paths out of the maze that showed up on his journeys. When a friend of his cheated his (Reddy’s) clients of a large amount of money, Reddy paid off the debt, so that his clients continue to take milk from him (Reddy) and not abandon him because of what his friend did to them using his (Reddy’s) good reputation.

So, just like most cyclists Reddy always climbed the hills and mountains that came in his path, since the age of 12. We cyclists rarely walk up steep hills, even if we have to go on the lowest gear we won’t get off our bikes, we will stand on the pedals and put our weight behind them to rise up the slopes slowly but surely! We have the Reddy-(ready) spirit I guess! 🙂

People like Reddy, and many others like him whose biographies will probably never be written to be shared with the world, can be paid a tribute in this verse:
“If you are faced with a mountain, you have several options:
You can climb it and cross to the other side. 🙂
You can go around it. 🙂
You can dig under it. 🙂
You can fly over it. 🙂
You can blow it up! 😉 🙂
You can ignore it and pretend it’s not there. 😉
You can turn around and go back the way you came. 😦
Or, you can stay on the mountain and make it your home!” :p 🙂
― Vera Nazarian, (The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration)

One particular moment from my meeting with Reddy stands out for me; Reddy’s father telling him, quite lately, that he does not want Reddy to remain in the city any longer.
They (his parents) want Reddy to return home to the village soon, and to get married and settle down in the village, and cultivate the land. It does not matter that they will have far less money by him not working in Mumbai anymore, but his mother and he can do with less monies but not without their son by their side, especially now that they are getting old … This is what I gathered from their conversation.
Reddy is considering returning to his village to be with his parents, though not soon, he says.

This emotional exchange reminded me of a song written by my father, from the film Naam; the father is pleading with his son, who has migrated, to return home asap. They rather have their son with them than his dollar remittance. (The last verse says “Aaja umar bahut hai choti, apne ghar mein bhi hai roti… Chitti aayee hai, aayee hai, Chitti aayee hai…).

Here is the link to that amazing song that some of you will be familiar with: Chitti Aayee Hai Watan Se Chitti Aayee Hai – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiCNg8BTH-s (for Hindi songs lovers 🙂 )

Thank you to Prakash RV for donating this new bicycle to Reddy. Reddy contributed nearly half towards its cost.

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.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/309043432570135/
https://bicycleangels.wordpress.com/

(PS – Rs 3000 is what it takes to donate a new bicycle; yes, because the balance, 2000 to 2500, is contributed by the recipient. 🙂 )

113th recipient of help (Crutches) – I need to WALK! I MUST Walk!!

Doyal the wild child

113th recipient of help (Crutches) :

“I need to WALK! The distance, and location I need to walk to, are far less important than my need to walk to my destination. Walk, with or without the help of public transport and people’s help.”

Doyal Dcosta. (26)

Junior Sales Associate – Reliance Digital. (Forwards incoming telephone calls)

I was cycling on Hill road early morning, and saw a young man walking with great difficulty, I thought even at his fastest a snail or tortoise could easily over take him. He was walking with the support of two crutches, walking aids held under the arms. Doyal Dcosta.

Doyal put out his arm to indicate to the bus to stop for him, because he was far from the bus stop. The bus driver did stop for Doyal, but because Doyal was taking too long to gather his crutches to get into the bus, the bus driver lost his patience and zoomed away. Doyal told him in sarcasm “Ja Ja, tereko bahut jaldi hai, na? Ja.” (Go, go, you are in such a great hurry, so go.)

I felt anger rise in me, I wanted to chase the bus driver and ask him “At 6.30 am when there is no traffic, so there was no pressure on you to not wait long enough for a physically less-abled man to get on, what on Earth can possibly be your hurry to leave him behind!?”

However, I did not, and I stopped to chat with Doyal. I wanted to do something for him, donate him a wheelchair maybe, I thought, before approaching him. When Doyal walked, his legs moved along with a wobble, as though suspended loose from his hips, like dried shirts swaying wildly on a string held in place by feeble pegs.

I asked Doyal, would he like to ride in a wheelchair? Then he can be independent of public transport. I felt a wheelchair will empower him, and no bus driver can humiliate or hurt him ever again, as with a wheelchair under him Doyal can become an independent traveler.

Doyal replied, “I cannot ride a wheelchair. I do not want to, actually. Because if I do, the blood in my legs will flow far less and that will make my legs go weak and I will not be able to walk at all then. At least now, with the aid of these crutches I can WALK!”

That is when my attention when to his crutches. They were bent, battered, like legs of a wooden chair that has served its life purpose, and waiting to crumble under an overwhelming weight. I offered to buy him new crutches, with the help of my donors, and he agreed.

Thank God for that I thought, as I liked this fellow who was practical and sensible, and a very determined walker! In spite of his seemingly overwhelming physical challenges. His eyes were not aligned, and his body was frail, though his mind was fiercely able and focused on his life’s ambition – “I have to walk to get to work, I have to walk to get home, I have to walk my path in life, I have sat for too long at home. I need to get out there and work, even if BEST bus drivers have no patience or care about people like me!”
The world will not stop for me, nor will I for the world. For me, that was what Doyal was really about.

To my surprise, later on, he had told me “I get angry very easily. Do you know, these BEST bus driver, they do not stop their bus for me, or even for old people. But they stop their bus for girls. I also get angry because often people do not allow me to get into the bus. They push me aside to get in before me. That angers me.”

I felt like lecturing Doyal about not losing his head over issues like this, and I did, even though I felt I had no right to. Because I have let off steam for issues that compared to his can be framed in the hall of fame of trivial, unnecessary or totally baseless. I must control my own anger, Doyal’s outbursts reminded me.

Doyal’s mother works as a beautician, his father passed away many years ago. They live in Bandra west. He is the only child. When he was three months young, he fell down from the floor from a high bed, and suffered a hit on his forehead and something got damaged in his brain because of which he could not hold his head in place, and lost the power to walk and write, the use of his limbs. That is why he requires a writer to help him give exams, and walks with crutches.

Doyal works at the front desk of a corporate office and forwards incoming calls to the appropriate departments of the company. He is educated till the HSC (12th Std.) He could not study any further, because the person his mother had hired, and paid Rs 3000, to help him write his exams, ran away without doing the job.

Doyal requires a writer to give his exams, as he is unable to move his fingers fluidly enough to be able to create letters and words with the aid of any kind of writing instrument. Unable to afford another writer, and mainly because he lost faith in people thereafter, he did not study any further.

What saddened me was, Doyal has lost faith in people. He does not want to give another exam because he fears the next person his mother hires to write his exam will also runaway with the money. I told him the next time he wants to give exams, to call me and I will look for someone who will not betray his trust. He hopes to begin a course at Kalina where they teach ‘Mobile software making.’

There is one woman he credits, on his own, for making him STAND! For making him WALK! Dr. Ayesha Dangarwala. From Ahmedabad. Right from his childhood, she has pushed him to walk on his own two feet. She began the process with Physiotherapy and kept at it for 16 years, until he could walk get out of a bed and walk with the aid of crutches. And thus leaving far behind his best friends until then, his bed, pillow, and the ceiling and fan he stared at for years. They must have lost a friend the day he walked, I thought, but he gained a life outdoors.

Thank you Dr Ayesha Dangarwala. Dr Ayesha keeps in touch with him and not only is she the one who helped him find his first employment, but she is also that angel who recommended he study further and guides him on what skills to learn so that he can someday his livelihood prospects get far better. I bow to the spirit of Dr Ayesha. God Bless her between every milestone of her journeys for helping Doyal on his since he was five years young. She created an able being from one disabled.

Doyal does not mind if his future college or work place be situated very far from home, he will reach it come what may. What I thought for him must be ‘…such a colossal struggle to walk’, is really nothing compared to him being unemployed from 2011 to 2014. He had replied to the watchman of his office when the watchman told him just how does he (Doyal) manage to travel daily from Bandra to Santacruz to work, “….only I know what I suffered being at home without work for three to four years!”
That is because Doyal did not have a job even though he was educated till the 12th Std, he says and gave many interviews.

Long after Doyal left, I kissed my hands because they help me write, and writing helps me be ‘employed’. God bless my ability to walk with ease and write without the help of a ‘writer’, I whispered to the universe.

I must mention the saddest thing in my opinion about the Doyals in our city may be in what Doyal told me “… although sometimes I come across people who do not charge me fare when they transport me from one place to another, but the biggest challenge I face in Mumbai is that by and large public transport does not stop for people like me. The Bus drivers will stop for nice looking girls, but not for me and not even for old ladies. What is probably worse is, able and young people occupy the first seat reserved in BEST buses for people like me and for senior citizens, and they do not offer it to me or any old person when they see us. Sometimes I tell them to get up because the seat is reserved for the handicapped.”

Doyal sounded upset. I assured Doyal, that it is they who are ‘handicapped’ and not him, since they lack the empathy and sense to not vacate a seat reserved for you. Doyal admitted and confessed that he gets angry at such people, and even when people push him aside to get into the BEST bus before him. Sometimes they call him names, abuse him.

I could sense the pain in Doyal, feel a tremor of anger rising in him as he spoke about how badly people like him are treated by some morons. Some people laugh at him because of the manner in which he ‘struggles’ to walk. Yes it hurts! This is when Doyal cried. I did not, though the dam in me had already busted! I had to somehow distract myself. I did not want him to feel I am pitying him, so I had to hold back the fort crumbling within.

You know why I know it hurts? Because I have been through a lesser hurting situation, often, and hurt is hurt. Unlike body temperature, there is no lesser or higher degrees of hurt. To express to Doyal that I know how it hurts, I told him he should not get angry when people call him names for being ‘handicapped’, because he is not and I too face situations where people try to be mean to me. It is they who are ‘handicapped’ since they lack a brain.

To support my non sentimental attitude towards such morons, and Doyal’s suffering, I told him that sometimes some morons call me taklu (Baldie!), I do not get angry, and sometimes I smile back at them. Because what really matters for those who love me is not what is on my head, but rather in. And in my heart.

Once some teenagers, strangers, boys and girls, hanging around carter road shouted out at me ‘Taklu’. Some of the boys and girls laughed along with the guy who had shouted ‘Taklu’ and then looked away, while some were clearly embarrassed by their friend’s behavior. I decided to give it to the moron who had shouted out to me ‘Taklu’.

I went closer to this group of teenagers and addressing the boy I told him “Yeah! I am taklu, that is so evident ya. However, what is not evident to you is that today some people in your circle will realize that though you have hair on your head you lack brains below them. You decided to make fun of me to rise in esteem amongst your peers, that makes you brainless, if not hairless.” This time, his entire group laughed. But not at me.
I told Doyal, such people do not realize that someday they or someone they love may become fat, they may get bald, they may seem ‘ugly’ to some. Life will come a full circle for such morons.

I had mentioned this earlier, that BEST drivers and some people who not help less-abled people get into busses, but I wanted to repeat it again, as it impacted me, and I want the tremors to reach you too. Hoping that it will someday travel to the administrators of our cities and mass transportation systems.
See, we need to care for the Doyals too, along with caring for our poor stray dogs and cats, our eroding environment and our depleting water tables. Lets also build the depleting human values alongside na.

The happiest times Doyal has experienced so far is when he began going to school. Because no school wanted him. Every school his mother took him to rejected him, not for his brain, but because his limbs did not work as ably as that of their students.
Finally, one school in Khar, Happy Hours School, brought sunshine and happiness into his life, because they willingly admitted him and educated him till the tenth class. Those years, he said , were his happiest ever. The ability to go to school and the chance to have an education, like his able peers.

I am glad this donation was eventually made by Dr Niraj Vora, though earlier I had a dear relative of a dear friend in mind, because Dr Niraj had once told me he helps give people movement. Dr Niraj is an orthopedic surgeon. These crutches will give Doyal a smoother ‘movement’ over the years, a better anchor on his journeys through the maze of our unfriendly streets, unfriendly to people on crutches and wheelchairs. Thank you Dr Niraj.

All things said and done, the lasting impression Doyal made on me was displayed on his Tee, and it came to my notice only when he came to meet me later. His Tee read: “Caution: This child is wild!” For me it reflected his avatar he may have created in his mind, or his wish to ‘live it up’ someday, seeing more able people go about their dreams, their ambitions, wishing someday he can be on the other side. The side of us fortunate beings.

A poem from the Doyals in our city and elsewhere:
Please don’t stare when you see me walking by
Prolonged looks and snidely remarks they only make me cry.
I cant help being born a differently
My disfigurement is only a tiny part of me.
But it can cause me sorrow and pain so many times
When people look at me like I’ve committed many crimes.
Nobody is perfect and many faults cannot be seen
But mine is on show to everyone because of an undeveloped gene.
Its OK to look at me and to yourself then wonder why
But please don,t stare and leer at me cos inside my heart does cry.
@ Ebb.

Thank you to Himanshu and Ankita Shah (Health Care Equipments) for the discount on the cructhes. 🙂

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