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