119th recipient – “If it is indeed true, that most people are only faithful until their options improve; Then they will quickly discard you too, like an old pair of bloody-worn-out-shoes.”

119 Dhobi Shambhunath

119th recipient of help (livelihood bicycle) :

“If it is indeed true, that most people are only faithful until their options improve;
Then they will quickly discard you too, like an old pair of bloody-worn-out-shoes.”

Shambhunath (60 plus/I think between 60-65)

Dhobi (Laundry services)

Shambhunathji is from UP. A lasting image of this most humble man, who I happened to come across on our streets, are two.
The first is from, when he arrived to be interviewed. Shambhunathji approached me with folded hands, and his back slightly bent forward. He did not place his arms by his sides until I told him not to feel so obligated to us, and told him to take a seat. His gratitude, even before we bought him a bicycle, overwhelmed me.

The other lasting image of him is from, when I happened to see him ride, a week or more after he had received the new bicycle we donated to him. Shambhunathji recognized me from a distance, and even before I could come within hearing distance of him, he had already got off his bike, folded his hands, and said something to me which was inaudible! As I came closer, I realized he had said ‘Shukriya Saab. Bahut Bahut Shukriya” (Thank you Sir. Thank you very very much), because he repeated it. I wish Reenaa, Ujjwal and Surabhi were there then, to receive his immense gratitude directly from him.

Their immense gratitude, which is very often, always humbles me, overwhelms me. Just how needy are some people, or, is it because no one in his 60-plus years ever did something as tiny as we had done for him!? It’s the latter, because he had told me that no one ever before had made him an offer like we had, of buying him a new bike if he was willing to contribute towards it.

Having said that, I felt sad, that he, like so many others before him, feel such overwhelming gratitude, for something that for us donors may be a far smaller gesture of kindness than what the recipients believe.

Shambhunathji ‘s father was a farmer. Shambhu passed by many schools in his long lifetime, but could never step into one with a book and pencil. Poverty stood guard at the formidable gates of those schools, denying him, like scores of others in poverty, an entry into the sacred classrooms of literacy. His tone had such deep regret when he said he could never go to school, that I was immediately saddened. It is rare that I have felt sad within just a few minutes of recipients speaking to me about their lives.

The manner in which I happened to come across Shambhunathji was, I would often pass a very short and old man riding a bicycle laden with laundry clothes, his one leg would not reach the pedals, and he would be pedaling with his other leg only. I was always curious to know if it was a birth defect, because, I always saw him pedaling with one leg primarily.
So, when I got the opportunity to look for a needy recipient, and I happened to see that same old man riding his bike using one leg, I raced up to him and stopped him. I asked him if one of his legs is shorter than the other, and if so, then how come?

To my relief, I found out the bicycle he rides is larger than what is suitable for his height, so, he has to really stretch both legs to ride, which is very uncomfortable. So, what this inventive fellow does is, instead of stretching both legs, he stretches the right leg to push the right pedal down with such a force that the left pedal naturally gets forced up to meet his, until then resting, left leg, which then takes over and softly pushes the pedal forward which has already gathered its own momentum by now to move his rickety old bicycle ahead a few feet!

What an inventive man! The lack of resources can indeed make us inventive, I say. Had he been a privileged being, like us, he would have most probably purchased a bicycle with a smaller frame size. J

Another reason for me to stop him and ask him if he needs assistance in buying a new bicycle was, he was very old compared to so many others I see pedal on our streets for a living. And I have always wanted to make our offer to older beings, more like a reward for their decades of weathering the hard life on the street level. Moreover, his old bike was in a very bad state. These were three solid reasons for us to help this fellow, I thought, reasoning within me while he continued to speak.

When Shambhunathji first arrived in Bombay, as a teenager more than 40-50 years ago, his uncle being a dhobi taught him the laundry work. They lived in Khar. That job went on to become Shambhunath’s life long career.
He now has two sons, one works at an Iron tools workshop back in UP, and the other is studying in college. His daughter is married.

I was curious to know, looking at this most humble and weather beaten man, at this older age cycling away with primarily one leg, putting all his force on the other, with a load of clothes on his bike’s carrier, are his children good to him, and if he feels they will take care of him when he grows older?

Shambhunath replied, not looking into my eyes, and this was the first time he spoke looking away from me, looking towards the ground, “I am able now, I am independent. This is not truly the stage I can judge the real character of my sons, my children. I will know how good or bad they really are, when or if a time comes when I am no longer an earning member, no longer independent, if I become too sick or too old to work and earn some money. It is only then, if or when I lose my own independence and unable to work, that the mirror of life can reflect for me how truly faithful or unfaithful my sons are towards me.”

I really liked this man. Long after he had left, I still thought of him, on the day he went to collect his new bicycle and had called me to say ‘Thank you Saab…’. I hoped to God then, and I prayed, that his fears, if any, prove wrong. Or his faith, if any, in his sons, proves right.
I prayed, that Shambhunathji will be cared for, he will be looked after (we all become children as we grow older) long after his legs refuse to sing along with his bike’s rhythmic rotating wheels, long after his rough hands are not strong enough to iron or wash any more even his own laundry.

Sons. Many people across the globe crave for even ONE. There is nothing more attractive to a father, than a faithful son. And a faithful daughter, for a mother; I thought. I have read and heard so many stories of faithful sons, and I have often heard and known of many instances of daughters being more faithful to their aging parents than their sons.

Yet, now and then we will come across a story that will make us doubt, make us wonder if this is true:
“If it is indeed true, that most people are only faithful until their options improve;
Then they will quickly discard you too, like an old pair of worn out shoes.”
(@ Jeremy Bean)

To end on a positive note, most children are faithful to their parents, and now let me share a poem about someone most loving, most faithful:

“The wind blew as though it would never take rest;
The bird had flown away too far from her nest.

Amidst everything I felt very lonely,
I thought of him; I missed him only.

Though not a human being, yet human-like was he,
And undoubtedly, very very very dear to me.

He was my dog, a ‘Dog’ as some say,
And now the pain will endure, oh: it may.

Now for me life will start once more,
Maybe as normal as it was before,

But will I always remember my most faithful friend?
Oh yes!, indeed, my loving faithful dog, he was faithful till his very end.”
@ Trinayana Panda

Thank you to Surabhi Shah, Ujjwal and Kkajal Sarin, and Reenaa Karan Gupta, for donating this new bicycle to Shambhunathji. Though he seemed very needy, he willingly contributed a small amount towards the purchase of this 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. 🙂 )

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