121st recipient – be a ‘Sardaar-ji’ to someone.

121 Milk Shyam Narayan Dubey

121st recipient of help (livelihood bicycle) :

“Be a ‘Sardaar-ji’ to someone.”

Shyam Narayan Dubey-ji. (80)


I was riding past Sassoon Docks, Colaba, holding my breath. I always do when I pass the gates of the docks, least I inhale the rotten water and fish smell that often loiters on to the main road, just like our ‘holy’ cows loiter at some of our most busy streets during even peak hours. There is no escape from either of them.

A foreign tourist, traveller and author Sarah Macdonald had remarked, about India, …. “It amazes me, that the Indian pedestrian will stop for the cyclist, the cyclist will stop for a motorcyclist, the motorcyclist will stop for a motor vehicle, the car will stop only for a truck or public or goods transport bus/truck, but the public transport and the Goods Carrier trucks will stop for no one, except one entity – the holy cow! Who will invariably park herself in the middle of the busiest streets without a care in the world!” Hahahahaha!

I too would not have stopped outside Sassoon docks that morning, for anything, as I was making my way towards Afghan church, had I not noticed an ancient looking man riding an ancient and dilapidated bicycle at pretty good speed along Colaba Causeway.

Somehow, I forgot about the fishy smell hanging in the air and stopped and began chatting with him. For me, such situations are like the bus drivers that author and traveller Sarah had mentioned who will stop for nothing but the ‘holy beings’. Our holy being, that morning, was Shyam Narayan Dubey-ji. Later I found out he is 80 years old! In Colaba area, they address him as Chacha.

Dubeyji supplies milk that arrives from dairy farms in and around Mumbai. He does not sell the government dairy milk.

Having met Dubeyji first while he was riding a bike, I was keen to hear from him how our city treats a cyclist like Dubeyji who is 80.
He had an interesting perspective on motor cyclists in Colaba area; he complained they ride on the wrong side of the road very often, and if they come in his way they expect him to stop or move out of their way, and they are often arrogant and abusive too. Motorcyclists, Dubeyji complaints, have no respect for cyclists.

Not even one his age?! Well, such is life! Sad. But let us end this story with a beautiful thought on the golden years, written by one of our favorite poets:
“The complete life, the perfect pattern, includes old age as well as youth and maturity. The beauty of the morning and the radiance of noon are good, most beautiful; but it would be a very silly person who drew the curtains and turned on the light in order to shut out the tranquillity and serenity of evening.” – W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM.

Dubeyji arrived in Bombay when he was 15-16 years young. When he arrived here, he was picked up by the wings of an angel. That angel was a ‘Sardaarji’. That is the name Dubeyji addressed the Sikh gentleman, the owner of a very big and successful milk dairy in Colaba then. Dubeyji said, had Sardaarji not allowed him credit for as much milk he can sell, he would probably not have survived here during his initial years in Bombay. In Navy Nagar, Colaba, the Sardaarji had founded a Gurudwara, Dubeyji informed me.

Many years ago, once when Sardaaarji fell very ill, he called for Dubeyji. On learning that his beloved Sardaarji is unwell, Dubeyji rushed to his house. On seeing his ‘Sardaarji’ unwell, he told him he is willing to do anything for him right away. He can drop all the work he has for the day if his ‘Sardaarji’ needs him to take him to a doctor or a hospital. His wish would be his command, he assured the ailing Sardaarji.
Sardaarji assured Dubeyji, that his family is looking after him well, and all he wanted was to see him. He (Dubeyji) should now return to his work.

As instructed by his beloved Sardaarji, Dubeyji went away and got on with his work. He found out later, that within a few hours from then, Sardaarji went to see his doctor, and died at the clinic that very moment. Dubeyji’s visit to his Sardaarji’s house that morning was to become his last glimpse of his Earthly angel.

However, I felt goose bumps thinking if the Sardaarji had a premonition of his impending death that day, and had called Dubeyji to see him maybe one last time?

A stranger helps you stand on your feet when you were vulnerable, poor and 15. Decades later, when he, your benefactor, is in his golden years, he calls you, the beneficiary of his kindness, to see you again. And it happens to become your last goodbye. In this case, it was a milkman and his ‘Sardaarji’ Saab.
It is indeed true, I thought, hearing of their relationship, that some relationships can be expressed, but cannot be explained. Not even by the master, the guru of all relationships, our heart. But such stories makes me believe in angels.

Did you ever feel a tiny raindrop
trickle down from the sky,
and land upon your cheek
when there is no rain in sight,
And wonder where it came from
when the day is sunny and bright?

Did you ever hear someone
clearly call out your name,
and when you turned to look
there’s not a familiar face,
and wonder where it came from,
when the voice was there
without an ounce of doubt?

The answer is quite simple you see,
Angels are everywhere, watching over you and me.
Though at times we don’t feel a presence at our side,
Angels are by our side, morning, noon and night.

(- Anon)

I asked Dubeyji, if he has any regrets, considering by 80 one can have some. None of us can possibly predict that the sun will shine forever on our spirit.
Dubeyji told me, “I do have one. The fact that I did not listen to Sardaarji, many years ago when he was pressurising me to purchase a shop that was up for sale at Rs Four Thousand. Many decades ago. Now that property is worth many crores.”

I wondered, on how many more occasions had this wonderful ‘Sardaarji’ given his arm out to the Dubeyjis in Colaba area or elsewhere? I am sure I will meet some more Dubeyjis who have benefitted from this Sardaarji if I went seeking them in Colaba. Because he also built a Gurudwara there, I was told.

I realize, it is indeed true, that a wealthy and wise man doesn’t shake hands with people he wants to help. He instead offers them a helping hand. Post his earthly visit, I hope Sardaarji received the crown he merits.

Thank you Surabhi Shah, and Deb and Beni, for buying this new bicycle for Dubeyji. Dubeyji contributed a little towards this purchase.
We told him to keep his old bicycle, repair it a bit, and when he can he should lend it out to someone who needs one to earn a livelihood – become a ‘Sardaar-ji’ to someone.

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. 🙂 )


4 thoughts on “121st recipient – be a ‘Sardaar-ji’ to someone.

  1. Peeps, if you have read the post of the 121st recipient, that I posted today, and you wonder about the presence of others like him, the ‘Sardaar-ji’, let me introduce you to a man who was to become my father’s ‘Sardaar-ji’;
    because of whom a young and poor poet, my dad, could firmly entrench his writing pen in this city of gold!

    Post the partition of the subcontinent, in 1947, my father, Anand Bakshi, aged 17, with his family migrated to India. The partition rendered them nearly poor, and subsequently he joined the Indian army Corps of Signals, at Jubbulpore.

    On March 25, 1950 his first poem was published in the Army publication ‘Sainik Samachar’ ; which gave him confidence that he can try his luck as a lyrics writer in Hindi films. He was also encouraged by his seniors and mates that he writes well and must take a shot at writing for films.

    Pulled by his dream, he resigned from the Army in April 1950, and traveled to Bambai, to try his luck in films the first time.
    However, he could not get a break in films, and ran out of money soon, so in a few months he returned to the army and enlisted with the E.M.E. – (The Corps of Electrical and Mechanical Engineers).

    But the dream only grew with time. And once again, after serving the Indian army for a total of 7 years, he took voluntary discharge a second time, in 1956, and traveled to Bambai a second time! This time armed with 60 poems so that he can surely find work this time!

    However, within a few months, in 1956 itself, he ran out of money and lost hope of ever making it as a song writer, and decided to return to his army job. That is if they accept him a second time.

    While he was sitting at Marine Lines station, a ticket inspector, Chitramal Swaroop, caught him without a valid ticket, and asked him to pay a fine.
    Anand Bakshi told him he has no money for the penalty to be paid.

    The ticket collector asked him if he had eaten, and when Anand Bakshi said he has no money for food, the ticket collector bought him some food.

    After Anand Bakshi had eaten, Chitramal asked him what he is doing in Bombay.
    Anand Bakshi replied he has lost all hope of becoming a lyrics writer, and wants to return to his Army job.

    Chitramal asked Anand Bakshi to narrate a few of his poems.
    After hearing a few of his poems, Chitramal picked up Anand Bakshi tin suitcase and told him to follow him home. YES!!! He lead Anand Bakshi, a complete stranger, to his Western Railway quarters at Borivali, and allowed him to live there a few weeks until he finds some work. Because he, Chitramal, believed that this stranger, Anand Bakshi, wrote well so he must not give up.

    Ultimately, Anand Bakshi lived at Chitramal’s house at Borivali for nearly 3 years, and Chitramal would even give him a daily pocket money of Rs 2 to eat and travel, to go see Producers and Directors to ask for work. After my father got established, Mr Chitramal Swarup never asked my father for even Re 1 for what he had done for him!

    I believe, Anand Bakshi had two mothers, one who gave him birth, and the other was this gentleman, his ‘Sardaar-ji’, Chitramal Swaroop; the ticket collector;
    because, had he not stopped Anand Bakshi that day at Marine Lines station from returning to the Army, after hearing a few of his poem, maybe the world of Hindi cinema may never have discovered Anand Bakshi. Because, Anand Bakshi, my father, went on to write nearly 3500 songs in 625 Hindi films over the next 40 years!!!

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