122nd recipient – My over sized Heart pals are far more….

122 Dhobi ashok

122nd recipient of help (livelihood bicycle):

Cheers to my oversized-HEART friends. They are special for me, because they are the ones who long ago decided to be inclusive first towards themselves. Because, before you offer your kindness to others, you need to share it first with your own beloved self. I believe.

Ashok Kumar Rajak. (38)

Dhobi (Laundry services)

Ashok is from UP; He is educated till the tenth class. He did not want to study any further, being disinterested; so his father brought him into the dhobi profession. His father was a dhobi too. Ashok has two children, both are being educated.

Nearly a year ago, I think, I saw Ashok riding on an old and dilapidated bicycle. I had told him then, if he ever wants to buy a new bicycle and if he is willing to contribute nearly half the cost of the same, he should come see us. We may be able to contribute the balance.

Ashok Dhobi did come see me nearly a month ago, when his old bicycle got stolen in Bandra west. In my little experience, bicycle theft is a common crime these vendors-on-bicycles suffer. Over the last one and a half years, at least ten recipients must have approached me for our assistance, in helping them buy a new bicycle, because their old bike were stolen.

And at least another five recipients, who had received brand new donated-bikes from us, called me within a few weeks or months of receiving them, to inform me their bicycle was stolen. The sadness in their voice at those moments, would arrest me. Even such instances made me realize how much this humble bicycle really means to these vendors/people.

Most often, the victims of bicycle theft cannot approach the Police for help. Because, they lack proof of their bike’s ownership. Many of them do not know the importance of keeping the Sale Invoice copy after they buy a bicycle, whether it’s a new one or second hand.

That is why, when we buy bikes for these recipients, from day one we have handed the recipient a copy of the bike’s Sale Invoice, which is usually in the name of the donors and contributors to that bike.
Siddharth Vora, the owner of Kohinoor Cycle Stores, and I, have always ensured that the recipients are handed a copy of the Sale Invoice!

Speaking of stolen bicycles, a must watch film is the Italian classic – “The Bicycle Thief.” It’s about the suffering of a lower middle class father and son, the child is around 6, whose one and only means of livelihood, their bicycle gets stolen. A bicycle that is their only path to earn an honest living. What kind of pressures an honest family man can crumble under, is what this film really shines her light upon, simply through a captivating and emotional narrative.

Here is the link to the complete film:

Or else, hire the DVD and watch it with your besties, or your family, or just with your very best of friends – Yourself.

Returning to apna bandhu Ashok the Dhobi, from some of the interesting things Ashok told me about his life, the one that I want to share is, I had asked him, “Whom does Mumbai belong to? Considering, certain people want to believe or ae made to believe it belongs mostly only to the sons of the soil etc…”

…. Ashok, smiled, and replied, “Saab, one of my clients had once pointed at an Indian currency note, and told me, see here, these languages printed on the back side, and in front, Mumbai belongs to those who belong to these official Indian languages printed on this note!”

After Ashok had left, I opened my wallet and looked at a 500 note. I had never seen our currency so closely. Even though we value money so much, I mean, even wars take place over them, how many of us have had a close look at our currency? I counted 15 languages at the back of the note, and two on the front. The denomination is written in two official languages only – English and Hindi.

Thank God for that, I thought! I was very happy, because one fringe elements once ‘joked’ with me, when I told him I cannot write like my father, but I do write poems sometimes, and that too in English, “Acha, toh tum angrezz ki aulaad ho!” (… Okay, So you are a product of western education!)

Returning to our much desired currency, even though we want to be inclusive, we cannot possibly project the same on a currency note, the languages mentioned on the reverse were only 15, out of the official 22. Obviously, because no one can possibly fit even all our Gods and Goddesses in one place of worship! So beautifully and exhaustively diverse are we! Jai Hind. Jai India.

Speaking of inclusiveness, “It is only human supremacy, (which is as unacceptable as racism and sexism are) that makes us afraid of being more inclusive.” – Ingrid Newkirk.

Being inclusive is good. That is what all progressive people tell us. And let us not be as exclusive as how ‘Fashion’ is often perceived. I said that once in a casual conversation with friends, and someone countered me with: “Rakesh, Fashion is inclusive yaar. Fashion is so dam good at embracing so many different things. So many friggin different forms of beauty too. Fashion is a very liberal industry. Blah Blah Blah …. So much of fashion is about freedom of expression… about self-expression…Blah Blah Blah …. With Fashion you can be yourself! Totally yourself!”

Ohhhh I thought, hearing him, and I agree. But, then he said “Just one thing, you cannot be OVERWEIGHT.”

Long after the guests had left, I thought about my friend’s perception about being ‘in-fashion’ and the desire for being size zero. I realized, some of my friends who are ‘over sized’ and those who are quite clueless about fashion, walk the talk with more confidence and have higher self-esteem and confidence than those who are struggling to get into their much younger siblings clothes!

I cannot speak for others, but some of my overweight friends are even more giving, more empathetic, kinder, and more confident than some of those who are perpetually struggling to be in-fashion and size zero.

Cheers to my oversized-HEART friends. They are special for me, because they are the ones who long ago decided to be inclusive first towards themselves. Because, before you offer your kindness to others, you need to share it first with your own beloved self. I believe.

Thank you to Ritika and Parag Vijra for donating this bicycle to Ashok. Ashok too contributed substantially towards the purchase of the same.

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.


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