124th recipient of help (livelihood bicycle) :
“There could be someone, in this city, who prays daily, that the tall and mighty Coconut trees that dot our beautiful shoreline, shed their wings, their palm leaves, on us now and then.
Because, maybe those are the only days he or she comes across an opportunity and the possibility of earning his livelihood that one day.
I wonder, would someone like them be praying for ferocious winds, or for the Sun to blaze away on these mighty Coconut trees, forcing them to shed their bountiful palm leaves on them even faster? Or, do they wait with immense patience, like Mother Nature’s own, for these tall beings in our coastal skies to shed their beautiful ripe limbs now and then organically, naturally? We will never know.”
Gajanand Naik (82)
Ex-Fisherman, and now a Broom (Teele ka jhadoo) ‘manufacturer’.
Over a year, I had been observing a frail and old man sitting on pavements in Bandra west, mostly on a pavement near the shore, crafting brooms from fallen coconut palm tree leaves. I happened to notice him sometimes, while cycling or walking past him, at various locations.
Sometimes I would see him carry the end product manufactured in partnership, by Mother Nature and him – Brooms, aka Teele ka Jhadoo. He would gather them in his arms, sometimes a few would fall if he had not tied them together with coir. Carrying a few on his head, few trapped under his arms, I would see him walk slowly on pavements. Probably headed to the local Kirana stores to sell them?
I thought, if this frail old man had a bicycle, however slow he may ride it, he will be able to carry the brooms he crafts, with so much patience and intricacy, easily. An old used Blade is his only tool of work, I noticed, and some quantity of coir; the rest benevolent Mother Nature provided. Thank you.
I also realized, on a bicycle, this old man will be able to travel to faraway places, like Band Stand or even near the Sea link approach road, where I have seen coconut trees. At the age he seemed to me, Band Stand is certainly a faraway place from Carter road, where I would see him occasionally.
Later I found out, he is 82.
I decided to stop and ask him, if we gave him a bicycle, how it will help him, and if he would like to own one of his own? He seemed too poor for me to even attempt to ask him to contribute any amount towards the bicycle’s purchase.
I avoid acting out of ‘pity’, because it may show in my tone and words, and sometimes the recipients have taken offence. I too have learnt along the way helping my donor pals help a few people over a year now. Honestly, this time I did act out of pity. Sorry.
Naik was once a fisherman. He entered the fishing profession when he was 18. His job has always been to cast the net and draw it in once the fish swim into the same. He has fished only in the waters off Ratnagiri coast. He says that is where the best fish are and mostly all the trawlers from Mumbai region travel to Ratnagiri to catch fish.
In his humble opinion, even if you travel to Sassoon Docks at Colaba, or any other fish market at Bhaucha Dhakka or Danda or Versova, at 6 am for fresh fish, the ‘fresh’ Pomfret and other gourmet fish we buy ‘fresh!’ arrives to us only after a journey of 5 to 6 days, sleeping-dead on huge beds of solid ice.
So, I guess there is no concept of ‘FRESH’ fish in Mumbai. Unless, we, like Naik once did, and several thousands of fisher-folks still do, leave our comfort zones and travel on their trawlers and catch the fish in the sea and cook it on board. Like these lucky fishermen can do! Or have to do.
When Naik got old, I mean too old to fish, since more than a decade he has been manufacturing brooms – ‘teele ka jhadoos’ , from fallen coconut palm leaves. Palm leaves that we often find scattered on our pavements or to our horror find fallen on our parked cars at times! One dented my brand new car once! Naik manages to manufacture about 3 to 7 brooms a day. He sells each at Rs 60 or 70, I think.
Not on all days can he ‘manufacture’ his product of livelihood. Because, he competes with the BMC. The BMC carts away the fallen palm leaves, because they too utilize these fallen angels to make brooms, which they distribute to their staff to clean our streets.
I realized, the hundreds of beautiful Coconut trees that sway in high winds on our shores, they help keep our homes and cities clean! Thank you.
I decided to research other values of the Coconut Palm leaves. I found out that the Palm leaf manuscript is one of the oldest medium of writing in India especially in Southern India. Wow!
I asked Naik, which has been his happiest moments in life. His happiest memory so far. Considering he is 82, what kind of lasting happy memory would someone like him depart earth with, I was keen to know and share with you.
Naik had none, he said straight face. I pushed him a bit. After much polite-goading, he said “I have never really experienced happiness. Only challenges and adversities. (pauses) However, I am very happy once a year. Annually once. I am happy only on Ganpati day only. That is the only day I look forward to. Because, that is the only day once a year I travel to Madh Island (I think he mentioned Marve or Madh) to meet my son and his family. I am very happy that day only.”
Long after he had left, I decided never to crib about the noise pollution and traffic jams during Ganpati immersion days. Some souls somewhere have the fortune of seeing their loved ones only on that day, I realized meeting Naik.
Maybe that is another reason why the Lord is so looked forward by millions to returns – “Pudhchya Varshi Lavkar Ya”, so that someone somewhere can be reunited with his or her loved ones.
One last thing. I realized only after having given him the bicycle, that Naik may be homeless. Because, I found him sleeping at a cobblers space in Rajan Sherley Street when I would happen to pass that location.
I found out, Naik arrives at that spot only when the cobbler leaves for his home in the evening, and he leaves the cobbler’s space in the morning when the cobbler returns to work. Naik to me seemed to me literally sleeping on an illegal-platform of Kota stone raised from the pavement. No wonder, in the afternoons sometimes I had seen him sleeping in the shade of trees on carter road. Those very trees that feed him.
Rarely do we not take a single paise from the recipient of our donor’s charity. This is one of those few, I felt so glad, seeing him resting for the night thanks to a cobbler’s kindness. We all need to be a coconut tree or a cobbler for someone.
Thank you Ritu Chhabria, and Geetali Tare, for purchasing this bicycle for Naik. Our bicycle angels.
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. 🙂 )