125th recipient of help (Wheelchair) :
We all have a well of emotional wealth in us. But I think parents of special children carry seas within. And only the fish swimming in those seas can know how they are somehow managing to swim ashore daily.
Shravani Nandkumar Kharade (8). A special child. And a very special daughter, to her doting parents. She is a student, at ADAPT, Bandra West.
Shravani’s father, Nandkumar (35), is employed with the BEST public mass transport. He is a Conductor. They live in Kanjurmarg.
I found Nandkumar appropriate for the job he ‘happened’ to get employed as, a passenger bus Conductor. His father was a BEST bus conductor too, and died on duty. In such cases, I was told, the BEST, an organisation with a heart I also thought, offered Nandkumar employment as a Conductor. He said, it’s termed as a ‘Pity’ case, helping the deceased soul’s family member become a breadwinner.
Nandkumar had a calm demeanour, and a smiling face. Also, he was quite short in height, and I thought someone like him as the Conductor can be calming to have in an overcrowded bus. And being short in height and very thin, he can easily move through an overcrowded bus, without stepping on our toes.
He was agile, and very alert. So important that could be, I thought, for a professional who has not only to sell and punch the ticket, but also keep an eye out for pickpockets and eve teasers and punch them if shove comes to blows!
While Nandkumar spoke about his job and responsibilities, I began to think of him, a BEST Bus conductor as our brother on board. Someone we hopefully can depend on if we are the target of a pickpocket or a pervert.
I recollect something my mother had told me from her teen days when she was a teen living in Rawalpindi and later in India, before and after partition of our subcontinent, when her family was forced to migrate to Punjab on the Indian side. My nani, grandmother, had cautioned her, “Do not travel in a Bus unless you see that the Conductor or any one passenger in the bus is a Sikh. (My mother was not a Sikh, but a Punjabi by caste and birth) The Sikh will protect your honor if you or any woman passenger will fall upon any kind of danger. One Sikh is equal in bravery and courage to more than ten men. ‘Ik Sikhh dus de barabar’…” Those were the years our borders were rife with violence on both sides, perpetrated equally by all, and by criminals and thieves.
Women are not the only targets. I recollect now, when I was a teen, I was once travelling in an overcrowded Bus and was touched inappropriately by someone. Initially I did not realize WTF was happening to me, who the F was ‘feeling’ me! Disgusted and shocked, I looked around at the towering adults, they were all males, and I just could not fathom looking at their faces through my teen-innocence-eyes and perception who the F had ‘touched’ me!!
Soon, after struggling to not just ‘understand’, what that strange and lingering touch really meant, but also confused and soon I was angry. I had to get off at my stop and could not identify who had done that to me, and that had made me very angry.
In retrospect, I think I got angry then because I must have realized that pervert got away committing nothing less than a crime, because I had felt humiliated, invaded, hurt, in hindsight, for no fault of mine.
On the subject of Bus Conductors, and on a lighter tone, Mathew, a cyclist pal of mine, gave an informal talk about his experience of BEST conductors, and even about how because he is ‘white’ skinned, he gets ‘special’ treatment. Here is the link to Matthew Daniels’s experience of Mumbai’s BEST conductors. Mathew is a foreigner, so I enjoyed his ‘outsider’s’ perspective to our everyday happenings.
Here is the link to his witty funny and insightful talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m9lFtyePYyU&feature=youtu.be
Returning to Shravani, special child and daughter of Nandkumar, she is now growing really fast, and her parents find it very hard to carry her for school and for her physiotherapy. Both are confident she will walk and speak within a decade.
Shravani’s father told me lots of things about his daughter, out of which two remain etched in my consciousness.
One, “She is a happy child. However, when my wife and I sometimes argue over stuff, Shravani gets upset, and sad. We can’t see her live the rest of her life in a wheelchair. And most definitely we can never see her upset or sad. We want her to know only happiness. Therefore, my wife and I have made a solemn pact.
So, we no longer, never, argue about anything in front of our daughter.
If and when we have differences, we have learnt to compromise, sometimes my wife does, sometimes I do. Or, we leave the house and go outside and deal in privacy with our issues. Our daughter only deserves to see us parents as happy people.”
Second, he had said, “My wife and I have decided we will not have any more children. Not because my salary as a Conductor, Rs 15000 to 16000, is not sufficient to bring up a second child. But, we do not want to share what we have with another child. Whatever we have, however great or little, we want to reserve only for her. So Shravani will remain our only child. We both are in agreement on this.”
Long after Nandkumar had gone away with the brand new wheelchair for his only child, I thought about Nandkumar and his wife’s decision to reserve all their resources for her alone, by not having a second child. It is not just about making ends meet. I think it’s a lot to do with the immense emotional wealth needed.
Many of us, however well off or less off we may be, may lack emotional wealth, the courage to bring up a special child. One NGO told me, in many homes, the man abandons the marriage on having a special child. The divorced mothers are always left with the special child to look after single-handedly for life. Because, men rarely will marry a divorced woman having a special child.
A lot of courage, emotional wealth is needed bringing up one. We all have a well of emotional wealth in us. But I think parents of special children carry seas within. And only the fish swimming in those seas can know how they are somehow managing to swim ashore daily. With their special children swimming in oceans of daily challenges.
Thank you to dear Varsha Kalani for donating this new wheelchair to Shravani. Nandkumar contributed a little towards its purchase.
This donation is dedicated by Varsha for darling niece Nysa Chhabria (3)’s Bday which was on April 3rd. Happy Bday to Nysa from all of us.
Thank you to Himanshu Shah’s Health Care Equipments Vile Parle East for the discount on the wheelchair.