130th recipient of help (livelihood bicycle)
“Education is an admirable thing. But it is good to remember from time to time that many things most worthy cannot be taught.”
Sonu Nirmal (22)
Dhobi (Laundry service) and Student.
So I came across this young fellow riding a bike on Perry Cross Road and entering my building. I wondered “Someone as young as him should be in college. In an ideal world. How come he is lugging laundry clothes around?”
Sonu’s family is from UP. They own some amount of agriculture land there, but they do not cultivate it as much as they could. They not only lack working hands to cultivate the plot, but the income from agriculture on a small pocket of land is insufficient to run their household. His father is a dhobi too, in Bandra west, and father and son work the press together.
Sonu is educated till the 12th class, and he has plans of going to college to complete his graduation. He has dreams, not just for himself but for his siblings too. There was no way that we would not have helped this fellow, I thought, as he continued to pour out his story to me.
Sonu began working along with his father when he was in the 7th class. His father would not keep well, and on his own accord Sonu began to help his father and iron the clothes and ride out to clients to collect and deliver them. He began by working only on days his father was unwell and could not work. And because his father remained unwell for longer periods of time now and then, Sonu began to assist him full time.
While working with his father, Sonu has managed to study till the 12th class by attending night school. He knows the importance of education and is very determined to graduate, and also determined to make his younger siblings a graduate too.
I was very impressed by this young fellow, studying and working in the same breath. As he sat in front of me, very shy speaking to me, maybe because he perceived me as very well to do or some kind of angelic benefactor, (I am not either of these) I reflected on my own past.
I was in awe of him as he done more for his family (because of their unfortunate circumstances) in less than two decades than I have done for mine (thanks to my fortunate circumstances) in more than two. In the sense of earning a livelihood. Supporting his father in their family profession.
At 22, I was mostly confused about what stream of education to swim in, and sometimes chasing many other things, beyond adventure, on a Honda MTX 80 CC water-cooled radiator motor cycle with a high compression engine that helped me perform ‘wheelies’ when I wanted to show-off . This was between being utterly confused whether I should become an Engineer, a Pilot or be in films.
Oscar Wilde had said, “Education is an admirable thing. But it is good to remember from time to time that many things most worthy cannot be taught.”
Sonu, at the age of ten or twelve, must have not known of this quote of Oscar Wilde, yet he lived it. By taking the reins of his father’s profession in his hands, sharing the challenges and burdens that arrived by his father falling ill now and then. Had Sonu not taken the reins of his father’s profession in his own hands, his younger siblings would not be going to school today, I think.
No amount of education could have taught him that. Sonu does not want his younger siblings to become Dhobis. He too is ambitious to stop this profession once he graduates, and stop his mother from working at people’s homes, and hopes to find a job in the mainstream.
When I found out that Sonu and his brother can use a bicycle to save bus fare travelling to school or college, I decided to offer to buy his a regular bike, what we term as a road bike sometimes, and not the livelihood roadsters we always donate. Not that the regular road bikes cannot be used for earning a livelihood, for carrying goods of trade. I have seen s few people deliver newspaper and milk on the regular road bikes.
I asked Sonu, since he was very grateful that we have helped him, even though we consider it to be a tiny assistance, has he ever helped a stranger. He cried then.
When his tears flowed, I realized he was probably feeling bad or embarrassed that he had not. It was not my intention to make him feel bad, or embarrassed, that’s if he felt those emotions. I was simply curious and my tone and words reflected that.
But I think I did want to make him realize that even someone like him can help someone far less privileged than what we consider him or he may consider himself. I think he got that. Somewhere he must have got that.
To make him feel proud about the fine fellow he came across to me, even though I think he felt he had not helped a stranger ever, I made him realize how much he has done for his family: From the age of ten or twelve, giving his father, who was unwell, a helping hand and earning a livelihood in the absence of his father was by itself very commendable. To work in the day for your family and attend night school is commendable.
Furthermore, he must also feel proud of the dreams he has, of not just educating his younger siblings, but his own ambition to become a graduate while he continues to be a dhobi. All these facts from his life so far are by themselves enough for someone like us to appreciate and respect immensely, and even offer to buy him a new bicycle to replace his old dilapidated one.
Clint Eastwood had said – “Respect your efforts. Respect yourself. Self respect leads to self discipline and self confidence.” I think this is what I tried to imbibe in this young student and professional before he left. I think he got that. I hope he did. Because it is good to remember from time to time that many things most worthy cannot be taught.
There is one thing he must have learnt very clearly. The very first opportunity life presents to him in his path to help a stranger, provided it is within his time and money resources, this young man will. I know he will. His tears earlier, though silent, had confided that to me.
Thank you to Dr Manoj Bhatia, Sonika and Rajeev Munjal, and Surabhi Shah for contributing towards the purchase of this new bicycle for Sonu. He contributed half the cost for 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. 🙂 )