130th recipient – “Education is an admirable thing. But it is good to remember from time to time that many things most worthy cannot be taught.”

130 dhobi sonu

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. 🙂 )


129th recipient – I believe it is time to take my chance.

Newspaper surinder

129th recipient of help (livelihood bicycle) :

“I believe it is time to take my chance
To reach out and touch my dream
however impossible to you it may seem.”

Surendra Ambekar (52)

Newspaper vendor. (At Bandra west.)

Since over a year, I had been noticing a newspaper vendor who sets up his ‘baakda’, wooden makeshift-stall, next to Perry Cross Road BEST bus stop. He did not have a bicycle, and I would see him often run with newspapers, delivering them to clients on streets nearby. He would leave someone to mind his stall and disappear into lanes and buildings nearby.

One day, nearly a year ago, I stopped to ask him if we can buy him a bicycle. Surendra Ambekar.
Surendra agreed reluctantly, because he had a very ill father to look after and could not save money soon enough. I told him to save at least Rs 2000, and when he does we will contribute the remaining 2500, and get him a new one. He agreed, without any excitement. I knew then, that he will not be able to gather that amount soon.

My instinct, sadly, paid off. Every few months, when I happened to come across Surendra, and I inquired from him if he had managed to save the amount of Rs 2000, he said he had not. However, he never gave me a reason or any excuses. I felt he was determined to save that amount.

After a few weeks, one day when I again approached Surendra, en route my ride, he said had saved 1500, and will have the remaining in a week. I told him 1500 will be enough. Because I know our donors would willingly contribute the remaining. He agreed to visit me the next day with the 1500 he had saved. He never turned up.

After a few months, this time I deliberately looked for him, waited at his stall for him, since I did not have his phone number or address. He arrived soon, walking briskly and was preoccupied with deliveries.

I asked him, quickly, not to waste his time, what happened, why did he not turn up, we were willing to contribute the remaining 3500 if he had saved 1500.
He continued to sort his newspapers, and said his father had been very ill and was hospitalized, so he had to spend that money on his medical bills. His father died, early this year I think. He said he is now beginning to save money once again and he will call me when he has saved 1500.

Another few months went by. I happened to come across him on my way back from my town ride. He was running in a lane to deliver a bundle or newspapers nearby.
That is when it hit me, this man has been wearing the same shirt ever since his seemingly crippled boat sailed into my seas horizon. His chappal (slippers) was in tatters.

To put things into perspective for myself, I wear sets of new clothes at least four times a day. We have given away our foot wear and older garments even before a stitch wears or the color dye or threads lose their strengths. I thought, considering he has not been able to save the 1500 he said he would on several occasions, he must be having very compelling daily expenses, or someone very ill he cares for. I was curious to know about his very compelling expenses.
He had also told me about his mother’s illness and he has been running around looking after her so he has not been getting time to come see me. Even the day he collected his new bicycle, yesterday, his mother was admitted at a hospital.

I decided then, we should buy him a new bicycle and not take any contribution from him. I am witness to his struggles since a year now to gather Rs 1500! I made him that offer, and he agreed. My conversation was not really over, and yet he took off to deliver his newspapers.
A through professional, I thought of him. And certainly not a beggar for freebies. I really liked this stranger.

Last week, when I finally met him to interview him in depth, what he told me in the very beginning was something like: “Thank you for this bicycle you people want to buy for me. But what I really need, the help I really need, from someone like you or your friends, is give me a chance at doing some ‘business. Some kind of trading. Anything, buying and selling anything you people may have to offer for someone like me. I am very hard working, and I will do justice to the opportunity that may come my way through you. I just need a chance at being an independent business person. I do not need money from you or your friends. Just a chance at buying something from them that I can sell at a decent or fair profit.”
(‘Not that I do not value this bicycle you are donating to me’, was always reflected in his tone.)

I think his biggest disappointment has been his father, who worked at the docks, did not let him join the docks. He did not want him to work at the docks. Yet, Surendra looked after his father until his last pulse beat. His second bi disappointment was, he had wanted to be a Policeman, but his chest cage (after inhaling breath) was not large enough for police recruitment.

Surendra is educated till the 12th class. I asked him, what has been his happiest moment so far? He said, it was when is son came first in class. That was by far his happiest moment ever so far. He has two sons, one is still studying and the other is working and I think learning animation. I was glad he was educating both. He was not putting the little he was earning into a new shirt and slippers for himself.

While he spoke, what I saw in front of me was a man who feels he lost his chance at life’s better opportunity. I think it is because his two brothers have prospered, but he feels he has not. However, he still feels young and able and still waiting for the waterfall to find her way to his parched throat. I was really glad we helped him. Even if we are just a trickling stream.

Surendra told me a lot about his life so far, which I decided not to write about. Not that it was not worthy. I listened to his regrets, his joys, his crushed dreams. But I decided to leave you with the prayer he really left me with:

I believe it is time to take my chance
To reach out and touch my dream
however impossible to you it may seem.

It is only up to me to still strive and still try
I want you too to see what I can still achieve
Because I still believe in me.
So don’t give up on me.

And the same goes for us too.

Thank you to Surabhi Shah, Natasha and Khuram Abdulla, and Chan Purewal, for buying the new cycle for Surendra. We did not take any contribution from him, though he has promised he would like to contribute at east Rs 500 when he is able.

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 on this bicycle.


(PS – Rs 3000 is what it takes to donate a new bicycle; yes, because the balance, 2000 to 2500, is contributed by the recipient. 🙂 )

128th recipient of help (livelihood bicycle) : “A gardener provides patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfil good intentions. They thrive because someone expended their love, effort, on them.”


128 Malee Murli pic natasha chan varsha

128th recipient of help (livelihood bicycle) :

“A gardener provides patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfil good intentions. They thrive because someone expended their love, effort, on them.”

Murli Ram Kohri (50)

Malee (Gardener)

For over a year or so, I noticed a very short, old, and frail man, (must be in his 60’s), on a street in Bandra west. He would be rooted to one particular spot outside a residential building near Railway Colony day and night, I think.
I always saw him either squat, or sleep, at that spot, and I never saw him in motion. He wore the same clothes every single day. He wore plastic sandals. He seemed to have no work, no relatives, no friends. Most sadly, he had no hope on his face. Like a plant who has no gardener nurturing her and surrenders herself to her inevitable destiny.
I used to wonder, ‘…. who feeds this man?’ I personally had never fed him.

Weeks turned into months. His presence at that spot tuned invisible to me. Though I continued to pass that street daily, I forgot about this lonely man. Until I met Murli.

Murli is from UP, and works as a Malee. He was riding a ramshackle dilapidated bicycle, and I stopped him on the street to ask him if he would like to own a new one. And if yes, then we can buy him one, provided he contribute half the cost. He agreed.

Murli arrived in Mumbai 35 years ago to earn a livelihood. Until he was 24, he lived in his village and was a farm hand. His family owned a small quantity of land, but being insufficient to provide for the family, he had to work as an agriculture labourer on the land of other farmers too.

Murli has not been to school, as he had younger siblings and had to work from his early years. His younger siblings managed to get some formal education.
He has three children, all in school, two daughters and one son.

Actually, I had met Murli many months ago, but he disappeared on me after agreeing to call me within a week.
He appeared suddenly one day, after a few months. He explained he could not save enough money to contribute towards the purchase of the new bicycle which we had volunteered to buy for him. His wife is still unwell, and he had to spend on her medical care. But now he has saved enough money to contribute nearly half the cost of the bike.
I liked this guy, he really knew the value of our donor’s contribution. I wanted him to contribute less than half, but remained silent.

When Murli arrived from his village seeking work three decades ago, he could not find employment. No education, no money, he knew no God fathers in this city. However, he understood ‘mitti’ (Earth), ‘hawa’ (air), ‘paani’ (water), ‘paudhe’ (saplings, plants). His fingers knew how the right soil feels, they knew how to nurture plants and hold their tiny branches until they grow up one day to share their flowers, fragrance, fruits, nutrition, and shade. So he became a malee, a gardener.

I had read – ‘The idea of a garden, a cultivated enclosure, has always been important in poetic imagination, as parable, as metaphor for human activity, as sanctuary, going all the way back to the original garden, the Biblical Garden of Eden. And the activity of gardening lends itself inevitably to metaphors of human work, human influence on the natural world, and all the natural processes of life, growth, senescence and death.’

A gardener provides patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfil good intentions. They thrive because someone expended great love and effort on them. – Liberty Hyde Bailey.

‘Someone expended great love and effort on them’ …. That makes me return to the frail, old, poor man I had seen on the same spot on a pavement outside a residential building, and had wondered ‘…who must be feeding this man? He seems to be without work, no place to go, no savings, and probably speaks to no one but his creator.’

I found out, only after meeting Murli, that not only does Murli nurture the plants and trees under his care and responsibility, (which is his profession) but he also feeds this frail old poor stranger who is not his ‘responsibility’. Because, Murli used to buy a packet of Gluco biscuit for him daily on his way to work early morning. Every day, until the day the man was taken away to the hospital.

After hearing of Murli’s deed towards the poor stranger, for me, Murli had truly earned the donation of this bicycle. After learning of his kindness towards someone even far less privileged than himself, a destitute, I now did not want to accept any contribution from Murli towards his bike. And I knew my donors would anyways have very happily paid the entire cost of his new bike. However, I lowered Murli’s contribution substantially, and accepted just a token contribution from him.

That frail old poor man I have not seen since many months now on that street. I think, he may have passed away a few months ago. Murli told me the residents of the building outside which the poor frail man would squat and sleep, had found him unconscious or very ill one day, so they had called the cops to take him away to Bhabha Hospital. I do not know what happened to that soul thereafter.

I can take solace in one thought though, that someone, Murli, had extended him a hand till he was last seen on that street. I recollected only then, that in the past when I had some money remaining from two of our donors’ contributions, I think it was from the donations of Anuraadha Tiwari and Surabhi Shah, we had fed this same poor old frail man a cup of hot tea daily, during the few months of winter.

Sitting Bull says – Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embrace of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love!

For me, your charity, the bicycles you donors give, the Gluco biscuit packet Murli gave that poor man daily, however small it be, is that spring. There can be a spring for someone where you step. It depends on where you choose to.

Thank you to Natasha and Khurram Abdulla, Varsha Kalani, and Chan Purewal, for purchasing a new bicycle for Murli. Murli too contributed towards the purchase.

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 on this bicycle.


(PS – Rs 3000 is what it takes to donate a new bicycle; yes, because the balance, 2000 to 2500, is contributed by the recipient. 🙂 )

127th recipient – Drive Hammered and Get Slammered!

127 Dhobi Sanjiv K Nirmal

127th recipient of help (livelihood bicycle) :

“Drive Hammered and Get Slammered!”

Sanjiv Kumar Nirmal (42)

Dhobi (Laundry service)

Sanjiv is from UP. He is educated till the fifth class, because his father could not afford to educate him any further. His father was a Dhobi too, working and living in Bandra west.

Sanjiv arrived in Mumbai when he was 12 years young, to help his father who was the sole bread winner. His younger brother is a Dhobi too, and his sister is married.

Sanjiv is married and has two sons. His brother’s daughter lives with him, he is her caretaker. He wants to educate her and only then get her married.

One son of his (10th class pass), resides with him in Mumbai, Bandra. His second son (12th class fail), works the fields as a farmer, and sometimes even as an agriculture labourer on fields belonging to others.
For a whole day’s labour in the fields, the wages he earns is Rs 100 to 150. And it is not every day that one finds work, because there are many seeking, chasing, the same jobs, the same limited resources.

The income from agriculture is neither adequate, because of the small size of their land holding, nor is it consistent, because of the frequent unpredictable moods of the weather.

Whether the weather be fine
Or whether the weather be not;
Whether the weather be cold
Or whether the weather be hot;
We can only hope to weather the weather. Whatever be the weather.
Whether we like it or whether we not! The weather does not care.

Hmmmm. So, bad weather can be cruel. Her cruelty, however, is unintentionally.

Who else has the possibility or potential to be really cruel? Even though unintentional. Hmmmmmm Those who drink and drive?
I consider this species, drunk drivers, as “potential-criminals!” Potential psychopaths, is how a pal addressed them. These potential-criminals do not value the lives of others. Like most convicted criminals. Whether you sleep in castles or on pavements, you can become the target of the carelessness, arrogance, cruelty, and ‘criminality’ of a drunk-driver.

Even though they, and some who love them, may justify their (the drunk driver’s) act of ‘criminality’, or their act of inhumanity, as a pardonable ‘mistake’. Even though they harm you unintentionally, their guilt is punishable.

I wonder, how this species of beings can be, or remain, unaware that a drunk-head behind a vehicle wheel is nothing but a potential Maiming-and-Killing machine. They may deserve our understanding, our acceptance for their mistake, forgiveness, but not our sympathy if a human life has been lost due to their ignorance, arrogance, carelessness, or drunken-ness.
It is their victim, and his or her dependents, and the victim’s family that really does. However, strangely, sometimes the perpetrator gets the sympathy without the victims receiving any! You feel compassion, sympathy for drunk-drivers who committed a crime, good! I would balance it out by expressing sympathy, compassion, understanding, and prayers for the victim/s too. Amen.

All said and done, enough of ‘bol bachchan’ and gyan-baazi. If you drink and drive, you’re going to make someone cry. Possibly, many! Drive Hammered and Get Slammered!! Even if you a cop, a priest, a charity worker, a ruling politician or a celebrity.

Returning to our subject Sanjiv Dhobi, he approached us for assistance in purchasing a new bicycle because his old bicycle was stolen. I was curious to know how helpful some of his customers have been when he must have approached them for some help in the past.
Sanjiv was all praise for some of his customers. Whenever he has asked them for monetary assistance, of Rs 1000 to 2000, they obliged.

So, there are some who steal bikes. Then there are some who maim or kill people because of ‘mistakes’. And then there are many others who lift those lower down the food chain. And those who value the life and dignity of those who live on streets and pavements.

The world is pretty well balanced ya, I would like to think. Mostly she is. No wonder, Earth spins. Spinning away in joy of the privileged ‘spinning’ for the less privileged.

Thank you to Surabhi Shah and Natasha and Khurram Abdulla for purchasing a new bicycle for Sanjiv. Sanjiv contributed substantially towards the purchase.

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 on this bicycle.


(PS – Rs 3000 is what it takes to donate a new bicycle; yes, because the balance, 2000 to 2500, is contributed by the recipient. 🙂 )

126th recipient – They (the men) consider a girl (hold your breath!) ‘BAD’, if she rides a BICYCLE!

Mandesh Org representational pic

126th recipient of help (recreational bicycle) :

“Even today, it is a taboo for girls to ride bicycles. In the village near where I live, some males, young and adults too, do not like, nor encourage, the girls in their family or their village to ride bicycles; because, they consider a girl (hold your breath!) ‘BAD’, if she rides a BICYCLE. So, I…”

That was told to me by Dr Apte, who runs a personally funded non-profit initiative to encourage boys and girls around his semi urban residence to ride bicycles. I named it, The Bicycle Library.

Dr Apte added, “So, I thought of a way to make the males more inclusive, ‘motivate’ (bribe) them, the boys, to teach their sisters or their female peers in the village, how to ride a bicycle. I insisted, if they (the boys) want to borrow my bicycle for a ride, for a day, he must also teach his sister or a female friend, to ride a bicycle. And show me her progress. Only then can the boys borrow my bicycle, particularly if they have a sister or cousin who does not ride, or is not allowed to ride, or not encouraged.”

After meeting Dr Apte at Panchgani, thanks to my pal Amin, I realized, we do not have to step far from our own house to help someone less privileged.

We wish Dr Apte all the best for his Bicycle Library. After this one donation made to his library (by our donors Rita Chhabria. and Dr Niraj Vora) he currently has three bicycles that he lends to the children for their recreational use.

I think, being a doctor, he knows the immense importance of recreation and sports for the better development of the mind, body, spirit, self-confidence and self-esteem. May the girls too soar to the skies on these ‘borrowed’ bicycles.

This is the first poem I wrote on cycling, after I began nearly three years ago. it is also about being in love with the possibilities of where a bicycle, and the life we live, can possible take us.

A Cyclist’s love ballad for her Bicycle.

Take me away, to a place from where happiness can never sail-away.

Take me away, to a place from where star-lights will never stray.

Take me away, to a place where poems can never-stop to serenade.

Take me away, to a place where a lover’s guitar can strum for us all-day.

Take me away to where when nightingales sing, all beings sway.

Take me away to any place, but not where our loved ones are more than a bicycle ride away.

@ rakesh,

Thank you Rita Chhabria and Dr Niraj Vora for donating a bicycle to Dr Apte’s non-profit personal initiative, Bicycle Library.


(Read Dr Apte’s story below here, what motivated him to begin a tiny bicycle-library for some rural children. I had posted his story online on March 24th 2015:

Dr Apte, a cyclist too, migrated from Mumbai to Panchgani, some time ago; and over time he realized that the location he is residing at, the rural children and some underprivileged ones, do not have a bicycle.

When he rode his bicycle, or when the children saw his bike parked at his house compound, they stared at her, his fancy bicycle, like they are watching an exotically-fun being.

So, what did the awakened mind of this inventive and compassionate doctor think up? …. A bicycle library!

Dr Apte gathered the rural and under privileged children at his place one day, and told them that any one of them can ride his bicycle, and keep it with him or her the entire day.

However, they have to return it the same evening, before sunset. So that, the next day, the same bicycle, that brought joy, fun, and adventure to one, can bring as much or more to another child.

So over a period of a few days or weeks, every kid gets his or her turn to ‘own’ a bike for a day! Nearly.

Now, it has been many months that Dr Apte’s ingenious scheme is running, and once every few months he carries his bicycle to Mumbai for refurbishment, repairs, servicing, so that she (his wonderfully-selfless bicycle) can serve the children again, with the same enthusiasm and adventure as ever before.

Bicycle Library is a name I gave his scheme, as, the lil bird brain I am, I could not fathom any other way to express his idea in two words. Dr Apte has no name for his scheme. Naturally so, because kindness needs no titles, no names.

(Link to this story behind the Bicycle Library: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10153090757348213&set=gm.555464874594655&type=1&theater)

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 on this bicycle.



The accompanying image of the girl child riding a bicycle is only representational. Dr Apte could not send me an image of the children with the donated bicycle. I will post the true image here, the day he can take one and send across to me.