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)
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. 🙂 )