184 – May God plant a kiss.

184-askok-shankar-nitore-ratnagiri-minnie-mehra

Sr. No. 184
 
“… may God plant a kiss on their foreheads every time anyone anywhere in this world reads this.”
 
Ashok Shankar Nitore (55)
 
Ratnagiri
 
Ashok rides a bicycle that is 22 years old. He has never desired to buy a new one, because he has had other priorities.
 
Ashok lives in Ratnagiri. His father passed away when he was in the 8th standard. To support himself, and his younger brother & widowed mother, he began to deliver newspapers and educate himself and his brother from his teen years. His teen years!
Ashok did not study beyond the 10th class because of financial constraints. Education became more expensive after the tenth.
 
When Ashok was in his prime youth his married & younger brother passed away; leaving behind a dependant widow, son & daughter and his dependent mother. The responsibility of his extended family came on his shoulders alone.
 
On his newspaper vendor’s job Ashok began to now support four souls.
 
I asked Ashok if he is married, he replied, “…. so, when my younger brother passed away leaving two minors and a dependent widow, that day I decided to dedicate my life to them. I felt that only by remaining single I will be able to do justice in looking after them in the best possible way.
So I have never desired to get married after that. I am okay being single, they look after me just like my own children would have I think. All of them love and respect me immensely. I am a happy man I have them as my family.”
 
I think Ashok’s massive accomplishment in life is – His niece is studying law and his nephew is employed in a private company!
 
And looking at this noble man seated next to me I felt, ‘…. this soul has achieved much more than I have in my life so far, even though I am an established author and get written about sometimes by film news media and book lovers’ blogs.
I am blessed I get written about, so I must continue on this path I am on and whenever I can I should write even about the thousands of ‘Ashoks’ who many of us have yet to discover and may not know about in spite of the explosion of media and blogs.’
 
Long after he rode away on a most deserving brand new bicycle for the first time in 22 years, I paid a silent homage to some people I know, and some people I know of, who remained single because they had, or still have, a dependent parent/s or sibling to care for. And they feel they can give them their very best only by remaining single. I bow to them as I write this post, and may God plant a kiss on their foreheads every time anyone anywhere in this world reads this.
 
Souls like these shine like the gorgeous silver midnight full moon.
 
This bicycle was donated to Ashok by Minnie Mehra in the memory of her father. A woman who runs a playschool with as much dedication. Thank you Minnie.
 
(I met Ashok during a free medical camp for under privileged rural school children in November 2016, organised by a NGO in Pune, Mukul Madhav Foundation. (MMF) Dr Prof. Ram Dhillon (UK) and I rode our bicycles, on & off over five days, from Shirwal to Ratnagiri, stopping daily at Zilla Parishad schools en route at Shirwal, Umbraj, Chincholi, and Pali for the free medical camps the NGO had organised for nearly 3500-4000 rural children.
Thank you Mukul Madhav Foundation’s http://www.mmpc.in/ medical camp, for carrying me like a favourable wind to this village so far from my home. #MukulMadhavFoundation #FinolexPipes Pune to Ratnagiri Medical camp and cyclothon 2016.)
 
 
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#RakeshAnandBakshi.
 
 
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“Beti Padhao. Educate the girl child. Yes; lekin (but…), ….. ” And tolerance.

183-pali-prakash-sawant-dilnaz-dinyar

Sr. No. 183

 

“Beti Padhao. Educate the girl child. Yes; lekin (but…), ….. ”

And tolerance.

 

Prakash Sawant (40s)

 

 

Profession: Peon

 

 

Sawant lives at Pali village, Maharashtra. He works as a Peon at Maratha Mandir College, Pali.

Sawant’s daughter studies in the school he works at. He commutes to work daily by State Transport busses, which are rarely on time running on the National Highway and State Highway, and the time gap between busses is long and erratic.

 

 

I met Sawant during a free medical camp for under privileged rural school children in November 2016, organised by a NGO in Pune, Mukul Madhav Foundation. (MMF)

Dr Prof. Ram Dhillon (UK) and I rode our bicycles, on & off over five days, from Shirwal to Ratnagiri, stopping daily at Zilla Parishad schools en route at Shirwal, Umbraj, Chincholi, and Pali for the free medical camps the NGO had organised for nearly 3500-4000 rural children.

 

 

We encountered some worthy and needy people at Shirwal, Umbraj, Chincholi and my friends Raman Macker, Parth Shah, Meghna Rodrigues, Kirraann Ramesh Nichani, Surabhi Shah, Shom & Satya, Minnie Mehra, donated bicycles to them for their livelihood purpose. Thank you.

(I have yet to post about the donations made by Parth, Meghna, Minnie at Ratnagiri)

 

 

When we had reached Chincholi, the NGO set up their free medical camp at a tiny tiny tiny rural school at Chincholi; discovered thanks to their able scouts and foot soldiers. I immediately paid Dr Ashutosh Muley (@ Finolex Pipes & MMF) a compliment, “Dude! Now this is what I consider ‘really reaching out’! (to rural people in the interiors)

 

 

 

When I was at Pali, I felt Pali village seems better off than the villages we had visited earlier. When I met Sawant at Maratha Mandir School, Pali, I committed to giving him a bicycle. Because by riding to work on a bicycle he will no longer have to depend on erratic state transport busses and he will save nearly Rs 600 a month.

 

 

That’s a lot of money in rural India. If you leave the comfort of your home and travel to rural India, you will believe me totally. Two years ago, in Mumbai, a tea seller Sushil on carter road touched my feet for donating a bicycle to him which was second hand and cost Rs 800. Even though I told him I am not the donor, I am just the middle person. Rs 600 even today has a lot of value.

 

 

Giving Sawant the bicycle was important to him and me. I also thought that by riding to work daily it may help him get rid of his pot-belly. He has young kids and ideally he should get rid of it as not doing any cardio can cause heart disease in later years. A bicycle is awesome cardio and fun to ride.

 

 

I began to chat with Sawant in detail about his work and personal life. And then I felt I should have asked Sawant to contribute at least one third towards the cost of the bicycle before committing it to him. Because only after speaking to him in detail did I feel he can afford to contribute at least one third of the bicycle’s cost. But it was late. And never go back on your word. Especially one given to a less privileged person.

 

 

(When we donate bicycles in Mumbai, we make some of the beneficiaries pay half or one third the cost of the bicycle. But not always. However, in rural areas we do not do that, because I feel many rural people have far less opportunities than someone in a similar situation in a mega city like Mumbai.)

 

 

Then I asked Sawant, “Considering you will save about Rs 600 every month, by travelling to work on this bicycle, what do you propose to do with the 600?”

 

 

Sawant instantly replied: “I will deposit the 600 rupees in my daughter’s India Post office’s savings account every month; make a fixed deposit for her from it every year until she is an adult, then she can use the collected money.”

 

 

Hearing Sawant speak about saving that money for his daughter, it now no longer mattered to me that I made a mistake in not asking him to contribute at least Rs 1000. For me this bicycle suddenly became a gift for his daughter. And I was very very confident that my two donor pals would agree when they read this post.

 

 

Beti Padhao yes, educate the girl child; lekin beti ke naam pe paise bhi jamaa karo. He is educating his daughter and that’s good; but he is also saving money regularly in her name and for us that’s great ya!

 

 

As we were leaving this tiny and most neat and clean school, I found out that the principal of this Zilla Parishad School had spent nearly Rs 10,000 from his own pocket to get his school’s walls painted with a fresh coat of cement paint. The principal loves his school and kids even though he does not belong to the religion nor community that at least 90 percent of the children at this school belonged to. For me that’s Tolerant India.

 

Same is the case of a woman in Bandra west, every morning on carter road pavement, she teaches less privileged children; in winters she holds and aims her phone torch on the children’s books in the dark from nearly 6 am to 7 am – until the sun arrives with immense warmth to light up their books for their brighter future. Half the children students are not from her community. For me that’s Tolerant India.

 

Sawant, the principal of the Chincholi ZillaParishad School and this dedicated teacher in Bandra west, people like them inspired me to write this:

Education – A jewel in the darkness of space.

 

This bicycle was donated to Prakash Sawant by Dilnaz and Dinyar Gilder. Thank you.

 

 

 

Thank you Mukul Madhav Foundation’s http://www.mmpc.in/ medical camp, for carrying me like a favourable wind to this village so far from my home. (#MukulMadhavFoundation #FinolexPipes Pune to Ratnagiri Medical camp and cyclothon 2016.)

 

#BicycleAngels

#RakeshAnandBakshi.

 

#RakeshAnandBakshi https://twitter.com/RakBak16

 

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Diwali, X’mas, Eid, New Year, Pongal, etc, are not the only days for giving.

Sr No. 182

 

Diwali, X’mas, Eid, New Year, Pongal, etc, are not the only days for giving.

 

My friends Ankita & Himanshu every year on their son’s (Ayan & Ahan) birthdays in Dec, and on her own birthday in Nov, calls me up – “…. RakBak, let’s celebrate this coming birthday with ….” They are amongst those many people who reaffirmed my belief that religious festivals are not the only day many people ‘reach out’.

 

Moreover, when they donated a bicycle on their sons’ birthdays two years ago, they ensured Ahan & Ayan were present while the bicycle was handed over to the beneficiary, the Dhobi; so that they get sensitised towards the less fortunate from their formative years itself, and hopefully continue doing so when they leave the parent’s nest when adults.

 

In Dec 2016 when we visited Jerbai Wadia Hospital for children at Parel, on Ahan & Ayan’s birthday, they handed gifts to each child or parent in the wards. I think there were around 200 kids.

 

Btw, the gifts included something for taste, health and the mind; apple, chocolate and colouring book & crayons. Ankita and her maid a day before packed the gifts in pretty packs. It took them more than an hour to do that and when she mentioned that to me I reminded her that’s the amount of time we take to get ready for a wedding or other formal occasions when we want to come across as amazing looking peeps, so really no big deal ya. She agreed one hundred percent! 🙂

 

The fruit seller and stationery seller did their bit too, they offered her a good discount when she mentioned it’s for less privileged children admitted in a hospital. So they too are contributors to this occasion, just like her maid is who helped her pack the goodies the night before.

 

I posted these two pictures from the two wards (they have many wards and each ward is named after an animal) only to showcase that some hospitals for under privileged children can be a pretty place to visit. Many people avoid going to hospitals meant for the poor as they fear they will encounter things not so beautiful, including very ill children or adults.

 

Yes, naturally so, we are not trained to see pain and suffering. It was difficult for even Ankita and me to see the condition of some of the children, but, I think it’s a reality check for me once in a while to count my blessings and be grateful for what my parents, my body, the universe has gifted me.

 

The smiles on the face of some children and their parents made it worth the time we all contributors invested in our happiness that day. Happy birthday Ahan & Ayan. I did not ask Ahan and Ayan how they felt doing this, celebrating their birthday with these children because some things are best left unsaid and these experiences will settle in their subconscious and be available to them on demand someday in the distant future.

 

 

#BicycleAngels

#RakeshAnandBakshi.

 

#RakeshAnandBakshi https://twitter.com/RakBak16

 

#BicycleAngels:

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WordPress https://bicycleangels.wordpress.com/

Beneficiaries of help: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=oa.357090647765413&type=1

 

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