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118th recipient - A broken invaluable vase and a human being. The differnece...

118th recipient of help (livelihood bicycle) :

“The difference between an invaluable beautiful vase and a human can be, an invaluable vase broken can go to trash. But not a broken human.”


Phoolchand (19).


Tea Seller.


One evening, on my walk, I saw a skinny youth selling tea on a street in Bandra west. A location I am as familiar with as I am with my mood swings. ;) However, this young adult was someone I did not recognize. Not that I know all the tea sellers on that street! :p But, I do know many of them by their face, and that is only because I ride or walk there so often, and happen to notice that most of them ride rickety old bikes.


This young tea seller was not riding a bike. He was holding a tea kettle and walking with much effort from customer to customer on the pavement. I was curious to know why this young tea seller did not have a bike, because most of them on Carter road or Band Stand have bikes.


When I stopped to talk with him, he asked me “Saab, Chai, ya Kaafi?” In turn, I offered to buy him a bicycle. He stared at me in disbelief. Amused, and now even used to their varied reactions, I explained, as fast as my fastest bike, what we (Bicycle Angels’) can do for someone like him. Help him buy a bicycle, if he willing to contribute half its cost. He thought about my offer, asked me some more questions, and then agreed.


I asked him, considering he is so young how will he arrange for the money needed for his contribution towards the bike? He told me he can borrow money from his relative, the people he stays with, or from some friend or neighbor. Cool, I liked his attitude, he was not looking for freebies.


Phoolchand. His name. Phoolchand did not revert to me for a week. I happened to see him at the same location, so I asked him what happened, he did not revert to me with half his contribution. Was he not able to get a loan from his relative, I asked. He nodded affirmatively, it is too much for him to arrange.


After some silence on both ends, I told him since he cannot afford to pay half the price of a new bike, if he wants one really badly, I can buy him a second hand one. It will cost far less, and half the cost of a used bike will not amount to much. Phoolchand immediately agreed, he did not mind us donating him a used bicycle, and was willing to contribute half its cost. Accordingly, I began looking for a second hand one, but came across some second hand bikes not worthy of donating.


However, soon, I decided to buy Phoolchand a brand new bike. And that’s not just because I had a very persistent donor :) , Rohan Shrestha, who insisted he wanted to contribute the entire cost of a new bicycle if I found a worthy donor. But by then I had come to know from Phoolchand about his circumstances. Those compelling ones, that made this young fellow leave all that was safe and familiar for the unknown, the city of promised gold – Mumbai.


Phoolchand had come to Mumbai four or five times earlier, a few years ago, sometimes to check it out as a location of his future career path, and sometimes just to visit his uncle. On high tides, I thought, persistently this fellow returned seeking a shore where he can anchor his family’s rickety ship.


Phoolchand is from UP. He is educated till class ten, or the twelfth I think, and could not study beyond that because income from agriculture could not sustain his education nor feed them adequately as they are four siblings.

He has a younger brother, who is one and a half years young, and three sisters, 8, 12 and 15. His sister who is 15 has a serious medical issue, and her cure has already drained their savings.


The difference between an invaluable beautiful vase and a human can be, an invaluable vase broken can go to trash. But not a broken human.

What I found commendable about this young fellow was, his father did not urge him to migrate to Mumbai. Phoolchand arrived here on his own accord. At 19, he sends money to his family and also contributes to his elder sister’s cure.


After hearing his story briefly, I thought of Atlas the giant who had carried the world on his shoulders. In Phoolchand’s case, he is carrying his family and his sister’s medical expenses on his. He told me, if he can have a bicycle, whether it is a new one or old, he will be able to travel far beyond Carter road and Band Stand to sell his garam garam chai and garma garam Kaafi (coffee), and thus increase his prospects.

A good reason to get him one, I thought.


Moreover, and this was a reason I really liked, having his own bicycle will help him serve his relative’s family, who are his guardians in this city. Phoolchand’s guardian, his uncle, is a Malee, a gardener, and he has children who go to school. Phoolchand told me, he can use the bicycle, when he is not selling tea, to take his uncle’s children to school, since they have given him shelter.

That, for me, became one more reason to help this young Atlas own a bicycle.


To me, Phoolchand seemed very concerned about his sister’s medical expense draining their family’s savings. What was really his elder sisters’ medical problem, I decided to probe.

His eldest sister suffers from some mental disorder, not diagnosed as yet, and she faints suddenly and randomly. Sometimes she comes to consciousness after 8 to 12 hours.


I asked him, considering he is so young and so far from home, he must be missing home, his mother, his sister who is unwell. This is when the tidal bulge within him, like the one within all of us, crossed her banks. Phoolchand cried. I did not pity him then. I let his river run its course.


They may be far apart, these siblings, I thought, seeing him cry, yet they are so close. As close and as far as our hands will ever be to our legs, even when they are stretched out to their maximum. So many families like Phoolchands’, are stretched out to their maximum across geographies, due to migrations.


‘Phool’chand’s love for his sister reminds me a beautiful song, written by my father, which incidentally begins with the word ‘Phool’ (flower). I hear this song play on radio fm every year on the auspicious day of ‘Rakhi’. The day when brothers-sisters renew their bond of love, with the sister tying the Rakhi thread on the wrist of her brother.

The song I mentioned, I would love to share with you, that brings me much happiness, “Phoolon Ka Taaron Ka Sab Ka Kehana Hai, Ek Hazaaron mein Meri Behana Hai, Saari Umar Humme Sangh Rehana Hai….” (All the flowers and stars sing praise of you, my dear sister, one in a million you are, my dear sister, all our existence we must be together, my dear sister.) Link:


Thank you Rohan for donating this bicycle to Phoolchand. Furthermore, Happy Birthday dear Rohan. (It’s Rohan’s birthday today!, and he had wanted to donate a bicycle on his birthday.)  

When I came across Phoolchand on Carter road, and I decided we could help him in our own tiny way, it is Rohan I thought of as his benefactor. Not just because Rohan’s Birthday happened to be just a week away and he had told me he would like to donate a bike on this day, but because they both (donor and recipient) are young, both are independent. Even though both are separated by a chasm, I thought.


So many Rohans and so many Phoolchands in our city of gold. Are they separated by fortune or misfortune? I wonder sometimes. Some privileged people may perceive them as being separated by a chasm of privileges. 

Whereas, some underprivileged people may perceive them being separated by a grand canyon of misfortunes. Half full or half empty, how do you see that much-spoken-about glass of life that we all drink from?


I must mention, I happened to see Phoolchand riding his brand new bicycle on Carter road, yesterday evening, while I was riding mine which has been newly painted three days ago.

He was beaming with such JOY, this young Atlas, riding his brand new bicycle as though he is riding a Lazy Boy – Harley D! :) Ya, that’s how much these bicycles may mean to those who use them for their livelihoods. Pure JOY!


As for me, I was feeling immense PLEASURE riding my newly painted bicycle, and I even wrote a verse to honor her:

So I gifted my beloved bicycle a new exterior. J And I asked her, "How does it feel, my love, to be painted all new?"

She replied, "Special, honored, blessed, in your arms like a fresh drop of dew." :)))


Phoolchand’s JOY versus my PLEASURE. I wonder, are they even equals? William Davies has a perspective:


Joy is born of parents poor, 
Pleasure of our richer kind; 
Though pleasure is free, but she cannot sing, 
As sweet a song as beautiful joy confined. 

-         William Henry Davies.


Thank you Rohan. And thank you to Kohinoor Cycles (  Siddharth Vora ( 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. :) )

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