121st recipient of help (livelihood bicycle) :
"Be a 'Sardaar-ji' to someone."
Shyam Narayan Dubey-ji. (80)
I was riding past Sassoon Docks, Colaba, holding my breath. I always do when I pass the gates of the docks, least I inhale the rotten water and fish smell that often loiters on to the main road, just like our ‘holy’ cows loiter at some of our most busy streets during even peak hours. There is no escape from either of them.
A foreign tourist, traveller and author Sarah Macdonald had remarked, about India, …. “It amazes me, that the Indian pedestrian will stop for the cyclist, the cyclist will stop for a motorcyclist, the motorcyclist will stop for a motor vehicle, the car will stop only for a truck or public or goods transport bus/truck, but the public transport and the Goods Carrier trucks will stop for no one, except one entity - the holy cow! Who will invariably park herself in the middle of the busiest streets without a care in the world!” Hahahahaha!
I too would not have stopped outside Sassoon docks that morning, for anything, as I was making my way towards Afghan church, had I not noticed an ancient looking man riding an ancient and dilapidated bicycle at pretty good speed along Colaba Causeway.
Somehow, I forgot about the fishy smell hanging in the air and stopped and began chatting with him. For me, such situations are like the bus drivers that author and traveller Sarah had mentioned who will stop for nothing but the ‘holy beings’. Our holy being, that morning, was Shyam Narayan Dubey-ji. Later I found out he is 80 years old! In Colaba area, they address him as Chacha.
Dubeyji supplies milk that arrives from dairy farms in and around Mumbai. He does not sell the government dairy milk.
Having met Dubeyji first while he was riding a bike, I was keen to hear from him how our city treats a cyclist like Dubeyji who is 80.
He had an interesting perspective on motor cyclists in Colaba area; he complained they ride on the wrong side of the road very often, and if they come in his way they expect him to stop or move out of their way, and they are often arrogant and abusive too. Motorcyclists, Dubeyji complaints, have no respect for cyclists.
Not even one his age?! Well, such is life! Sad. But let us end this story with a beautiful thought on the golden years, written by one of our favorite poets:
“The complete life, the perfect pattern, includes old age as well as youth and maturity. The beauty of the morning and the radiance of noon are good, most beautiful; but it would be a very silly person who drew the curtains and turned on the light in order to shut out the tranquillity and serenity of evening.” - W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM.
Dubeyji arrived in Bombay when he was 15-16 years young. When he arrived here, he was picked up by the wings of an angel. That angel was a ‘Sardaarji’. That is the name Dubeyji addressed the Sikh gentleman, the owner of a very big and successful milk dairy in Colaba then. Dubeyji said, had Sardaarji not allowed him credit for as much milk he can sell, he would probably not have survived here during his initial years in Bombay. In Navy Nagar, Colaba, the Sardaarji had founded a Gurudwara, Dubeyji informed me.
Many years ago, once when Sardaaarji fell very ill, he called for Dubeyji. On learning that his beloved Sardaarji is unwell, Dubeyji rushed to his house. On seeing his ‘Sardaarji’ unwell, he told him he is willing to do anything for him right away. He can drop all the work he has for the day if his ‘Sardaarji’ needs him to take him to a doctor or a hospital. His wish would be his command, he assured the ailing Sardaarji.
Sardaarji assured Dubeyji, that his family is looking after him well, and all he wanted was to see him. He (Dubeyji) should now return to his work.
As instructed by his beloved Sardaarji, Dubeyji went away and got on with his work. He found out later, that within a few hours from then, Sardaarji went to see his doctor, and died at the clinic that very moment. Dubeyji’s visit to his Sardaarji’s house that morning was to become his last glimpse of his Earthly angel.
However, I felt goose bumps thinking if the Sardaarji had a premonition of his impending death that day, and had called Dubeyji to see him maybe one last time?
A stranger helps you stand on your feet when you were vulnerable, poor and 15. Decades later, when he, your benefactor, is in his golden years, he calls you, the beneficiary of his kindness, to see you again. And it happens to become your last goodbye. In this case, it was a milkman and his ‘Sardaarji’ Saab.
It is indeed true, I thought, hearing of their relationship, that some relationships can be expressed, but cannot be explained. Not even by the master, the guru of all relationships, our heart. But such stories makes me believe in angels.
Did you ever feel a tiny raindrop
trickle down from the sky,
and land upon your cheek
when there is no rain in sight,
And wonder where it came from
when the day is sunny and bright?
Did you ever hear someone
clearly call out your name,
and when you turned to look
there’s not a familiar face,
and wonder where it came from,
when the voice was there
without an ounce of doubt?
The answer is quite simple you see,
Angels are everywhere, watching over you and me.
Though at times we don’t feel a presence at our side,
Angels are by our side, morning, noon and night.
I asked Dubeyji, if he has any regrets, considering by 80 one can have some. None of us can possibly predict that the sun will shine forever on our spirit.
Dubeyji told me, “I do have one. The fact that I did not listen to Sardaarji, many years ago when he was pressurising me to purchase a shop that was up for sale at Rs Four Thousand. Many decades ago. Now that property is worth many crores.”
I wondered, on how many more occasions had this wonderful ‘Sardaarji’ given his arm out to the Dubeyjis in Colaba area or elsewhere? I am sure I will meet some more Dubeyjis who have benefitted from this Sardaarji if I went seeking them in Colaba. Because he also built a Gurudwara there, I was told.
I realize, it is indeed true, that a wealthy and wise man doesn't shake hands with people he wants to help. He instead offers them a helping hand. Post his earthly visit, I hope Sardaarji received the crown he merits.
Thank you Surabhi Shah, and Deb and Beni, for buying this new bicycle for Dubeyji. Dubeyji contributed a little towards this purchase.
We told him to keep his old bicycle, repair it a bit, and when he can he should lend it out to someone who needs one to earn a livelihood - become a ‘Sardaar-ji’ to someone.
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. :) )