76th recipient of help (livelihood bicycle) : “If I see an any accident occur at this spot, or any place where I happen to be walking or riding, I ALWAYS rush to the accident spot immediately!, to offer any help I possibly can, in my own humble capacity, to the victim/s, if any.”
Vijay Patil (70)
Professions, (Hold your breath!) : He Delivers Newspaper, and Milk; and works as a security guard, clerk, peon, ‘hamaal’ (coolie), and a street hawker in the evenings, as and when opportunities arise.) Yes, he is all of this! ALL OF THIS, AT 70!!! (And he rides at a medium pace, and walks as briskly as my rider pals who in their 20’s, I noticed it when I saw him approach me when he came to meet me for this session.)
I happened to meet Vijay at Worli, during my morning ride, near the old passport office, when I noticed an old man riding at a snail’s pace, ahead of me, a rickety old rusted bicycle, with a wobbly back tyre; I rode slowly besides him to enquire about his profession…. and asked him if he would like us to buy him a new bicycle, provided he is willing to bear a part of the cost of the same. He agreed.
Vijay is from Murud-Janjira, Maharashtra. He lives in Mumbai on rent, with his niece; he has a rented house in Panvel where his family resides. He is now 70, he has worked all his life, he has educated his 5 brothers, helped his sister get married, and as yet he does not ‘own’ his own house in the country of his birth.
It made me wonder, most of our population work their entire lifetime and yet cannot call even 100 square feet their own in this so called ‘City of Gold.’
Vijay arrived in Mumbai as a teen; he had to forgo his education to earn a livelihood for his family, as he was the eldest child. He had 5 brothers and one sister. His father was a teacher.
Vijay has one son and one daughter. (His second daughter, married, died at 35 due to an illness.) His son is an Electrician at Panvel.
Vijay used to work at a Spinning Mill at Parel-Lower Parel and it shut down during the Datta Samanta led union protests period that lasted several years. He was around 40 when the Mill shut down, and thereafter he could never find permanent employment.
When I asked Vijay which was the happiest period of his life until today, he replied, ‘When I had that job at the Spinning Mill, that was the best times of my life. The security of that ‘Mill ka naukri’ / Mill-job, and the nature of the work I did then, it remains unparalleled for me.’
Vijay has been selling milk early in the morning from the days he arrived in Mumbai as a teenager. After he lost his Mill-job, he took up the delivery of milk and newspapers regularly. He also does odd jobs now and then of a security guard, clerk, peon, and even a ‘hamaal’ (coolie) as and when the opportunities come his way. He still does all these jobs, although he is now 70.
His family owned some agriculture land back in their village, but his Chacha (father’s brother) did not part with his joint-family’s share of the land, when his father returned to their village after retirement. That was the second big setback he faced, and that too from his own family, he lamented. (The first setback he faced was losing his Mill-Ka-Naukri, I believe.)
The third setback he faced was again from family, he again lamented, and this time from his own 5 younger brothers! He sounded very sad while telling me…. ‘…. I educated all my 5 younger brothers, I even offered them to stay with me on and off in my rented accommodation at Worli whenever they needed to, and I helped them get married; yet today, neither they, nor their children, acknowledge me or even remember me on any occasion. All of them have forgotten me. Simply forgotten me. Sigh!’
Vijay told me he is feeling very obligated that we are helping him purchase a new bicycle, even though he is a complete stranger to us. So, simply out of curiosity, I asked him if he has done something similar, randomly helped a complete stranger?
He replied, - “I live at Worli, near the Petrol Pump opposite the old Passport Office and Glaxo Pharma; and at this busy traffic junction many vehicular accidents have taken place. If I see an any accident occur at this spot, or any place where I happen to be walking or riding, I ALWAYS rush to the accident spot immediately!, to offer any help I possibly can, in my own humble capacity, to the victim/s, if any.
And on many such occasions I have taken the injured/accident victims to Hospitals. I have never run away from such an event or any accident spot.
Even if I happen to be home, and I come to know an accident has occurred at this junction, I always rush out towards the spot to help the victims/injured, if any.
Sometimes if I see an older person carrying or riding excess weight and if he is having difficulty, I always stop to assist that person. It is something I have always done even when I was young.”
‘…even when I was young!?’ Are you kiddin me?! Dude, ‘Young’ is an honor I would bestow on him even today! That is what I thought looking at this weathered man seated in front of me who had many front teeth missing and claimed he was 70!
Furthermore, actually, my question to him had been about any ‘random’ acts of kindness he may have performed or must be performing; and from his reply I was pleasantly surprised to realize that VijayJI had consciously practiced, or should I say cultivated, acts of true altruism :- To save strangers in their most critical hour of need!!! When the distance between life and death is a bridge made of a single strand of the most beautiful silk.
Later, it made me wonder, ‘How many souls must VijayJI have saved in such manner…”? However, thank God I did not to ask him this idiotic question, as it would be derogatory towards all those who harbor the spirit of such altruism.
VijayJI’s conscious acts of altruism reminded me of - “Helpful people will not come to be honored on account of simply their usefulness, but because they personify states of immensely richer souls that are capable of bestowing selflessly, and have their real value in the feeling of the plenitude of life.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche (a German philologist, philosopher, cultural critic, poet and composer.)
I asked him, ‘Is there something you would like to say to the two people who have donated this bicycle to you?’
On asking him this question I realized, a time comes in our lives, sometimes, when something else even more precious makes up for the precious words that may fail us on such occasions; - the tears that suddenly invaded VijayJi’s eyes, when I asked him this question, were, for me, his sincere and humble response. What took me by surprise was that he felt so much gratitude even though he was willingly bearing nearly half the cost of the new bike that we were donating to him!
Does this happen because those who feel that they are under privileged never receive such help from those who they feel are privileged!? Maybe that is why something that we may feel is so tiny a deed and expense on our part moves the recipient/ benefactor of our kindness to such an extent!
In the accompanying photograph, VijayJI is holding a beautiful bouquet of two roses; one red, one yellow, he said he purchased it to gift it to us, for my dear friend KS and Deb Mohan and his wife. I removed one rose out of that, the yellow one, and adorned his bicycle handle with it. Because he deserved it’s beauty as much as us.
Thank you to KS, and Deb Mohan and Beni Kithan, for helping VijayJi purchase this new bicycle.
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.