86th recipient of help (livelihood bicycle) : “Bheek mein bhi kuch izzat hai, lekin chori mein izzat bilkul nahin! Rather beg, than steal!!”
Sitaram Nirmal (47)
Dhobi (Laundry service)
Sitaram was recommended to me by my dear, and childhood pal, Maneck.
Sitaram is from UP. He lives and works in Bandra west. He has a dilapidated bike and cannot afford to even repair it. It was affecting his work, so he needed one, and he was willing to accept even a second hand bicycle. For me, that made him even more deserving for one.
Sitaram’s grandfather, and his father, were dhobis too, in their village. He has 3 daughters and one son, and they live in UP. His eldest daughter is married, and the others are studying.
He himself is educated up to the 5th Std. His parents could not afford to educate him beyond the 5th. More than their financial condition, his mother was seriously unwell for a long period, and there being no one at home to look after her, his father told him to stay home to look after his mother, and therefore he could not attend school thereafter. His eyes glazed a bit when she spoke of his mother.
I thought to myself, his career path would have been different, I think, had his mother’s serious health issues, coupled with their financial constraints, not stemmed his chance at a complete education.
However, in spite of his childhood circumstances, Sitaram spoke with a solemn affection about his mother. Proving, once again, to me, that the bond that we develop with our Mother, beginning right from sharing her sustenance with us through our umbilical cord, is never severed! Even though that cord is the very first connection between us that is instantly severed, as soon as we suck in air on our own accord.
And this heart to heart cord will withstand the tempest winds, our hurricane emotions and our transcontinental journeys, even outer space odysseys, keeping us connected even when we will grow up to become our very own people, masters of our own destiny.
Sitaram did not aspire since childhood to become a dhobi like his father and grandfather were. But back in the days, back in his village, as a youth he was not able to sustain himself financially on agriculture. While working as a daily wages laborer in fields belonging to some rich landlords, he would often not be paid his complete wages. Not just him, but many others like him.
For me, what was sadder than his exploitation, at the hands of some of rich farmers was, Sitaram had no hope that he will see better days, no hope that he and his family will court happiness someday.
I asked Sitaram, what was the best advise his parents ever gave him, he replied ‘Beg if you have to, but never rob, never steal. Bheek mein bhi kuch izzat hai. Lekin chori mein izzat bilkul nahin! (There is some quantity of respect even in begging, but there is none in stealing. Rather beg than steal!)
I hope to God circumstances never force him to beg, never compel anyone to beg. Even if it be considered by some more honorable than stealing. Because he had tears in his eyes when he said that to me.
I asked Sitaram, what about his children is he really proud about? What makes him the happiest about them?
He replied, ‘My children, and wife, they will never take even five rupees from my trouser pocket without asking me. If they happen to find any quantity of money in my trouser pocket, when they are washing my clothes, or if it’s hung on the wall hook, they will place the money on my bed or hand it to me. They are honest beings.’
And that’s when Sitaram, kind of, smiled! A tiny one. (So what if it was a tiny smile? A bud is a rose too, ya.)
It was his first smile, in the less than ten minutes that he shared a slice of his life with me.
I was happy for him, and with tiny smiles on our faces we said goodbye.
He got his bike, and in return I got to know that some amount of happiness has already courted him, it’s just that does not know it as yet - The blessing of having obedient and honest children.
Thank you to Maneck Gilder and Pooja Bhavin Sanghvi, for buying this second hand old bike for Sitaram. (We purchased this old and used bicycle from Dhobi Shivshankar, to whom Pooja had donated a new bicycle a few weeks ago.) Sitaram was all praise for the Gilder family, they are a joint family, telling me ‘The Gilders’ are among the few people I have asked for help now and then, and have never returned empty handed. God Bless them.’
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.
Thank you to Gazi for Sitaram’s pic with the bike.
(PS - Rs 2500 is what it takes to donate a new bicycle; yes, because the balance, 2000 to 2500, is contributed by the recipient. J)