Someone in my neighbourhood helpfully offered- why dont you ask Ramesh bhai, to do it for you? Yes, the one who goes around in his tricycle?
Oh- that paraplegic gentleman? But how on earth will he manage? I was full of doubts. But I decided to give it a try.So, here am I, six month later- a very satisfied customer. You can see Ramesh bhai yawning after the hard work (upper picture)! He has just brought the cylinder on his tricycle, to my gate. I come out – have a little chat with him. He gets Rs 60 per cylinder.
He carries a lot of bags around his neck: LPG books, bills, other papers, money etc. etc.
He also carries a stout stick tucked under his legs. Why? I asked him one day. He said that some mischievous kids grab his tricycle from the back and hang on for a free ride. First he shouts at them, then abuses their seven generations- and finally takes out the stick and jabs at them, while steering the cycle expertly with one hand. I am sure you would say- what kind of boys would do such a thing to a paraplegic? I also reacted the same way. But Ramesh bhai laughs out: All kind of creatures populate Lord’s creation.. He is not bitter at all, He is only amused.
As I began taking interest in this man, I discovered that there were at least 3 people in his extended family, who were born with some or other congenital birth defect. His one nephew is mentally retarded. His eldest brother had Cerebral palsy and died some years back, at the age of 46. His wife left him after the birth of one son. She just couldn’t cope with a paraplegic husband, I suppose. His mother is there- a frail old lady- often complaining of her own pains and aches- and also worried about Ramesh.
Today, I had a longer chat with him- over a cup of tea. Till 1996, his life was bitter. He used to stay at home and curse the wife who had walked out on him. Then, a local small time politician, who came asking for vote- saw his condition and gave him his first tricycle from panchayat funds. He began moving out – with help.
Soon he realised that being independent is more important than cursing others and feeling bad. Then, he came in contact with other paraplegics, in other parts of Vikasnagar, who were doing some work: one had learnt TV repairing; another ran a grocery shop etc. Inspired by them, he decided to run errands for his neighbours. He began with depositing electricity, water and phone bills.
Very soon, clerks in these offices began to recognise him and dispose off his work on priority basis. Next, he realised that people were willing to pay more, if he could bring the gas cylinder. So, when his old carriage broke – he bought a new one which had more leg room, where in, a cylinder could easily be tucked in.
So, what is his day like? He goes out everyday (-I think he loves it-), return late in the afternoon. After some rest, he goes to a temple, next to a big ravine (nala). Yes, he officiates there as a priest! Not much income though.
Looking back I realise that- I had assumed that he must be having a tough time. But after having known him all these months, I am beginning to see that his reality of life is based on his thoughts, attitude, response and grit- not on my academic knowledge of paraplegia..
Isn’t life a mystery?