Wheelchair bound Prasad Naiknavre has a job to do this Diwali..
Taking to city streets he peddles stunning paper lanterns and handmade curios to deck up homes this holiday season.
Albeit initially hesitant, Prasad opened up to us upon a second visit, sharing his inspiring saga. “I cover the Yerwada area along jail-road during the evenings,” admits the bespectacled elfin man adding that he lives just beyond the Maharashtra housing board colony yonder.
A paraplegic by birth, Prasad reveals that he’s been wheelchair bound for as long as he can remember. The 21-year-old explains that high school was never an option for him, though he has completed his primary education.
“I would love to work all year round, but my capabilities are somewhat limited. This makes seasonal employment the only option for me.
Armed with little else than an old mobile phone and a bag of his wares, Prasad makes his way along jail-road on his motorized wheelchair. The rain canopy covering his wheel chair, is the only thing that protects him from the elements. Even so, there’s no stopping this man with great gumption.
Prasad states that he sought to take matters into his own hands two years ago, when he first decided to sell festive ware. “My brother sources tiny paper lanterns and other decorations from Mumbai every September and I take them to consumers in Pune. The main problem is that people do not realize I’m selling Diwali decorations.
It is difficult for me to convey this because of how I operate. You see, I cannot appeal to them personally as I’m seated and moving along slowly.
“Those who do come up to me, try and offer me assistance or money, which can be a little insulting. I’m a man of great pride who needs no charity. If charity was what I sought, I had the option of staying home where my relatives and siblings looked after me.
I choose to earn on my own and this season presents a great way to do it,” he beams..
Talking about his life he says that his day begins at 6 am. “My mother helps me change into shirt and trousers, while my brother hands me the wares for the day. I cannot carry lunch as there is no room on my wheelchair, so I go without it till 4pm most days, when I can order tea someplace.” Sales pick up around evening after which I make my way home by 11pm.
He mentions that Diwali melas (fairs) selling lights, firecrackers and furnishings are now set up in every neighbourhood. Yerwada is no exception, which does make sales infinitely more difficult for street peddlers like him.
“Not everyone can afford to set up a stall and dole out handsome discounts. People like me live hand to mouth.”
“It is also shocking when people haggle extensively. I’ve never quoted exorbitant rates. Yet when I sell outside Ishanya mall, these people step up to me and ask for discounts on six lanterns costing 50 rupees. Would they haggle inside the mall as well?” he questions miserably.
As we celebrate the festival of lights this holiday season, Let’s pray for undying grit and oodles of gumption for humanity learning from the humble yet committed, Prasad..
We at Pune365, tip our hat to you Prasad Naiknavre !
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