Sign at the Kolkata Airport.
Every morning, as I take my pet dog for a walk around my neighborhood, I notice a special person. A lady with a puny figure in a saree that looks like she had hastily wrapped around. The white walking stick in her hand expels any doubt that she is completely blind. Most of her front teeth were missing which makes her look like she is in her mid sixties even though she is only 47 years young.
What really caught my attention was that I find her confidently walking in the neighborhood, taking the correct turns and even stopping at the right plant to smell the flowers. One day, the curiosity got the better of me and I approached her to ask who she was. And her story of resilience absolutely blew me away!
Her name is Yasodha and she had been blind ever since she was 3 years old. Having born in a very poor family, she and her sisters made ends meet by delivering milk to homes in the mornings. Slowly, she started to work as a domestic help in a few households and continues to do so for over 25 years.
Both her husband and she would travel everyday from their home in Bharaniputhur, on the outskirts of Chennai to Virugambakkam , their place of work. This 13 kilometer journey requires them to travel through a share-auto, a bus and then by foot.
Five years ago, on a fateful day in December of 2009, a Water Lorry hit her husband and her as they were crossing the road. While both of them were seriously hurt, her husband did not survive the accident. Yasodha, made a slow painful recovery. “It was in the accident that I lost all my front teeth”, she hastily adds. All these years, it was her husband who was her escort wherever they travelled. They never had any kids and now with losing her husband, she really had no one to assist her.
It took Yasodha 8 months to overcome the sorrow of her husband’s loss. Her relatives too deserted her and she decided to take things up on her own. She rejoined work and now she undertakes the 13 kilometer journey completely on her own. She wakes up at the crack of dawn, tends to the chickens she raises , finishes her chores at home and is ready to leave for work. She walks from her home to the bus-stand and boards the bus to Virugambakkam. She takes assistance from her co-passengers to let her know when the right bus-stop comes for her to get down and for crossing busy roads. She says that people’s generosity is amazing.
I spoke with the couple in whose house Yadoda works as a domestic help. Both Mr.Ravishankar and Hemalatha are retired officials. Yasoda has been working at their house for 25 years now. They said that she knows their house better than even they do. Her attention to detail and her cleanliness is amazing. Her honesty is unquestionable and not even 10 paise has gone missing. Both Mrs &Mr.Ravishankar deserve credit for standing by Yasodha at time of her darkest grief. I was privy to a beautiful human relationship.
On the other hand, its sad to see that she is being denied the monetary compensation for her husband’s death. She is supposed to get Rs.6 lakhs from the Government but a combination of red tapism and corruption is seeing her run from pillar to post with no sign of her getting the money. Sad to see people take advantage of her disability and innocence. Here’s hoping she gets her due.
This story of Yasodha will be part of a book I’m putting together titled ‘UnKick the Bucket‘. Its a compilation of people who have had near-death experiences and have made the most of their second chance to live.
Dr.Kiran Seth is an amazing person. He helped build SPIC MACAY, India’s largest non-profit group to promote Indian Classcal art. (SPIC MACAY = The Society for the Promotion of Indian Classical Music And Culture Amongst Youth). All this while still being a full-time professor at IIT Delhi. Here is an interesting short conversation.