Monday, 11 November 2013

Pedaling my every day life

My name is Anaimuthu, I was born around 1950, I do not know exactly, in a village called Naluruki between Chennai and Trichy. My father’s name is Arumugam, and my mother’s name is Anjali. I have two siblings, brother Velaimuthu and sister Ragambal.

My childhood was happy and colourful in the village and that early year of my life still overwhelms me. There was no school in our village; we grew up without any worries of the present or future concerns of life and the learning of the hard life of being adults. I especially liked Playing Kabadi and cooking traditional dishes such as sollam, kambu, ragi, the kelvaragu, in the rice fields with my parents. We also prepared Kutansoru; ask the people from the city if they know what it is!

Unfortunately, while I was growing up, my father made ​​me work  harder and harder under the sun glowing rice fields and was expecting more from me to make more money to help our family survive.  I wanted to go to school but I realized what my father wants out of me. Hence, misunderstanding grew between us. Due to which I fled when I was 14 with Full of dreams and hopes of fortune, I boarded the train of a new life that brought me to Madras, remembering these Madrasis scene from time to time in my village, with different pants and coloured shirtsThe steam train with its red

When I landed, my dreams of wealth quickly became disillusioned.  With the help of the strangers for a place to work, I was guided to Kothachalvadi, the former fruit and vegetable market of Madras, until the inauguration of the Koyambedu today’s market, in 1996, the only wholesale market in the capital.

I found work quickly, as casual labourer, employed by Sithapadi Naidu, and paid at the time (circa 1967), thirty-two annas per day (two Rs), a little amount in a big city like Madras but so much more than anyone could have expected in my village! I had to spend about fifty rupees per month to face my personal needs. This lasted sixteen years, loading and unloading fruits, vegetables, working, living, and sleeping in the same shop.

Around the age of thirty, it must have been in 1983, I decided to stop working as a coolie to start my own business so to get more money. Thus I hired a cycle-rickshaw for one rupee and twenty five paise per day. It was a great period for this job because the Government had to ban hand-carts and auto-rickshaws were still rare, only few people could afford to buy one. Soon, I was able to save enough money to buy my own cycle-rickshaw for one thousand five hundred rupees. After which I had no reason to stay in Kothachalvadi. I looked for a house to rent and found one among a dozen opposite Central Station, near Parry's Corner, on land dotted with bushes where the only real construction were the graves of Christian and Armenian cemeteries, a place notorious at the time, (many people were killed there and their bodies buried in the tall grass and bushes), which has since become the slum of Gandhi Nagar. So I would sit in a hut which was rented next door of Samiyar Tea shop.

Despite the number of years, I stayed in touch with my family. I started to miss my family so decided to pay a visit to my relatives. To my surprise, my family members were happy to see me and greeted me. Members of my clan advised me to get married so the wedding was arranged with Danakothi, a girl from the neighbouring village, Kothalam. I went single to my hometown but left married back to Madras.

Thus began the worst years of my life, not because of my wife, but because of lack of money. Before my marriage It was easier for me to adjust with my monthly income of one thousand five hundred rupees, but then it soon became insufficient, especially when life in Madras increases day by day and the demand to meet the needs also increased. Without really wanting, we had children, five in all, first three boys and a girl and then another boy. I had to begin to borrow money and quickly I was covered with debts.

To make matters worse, the area where we lived grew rapidly with the numbers thus became the Gandhi Nagar slum, was ravaged by the fire twice. It was the first fire In August 1996 and another one in August 1997. The Great Fire of 1997 destroyed the entire area, and lost not only my house, but everything we had. We stood on the sidewalk with nothing around us.

But the owners were delighted when Corporation of Chennai decided to rebuild every house with bricks, with a metal door and a roof made of asbestos sheets, along with an official title of occupation as bonus. My owners immediately increased my rent and soon after I had to vacate the house, unable to pay five hundred rupees monthly rent as demanded to me. My family and I, including my last child who was one and half year, we resigned ourselves to make a small hut made of scraps, palm leaves and plastics sheets attached to the wall of the nearby military ground. For the first time in my life I realized the misery in which we were.

The worst came a few weeks later, when Danakothi (My wife) fell seriously ill. I left her at the General Hospital where, due to lack of attention (this is the fate of the poorest), she died very soon. Without money, I resigned myself to give up her body, not even having enough to honour her with a decent funeral. Soon after, my eldest son, David, left us as I had left my own parents, about the same age.

I remained alone with my four other children, Gideon, who was about ten years, Solomon, his sister Esther, and the youngest, Moses, I tried to sell the children to a childless couple in order to secure their future than for financial reasons.

Two years passed by, I made ​​it a point to educate my children. Fortunately, other than teaching, the school also gave them lunch. One day I was visited by people who c laimed to belong to an organization that could help me, called SPEED Trust.

After several interviews, they summoned me into their office, filled a folder, and took a picture of my kids and myself. I was not sure what they wanted, what it might bring me. Then they explained that they would help me financially, as long as I keep my children and send them to school. To do this, they would open a bank account in my name in which foreigners would pay money regularly.

I had the opportunity to meet these foreigners soon enough, it must have been in 2002, the first time. It was a couple of Europeans who lived and worked in Chennai. Over the years, ties were knotted, grew stronger, and they invited us from time to time at their house in Neelankarai.

But I kept peddling till then! And I still continue, despite my crazy leg, to earn three thousand rupees per month. The most important was to have my children going to school and feed properly. Even when I came home late at night, Gideon, Solomon and Esther were responsible for cooking the dosasAs for the money is deposited in my account, I preferred to save up to one day buy a house, a good one made of bricks with a cemented floor! My dream is to provide each of my children with a house before I die.

They continued to grow and study, except Gideon who did not attend the 10th standard exam. SPEED Trust involved him in a screen-printing training and after two years, he could find a job in a workshop. Then he passed his driver's license and now works as an auto-rickshaw driver. He married two years ago, and I arranged the wedding in the Kalyana Mandapam from the slum. I left SPEED Trust’s chairman the duty to hand her thali to my daughter-in-law who is also a native of our village near Tindivanam.

Solomon, Esther and Moses continue their studies. One day I told the teachers from SPEED Trust, "I am illiterate; do not expect me to teach anything to my children. I can only do my duty of father and send them to you so to get the best education. I do my job, so do yours! "

In 2008, my son Solomon brilliantly passed his 12th standard exams and got the Higher School Certificate with 917 marks out of 1200.  

He has completed his BE - information Technology at New Prince Shri Bhavani College of Engineering. To finance his studies, SPEED Trust granted him, year after year with educational loan, presently he has got a job in ICICI Bank and he has started repaying his loan every month.

My daughter, Esther, has successfully completed her 12th standard exams. She pursued her optometry course at MN Eye Hospital and now she is presently working for Vasan Eye Care Hospital.

My youngest son, Moses, got the Secondary School Leaving Certificate with 278 marks out of 500, currently; he is in his High School.

Shakuntala Raju Shares her Story

My name is Shakuntala. I don’t know my exact date of birth, but I think I am in my early 50’s. I was born in a village in Tamil Nadu, near Tindivanam. My father was a police officer and my mother a house maid. They had two more children after me, my brother Venkatesh and my sister Jothi.

I studied in a government primary school. At this time my father was absent. He lived and traveled in the whole Tamil Nadu, from casern to casern. That’s why my uncle raised me after my 8th birthday, while my mother was taking care of my brother and sister. They didn’t go to school. My uncle took care of me with the money my father was sending. I’ve studied one year in Walter Skeder High School, then the next year I was in St Philomena Girls School, runs by the sisters of Cluny. I loved studying, but also spinning and embroideries. I stayed one year in a hostel. It was my last year in school, I left it when I was 12 years old.

A few time before, during a fight at work, my father hit one of his superior. Because of that he was suspended and came back to the village. He found a job in brickyard for himself, my mother and me.

One day my “mama” Raju (my maternal uncle) came to visit. His wife had just died, letting him alone with three children. He was looking for a new wife and soon, my mother was arranging my marriage with him. I was 17 years old and he was 20 years older. At least my mother didn’t have to pay for dowry, and Raju was the one who bought my thali. When my mother decided our marriage, I didn’t ask myself too many questions. She was the one deciding and I had to obey, even if deep down I was hesitating. I was very beautiful but Raju was very black. Still he was attractive. But today he is old and sick, and often my neighbors tell me I shouldn’t have agreed to marry someone that old. They may be right. I know that if the same thing was offer to my grand-daughter I wouldn’t force her.  

For 7 years we lived in Nemmeli where my husband had some land. We grew there rice and groundnuts. To buy some seeds, Raju sold his two cows. Two years after marriage, I had our first child, a boy named Gajendran. Then a second one, Mohan, who died when he was 8 due to brain cancer, and two more sons, Chandran and Nagaligam, and two girls: the first one didn’t have any name because she died 12 days after her birth due to a rat bite. The second one is Menaka.
During heat season, when the land was no good, Raju went to Madras where his cousin lived. There, he rented a cyclo-rickshaw and carried people.

In 1980, during MGR time (M.G. Ramachandran), we settled permanently to Madras. We couldn’t survive with the farm benefits only. We found a hut to rent in place called Sathyavani Muthu Nagar, which is today the Gandhi Nagar slum. Back then there were only a hundred huts with palm leaves scattered between bushes. We had to cross the Kuvam Rivam near the general hospital or beyond Rippon building, behind Madras city hall in Periamet to find drinkable water and bring it back in kodams.

Raju borrowed 2000 rupees to buy a cyclorickshaw. He refunded it little by little, 20 or 30 rupees each day because he was earning till 100 rupees per day by carrying people! At this time there was no auto-rickshaw, but today I see one in front of every house!
My elder son, Gajendram, is a rickshaw puller. He went to school until 4th standard but after he didn’t want to go on. In the morning he was pretending to go to school but when he was at the gate he was running away and roaming in the streets all day long. His friends told me the truth so I hit him, but nothing changed. Today he is 33 years old, he is married and has two daughters. The elder one is 13 years old, she works in a glass and mirrors shop at Parry’s Corner. She brings 100 rupees every day to her family. The second one, Nandhini, is 11 years old. She is studying in 6th standard. My daughter-in-law, Anjalakshi, is a house maid.

My second son, Chandran, is also a rickshaw puller. He carries fish packages from the market. He didn’t go a lot to school either. I didn’t try to force him because he would have run away. And honestly, in the end I was happy that he and Gajendran brought 20, 30 rupees and food sometimes every night. It helped a lot.

Chandran is married to a woman named Kalaiarasi. They have three children, two boys and one girl. The girl, Gayathri, is in 6th standard in AIWC school. Her brother is 8 years old and is in 3th standard. The younger one, Santosh, is in Speed trust crèche.

My third son, Nagalingam, worked until two years ago in a glass shop. But since he was drinking a lot, his health got bad. His liver is very bad and he has diabetes. He doesn’t work any more and his wife Alumelu is a house maid. They have two daughters, Sneha and Ramya, who go to school, and one boy, Karthik, who is in Speed trust crèche too.

I had six children but my daughters-in-law only had two or three, they’ve all done the family planning.

My daughter Menaka is born in 1984. She has not been one single day to school. I signed her up in several schools but she kept on crying so I always took her home the very same day. She has always been my favorite and I couldn’t let her cry so I kept her with me. She was playing all day long while I was doing some house chores. When she was 13 years old she started working as a house maid. My sons’ friends were talking badly about it, thinking it was not normal to send her when she already had three brothers working. We made her stop, she only worked for one month. In 1999 she attained puberty and we organized a ceremony for it.

In our neighborhood lived a family from Gutteri, a village close to Tindivanam. They had some relatives there, and one man named Subramani came regularly to Chennai. One day when he was in the slum he seduced my daughter. They had an affair. It was just after Pongal, in 2001. Subramani was already married and had a daughter. He promised to Menaka that he will leave his wife and marry her. She believed him and ran away with him in Gutteri. Her eloping made me feel very bad, sad and betrayed at the same time. My husband advised us to forget about her and not talk about it. But a few months after I learned from the neighbors that Menaka was pregnant. It was during summer monsoon. I went to take her with Subramani. I found them a house near mine and they lived there for four months. But one week before Menaka went into labour, Subramani ran away. We never saw him again. My neighbors told me that he never came back to Gutteri, and I learned a few years later, in 2006, that he got married for the third time.

On November 28th 2001, Menaka gave birth to my grand-daughter, Dyvia. For five years Menaka and Dyvia stayed with me. My sons, my daughters in law, Menaka, Divya, my husband and I (9 persons and two babies) lived together in two houses. It was actually two rooms linked with one door. Men of the house were giving me their salary and I had to feed the whole family with it. Little by little people forgot what happened, I’ve never heard bad things about my family. In 2006, Menaka found a job as a housemaid in Mount Road.

When the tsunami arrived on december 26th 2004, a black nauseous mud wave invaded the neighborhood. The houses which had the most damages were the one close to the Kuvam river. Mine was flooded and all our belongings were taken. That’s when I heard about Speed trust. The organization made immediately some big distributions. They gave me a big pile of clothes, some groceries, rice, lens, oil, biscuits and mats. The families who had the worst damage were given kerosene heater, bowl water, blankets and dishes.

After that I contacted Speed Trust again to get some help for Divya. Since she was not old enough to go to school I waited for six months, then Divya went to LKG in an English medium school. Since I had little education, I understood the chance Speed trust was offering to Divya. Today my husband is sick, he is in a hospital, and if I die I will be calmed because I know Speed trust will take care of the grand-daughter.

Recently, my neighbors asked Divya: “what will your grand-parents let you? They don’t own anything”. She answered: “I only need their blessing, and I know that Uncle and Auntie (speed trust managers) will take care of my education!”

Divya was four years old when she started school. The same year she got a cataract. Speed Trust took care of every medical expenses, it cost Rs 10 000, and Divya was able to get surgery at Rajan Eye Care Hospital. Now she has a good sight but she needs to carry glasses. She is studying in 4th standard in Eve Matriculation School. I only regret that she is sitting in the last rows. Last year her teacher hit her on the head. I went to the Head of the school to complain, and the teacher was sanctioned. But since, Divya is sitting in the last row.

I wanted to meet the teacher but the watchman didn’t let me in. Watchmen never let people like us in the school. But I’m happy because now Divya uses a lot of English words:”Yes, No, Come, Go, Shut Up”, and others I don’t know.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Lakshmi Subramani Shares her Story...........

My name is Lakshmi. I was born in Vanthavasi. My parents were cooli laborers. I’m the only daughter in my family and I have two younger brothers. I got married on the 9th September 1999. It was an arranged marriage. I have three daughters. My husband is an auto rickshaw driver. My husband was from Chennai, so after marriage we had settle down to Chennai. 

After ten years of married life, my husband got a heat boil in his eye. We took him to the hospital hoping it to be a normal heat boil. The doctors said the boil is creating cancer on his eye. So we got him operated and was wishing to have a normal sight. But he lost his eye sight.

During which we came to know about SPEED TRUST, approached Philippe Sir to help us. We kept him for 10 months at home and spent a lot of money for his recovery. Philippe sir helped us too. To our distress, cancer slowly started to spread around to his shoulder, teeth and to his lungs. He couldn’t even walk by himself. We tried almost every hospital. At the end we took him to Madhavaram (Name of the place) we kept him for a week there. He died on the 5th month of 2010.

After he died I and my children suffered a lot to run the family. SPEED Trust took complete responsibility for my children’s education. I work in a hospital as a housekeeper and that’s how I earn money and save my family. My first daughter’s name is Eswari, studying 4th standard. My second daughter is Sashwini, studying 1st grade. My third daughter, Rajishwari is 4 years old.

I weave one basket in a month whenever I don’t go to work. I like to spend my time weaving baskets. My only aim in life is for my children to study well. I want to see them good.

When I walk on the roads I see people saying, that I’m a widow but that doesn’t stop me to give up life because I want to live for my children. Its heart breaking that I lost my husband but still I feel strong to live for my children.

My youngest daughter doesn’t know that my husband has died; she still believes that he’s in the hospital. We tried to tell her that he died but the next day she asks for her dad and believes him to be in the hospital. My husband was doing social work and the neighbors believe that because of his hard work and being exposed to the sun has caused the heat boil. I don’t regret the work he has done for the society even if one person says that my husband is bad, there are ten people who says he is a good man, and I take pride in it.

When my husband died I wanted to die along, but because of my children I did not want to do that. When I close or open my eyes it’s always my children’s thought that pops into my mind.
During special occasions like puberty function, wedding people do not consider me to be a good company because I’m a widow and that have caused me to think of dying. But again it’s for my children that I want to live. It’s been one and a half year since I prayed to God and I don’t believe in God anymore. All I focus on is my children. We put flowers for my husband’s photo but not to any of the Gods in my house. We stopped all ritual activities.

My aim in life is to live for my children and to see them grow and study and prosper in life. I’m determined to live for them and sacrifice my life for them. I thank SPEED Trust for all the help that have been providing me. Without them I and my children cannot imagine to live a life.

Friday, 8 November 2013

Sumathy Marimuthu Shares her Story

My name is Sumathy Marumuthu. I was born in a place called Dindivanam. I grew up in the same village. I don’t know how old I am. When I got married, I remember I was 18 years old. It was a love marriage. Since my husband was working in Chennai we got came down to Chennai (to the slum). Since then we are living in the slum (Chennai).

My husband did not send me to work. He was an auto rickshaw man, but he didn’t go for work properly because he drinks a lot. In a week he spends his time on drinking and resting for two days and goes for work one day. So I had to go to work, that’s when I heard about SPEED Trust, weaving baskets. It’s been six years since I’m weaving baskets. My husband died last year, October 2010 due to TB.

We took him to the hospital and were advised not to drink but he started drinking so we couldn’t save his life. He’s been a good man, as far as I know. He always took care of me in times of joy and sorrow. He beats me at times but still he loves me. So I don’t mind him beating me. It happens in every married couple so I don’t take it too much into my heart.

I have 3 daughters. My first daughter’s name is Chitra, she’s studying in 11th std. My second daughter is Raehna, studying in 9th std. My third daughter is Kamala, studying in 5th std,

I’m the bread winner of my family. I weave basket and earn money. Since 3 months I started doing housekeeping job at Baladarsham (where I weave baskets).

If my daughter gets good mark, Ill let her continue her studies. I think there’s no point thinking about my past: I have 3 children and I need to take care of them so I just live up.

Murugammal Stalin Shares her Success Story..................

I was born in 1980 in Pondicherry. Both my parents were working as laborers in agriculture. I had an elder sister and a brother. When I was doing my 4th standard my sister passed away, due to health issues. When I was 20 years old, I lost my father. My brother is married now.

When I was 12 years old I attained puberty. I was in my 7th standard. Just because I didn’t have any financial supports, I quitted school. One day I just didn’t have money to buy new books so I quit my complete schooling.

In the year 1993 I came to Chennai, to my cousin’s sister place. I fell in love with a man, my cousin’s sister’s neighbor. Since I quitted school I couldn’t read but one day, he gave me a letter with a marriage proposal. I knew it was a love letter so I was happy but I couldn’t understand it!

In a year time we got married. I was 14 years old. By the age of 20, I had 3 children. My husband had a heart problem but he and his parents didn’t tell me when we got married. Love was more important to him.

One day my husband had a breathing problem, so we went to the doctor. He said that he had a heart problem and will live only for ten years. I wrote a letter to the government and I had a 200 lakhs as a fund for my husband problems. But 200 lakhs was not enough for my husband’s problem. That’s when I heard about speedtrust and the fact that they help poor people, so I approach them to help my husband. Phillipe understood my problems and the health of my husband, and he started to help us.

Just because I couldn’t buy a note book that day I quit my school but now I realize that I should have continued. When I look at my children I want to see them as a doctor or engineer and I don’t want to see them suffering like me.

I have four children: My first daughter’s name is Saranya, she’s16 years old. My second son name is Saran, he is doing 7th standard. Sandya, my third daughter is in 6th standard, she studies well. Soumiya, my 4th daughter, is doing UPG.

One day I was coming to CMBT bus stop, and a lady approached me and handled a baby to me. I offered the lady to sit down. The lady said I can just keep the baby for her and pretended to step aside. By the time I reached central bus stop I couldn’t find the lady. I went to the police and explained the story. The police asked me to put the baby in an orphanage. But my husband didn’t want to send the baby to the orphanage because the baby was just born, it was an hour or two old. The baby wasn’t even washed completely. The nostril was not even cut. We bought a certificate to the government and the hospital so the baby was one of us and legally certified as our daughter. I don’t feel any burden for the baby. As long as I have energy, hands and legs I can definitely work hard for my family and children.

After the baby entered my family my husband health started becoming worse than before. We could hardly have any food at home.

There are no jobs that I haven’t tried to earn money. I had tea shop, petty shop, made breakfast in the morning and sold it in the slum… Right after our marriage, my husband and I didn’t work. Because of his health issue he couldn’t go for work, and I couldn’t neither because we had small children at home and the baby. I couldn’t leave her to go at work because she was so small. When Smaya was three years old my husband passed away. I looked after him for the past ten years. 20 days he was at hospital and 10 days at home: Mustapha’s days were spent at the hospital. Speedtrust offered me a job as a housekeeper. Then I expressed my heart to learn auto rickshaw.

Now I’ve got an auto-rickshaw of my own, with the help of speedtrust. I am determined to live my life and to bring up my family to a better standard. I’m happy to drive an auto rickshaw and I want to pay my due properly and take care of my family. 

Mala takes Pride in telling her Success Story.......

My name is Mala Suresh Kumar and I am 28 years old. I was born and brought up in Chintadripet, Chennai. I have four sisters, one elder and two younger sisters. Together we lived in a hut built with single wood at the center. My parents used to sleep outside the house in the night so that we girls could sleep inside the hut. My mother is a construction worker and my father is an auto-rickshaw driver.

I am a very Good athlete, participated in all of the co curricular activities at school, and have won many prices. I am an extrovert person, very social to every one around. I had four close friends. I liked music a lot.

My father is an alcoholic and that made him pick up fights with my mother. Sometimes he left the entire family for several days, stays at his mother’s house and does not give any money to my mother. My mother’s salary was not sufficient to get us educated in the school. Therefore, when I was in eighth standard, she told me to quit school. I was studying in a governmental school, Tamil medium. My elder sister quit her schooling after third standard. My younger sisters stayed in school until 10th standard because she wanted to become a police officer. My mother managed to keep my sisters in school so they fulfill their dream. Unfortunately, they failed in their 10th standard, due to insufficient marks. I wanted to become a police officer too but due to insufficient money, my mother asked to quit school and I was ok with her decision as I was not so strong about my dream.

It was those six months I spent at home helping my mother with house chores by dividing the work among sisters. One was carrying water, one was washing clothes, one was sweeping, etc.

Back in time, I heard about a job vacancy in one of the electronic shop as a seller located at mount Road. I started to work as a seller in an electronic shop. I was 14 years old. Back then, I earned 500 rupees per month. I enjoyed working there because the other sellers were around my age and I was able to come back home for lunch and tea.

However, I had a dust allergy and had to go to the hospital once a week. Due to financial crisis, my mother insisted to change jobs to get more pay so I happened to work in different sector that gave me a lot of experience to adapt things around even as I was in 14 to 21 years old.

I always wanted to marry a man who would agree to let me help my mother after marriage. I had many proposals.  That is when I met Suresh Kumar. One day he and his family visited our house and I was impressed with the way he spoke to my mother. During the meet Suresh,’s family reassured us and promised to take great care of my mother and me after marriage.

Suresh Kumar was 23 years old and he worked as a coolie at the fish market. We had a grand marriage ceremony. After the temple ceremony, we had a huge reception with a parade. My husband and I were in the car, surrounded by musicians. I was 21 years old when I got married.

I was happy when I got married. Nevertheless, after marriage Suresh Kumar changed a lot. He forbids me from meeting my mother for no reason. I learnt that he was an alcoholic and smoked ganja.

We lived with my husband’s family (Mother-in -law, father-in-law, sister-in-law, and brother-in-law in the same house) within three months we owned a house for ourselves, in Chintadripet. I looked after the house holds as a single person without any one to help. My mother in law always disapproved to wash dishes or clothes the next day when it is overload for the day. She tries to bring in misunderstanding between husband and me by complaining it to my husband and that would lead him to beat me. My husband’s family never believed in sorting out things by speaking out rather it was always violence, practiced to sort things. They had some huge debts. They asked me to mortgage my jewels but I refused, which created new conflicts. Lately, my husband returned home late in the night, tries to pick conflicts, and beats me almost every day.

During my pregnancy my neither my in-laws nor my family looked after me. There was no function organized to wish my baby or me for a good delivery. I delivered my first baby at Gosha government hospital. The delivery was very difficult and painful. The baby was upside down. I had over ten doctors around me, saying either the mother or the baby would live. However, I was fortunate to give birth to a baby girl, Naveena. We stayed for five days in the hospital; Naveena was so fragile they put her in an incubator. My husband never came to see us. I started to cry as badly as I watch other women in the hospital with their husband’s around them and their babies. My baby girl and I went along with my mother to her house once we completed with the hospital formalities.

Five months after giving birth, my husband and mother-in-law insisted that I come back home. They wanted me back home because there was no one to clean the house, prepare food, etc. I told them that I had to take care of the baby, as Naveena was still fragile, and asked if my mother can come along to take care of Naveena at my in laws place. My husband disagreed for it, busted out with huge fight, and hit me badly. Therefore, I agreed to go with him. Mean while my mother did the traditional formalities and rituals to send Naveena and me with some anklets, bracelets, etc, this is part of the tradition for the grandmothers to their grand daughters.

Having set everything my Life was going on and we had fewer problems than before. During Naveena’s first birthday, my husband asked me for my jewels so he can have some money to organize the birthday function. I refused to give my jewels but a friend lent us Rs 10 000 for the birthday, to have return it as soon as possible. However, we sold the jewels and gifts we received at the birthday party to pay the back the due.

It is just Rs. 100 given to me every day by my husband to run the family. With that petty cash, he was demanding to buy him tea, breakfast and cigarettes everyday. With the left over money, I bought milk for the baby for RS. 12. I remember I had nothing to eat for myself so I had to go back and forth to my mother’s place to eat something and get back home to make dinner for my husband. My mother in law questions me about my going and coming to my mother’s place and my house. I replied her to give me money to eat if not let me go to my mothers house to eat.

I delivered a Boy baby when Naveena was one year and eight months old. We named him Naresh. During my second delivery, once again the doctors said the delivery could get complicated, as the baby’s head is big and I thought to myself to be unlucky as I watch many other women having a normal delivery. Having not found any answer I went for my family planning as it was encouraged by the Indian government to have done after one or two children.

As usual, my mother in law was not taking care of my self and I started to become weaker day by day. Conflicts started to arise among us. My husband asked for more money by his mother to provide me food to eat, as I had not given food to eat. When my mother came to know about the situation, she started to get me food every day to eat. That is how I gained some strength in a month’s time.

I was the time when my son became 1 year old my husband stopped working at the fish market. Instead, he became a helper in a stereo shop. He earned Rs 150 per day but gave me 300/400 rupees only per week.
Soon after, I learnt about his affair with a neighbor of us. Because of that, he was irregular at work, always spent his time to meet the girl. I had beaten up when I question him about his leaves. He was coming late from work, at strange hours. I accused him of having an affair with the woman but he kept on saying it was not true. He says, I had no proof and that I had to stop asking him.

One day, I happened to see him with the woman on the street. I confronted my husband, saying I have a proof now. I started to fight with the woman, but he interposes himself. He grabbed my hair and dragged me on the streets. A police jeep passes by happen to see us fight, enquired about the issue, and advised me to sue a case against him.

The following days I kept questioning my husband to tell me the truth. My mother-in-law refused to answer me too. One day my husband got irritated with my question and dragged me on the streets by holding my hair, my friends and relatives tried to stop him behave and treat me so rude. However, nothing helped. He brought me to my mother’s house and asked my mother to have me back.

The incident led me to file a complaint against my husband however; my in laws stopped me to file a case and apologized for the incident. Despite my feelings and hurts, I returned home without filing a case.  

After this incident, he pretended to look for a job. He was out all day, coming very late at night, saying he did not find anything. He did not give me any more money. He said to manage without any money. I borrowed Rs 25 000 and mortgaged my jewels to pay them back.

I put Naveena in Speed Trust’s crèche. One morning, while she was very slow to get ready, I scolded and hit her, telling her not to be lazy and quick to get ready. My mother-in-law told me not to hit her. I said I was just trying to discipline Naveena so that she cannot repeat the same when she grows up. This small dispute took huge proportions. My mother in law complained about the incident that happened in the morning to my husband who returned home late in the evening. When my husband heard it, he yelled at me, hit me and dragged my children and me out of the house. I had left all alone with my children in the bus stop, not knowing where to go.

I did not want to go back to my parents’ house because I remember promising them to live with my husband and would do everything to make my marriage successful. If I had to go now I would break my promise and would create a bad opinion about myself. Therefore, I went to my sister’s house, in Gandhi Nagar. We stayed there for a month without any issues.

One day, my husband came to my sister’s house at 11 pm, asking for me. She told him it is not a good time to see me and that he should come back in the morning. Nevertheless, my husband started to yell at my sister, telling her he has the right to see me whenever he wanted because I am his wife. The neighbors started to question him like, “why is your wife living here and not with you?”, and ‘where were you all these while?”. The neighbors defended my sister and me. The whole thing caused a huge fight that night.

On the very same night, my husband went to see my mother to complaint about my sister’s behavior. They started fighting. My sister’s husband went to the house too when my mother had called him. It was too much to take it for everybody.

My family members filed a complaint against my husband saying he was creating problems and fighting even in the mid night. The two families ended up in the police station and started fighting. My husband hit me in front of the police officers; watching him hit me the police officers understood as to why I was refusing to live with him. We did not want to live together anymore. We signed up a paper putting an end at our common life, with both our agreements on it. The police officers asked my children with whom they would like to stay and thought to leave my children with me to be better off than Suresh Kumar.

After which, I stayed with my elder sister for three months. Naveena was still in Speed Trust crèche, in spite of irregular fee. She was soon old enough to go to school. I moved with my children to another house located in Gandhi Nagar, owned by my sister. I did not pay her regular rent; I was just giving her the money when she required. To look after my children, I started to work as a house cleaner and earned Rs 1000 per month. I had food to eat at my work place and brought some food to home.

One day, one of the SPEED Trust social worker asked me as to why I did not pay the crèche fees, as it is comparatively lesser fee than any other crèche in the city.  I explained my situation to him.

Having understood my problem the SPEED Trust Social worker visited my house and enrolled us into the family follow-up program. Hence, I became a beneficiary of Speed Trust. One day, during a beneficiaries meeting, the coordinator of the rickshaw program asked, if there is any other women who would like to learn auto rickshaw driving.  I was interested so I applied for the same. They selected me, got me trained, and I had my license and my auto.

Now I earn 300 rupees per day, and I take care of my children without anyone’s help. My husband never tried to see us again. I know he’s roaming around without a job, still having his affair… If he tries to come back, I will not accept him; we can take care of ourselves without him. Suresh Kumar is dead to me.

I like to drive an auto-rickshaw. Sometimes I have bad passengers who are Drunken who say bad words… Some are good. Once a very suspicious man asked me to drive him from bar to bar, then asked me to send a girl to his house! I managed to get him out of the auto; however, I am scared about strangers like him. There are people who are very happy to see a woman driving auto rickshaw, especially women. At times, there are people who talk badly and create problems.

I really enjoy my life now. I can buy some good foods and some nice clothes for my children and me. They are happy with my work and they me working hard. They try hard in their studies to score well so that they can please me and do as good as I do. I want my children to become educated citizens, and that they should never suffer as I did. Everything that I am doing today is for them. I arranged my schedule so I can be with them after school and tuition. Now the three of us are very happy.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Arivu Project

The "Arivu" project started in 2007 thanks to the initial support of the French Red Cross and the continuous support of Secours Populaire Français (Champagne-Ardennes).

Arivu which means "knowledge" is an educational and cultural centre offering activities and facilities to the children from Gandhi Nagar slum: Creche, evening tuition classes and coaching centre, library, computer lab, extra-curricular activities: arts, bharathanatyam danse class, boxing, performances and cultural programs (in partnership with Aseema Trust, Alliance Française of Madras), summer camps (in partnership with Gandhi Rural Rehabilitation centre).