Tuesday, April 14, 2009
A DIGNIFIED STRUGGLE TO LIVE....
A DIGNIFIED STRUGGLE TO LIVE: The Short Story of a Long March….
She is weak, frail, old, poor.. but returning to her place of work every single morning! I know very little of her, and she hardly knows me. But, because of her will to survive, and that too with dignity, I hold her in great esteem.
She occupies a place on the ground adjacent to the BP petrol-pump near the Green Park bus stand. She carries her wares in a sack and spreads these around on the ground. These are mainly pouches of chewing-tobacco, and similar things which the bus-passengers stop-by to purchase from her. Last year she used to bring these in a small wooden box which she was able to carry on her head. Now, with her health failing and the eyesight poorer, apparently she is no longer able to carry the box.
I came across her the first time about 5 years ago, while returning from the market together with my wife. We stopped to buy some ‘chana’ (roasted gram) that I am fond of. On reaching home I discovered that the paper bag carried more than the matter for eating; there was inside also a 100 gm. weight. I had bought 200 gm. of material, and she did not notice her loss. I immediately rushed back to restore her the weight, knowing well that most of her customers bought in measures of 100 gms. only and that she would have great problems unable to do the weighing. She had a hand-cart (‘rehri’) at that time. With the passage of time, probably she could not push it any longer and started coming without it.
I started noticing her change of workstyle, gradually sliding down on the weaker side, and started giving her a banknote whenever I passed her by, touched by her great determination. The amount ranged between rupees 10 to 100, with no specific amount in my mind. She never asked me for anything, nor showed any expectation when I stopped by. I have not bought anything from her after she stopped bringing the hand cart, since from the goods that she now sells there is nothing I could use. I do not chew tobacco.
Her name is Harpyari, as she enthusiastically told me. Today, as I was photographing her, she smiled for a moment and then the smile vanished.
One of her customers, a guard at the petrol pump, arrived to buy something from her. To him I praised her for her fight against all odds – something which should be a lesson to all those who give up. He revealed to me that she was working not only for herself but also to groom two small grandchildren for whom no one cared. Their mother had died, and the father had become a drunkard. They have given her a purpose to live and she needs to earn more. Despite all this, I never saw her begging………