The author is an extraordinary individual who chose to empower herself with knowledge and learning. Her journey speaks of courage, resilience, and a single minded devotion to excel.
Breaking all barriers that constrain individuals from achieving their innermost desires she also shows us her deep commitment towards the roles that were thrust upon her.
Her ability to inadvertently convert every obstacle into a challenge that she surpassed is inspirational, to say the least.
Here the process of transformation is carried on shoulders that refused to stoop, a mind that disdained from giving up, and a heart that forged ahead determined to prove to the world that inner focus, faith, and deep commitment can help shape one’s destiny.
How would a young girl of 15 years feel when uprooted from a small village in one state and replanted in a big city in another state – away from the loved ones except for a newly possessed husband. From the familiarity of a place where one is born and brought up – to a new unfamiliar place where people speak different languages. Yes, naturally she will feel quite lost and unsure.
That was the author of this story, some 32 years ago in Bangalore.
Born in a small but progressive village in north Kerala; she, like every other girl went to the near by government school. After class 7 she went to the High school which was about 7 km away – walking the distance bare foot.
In any small place in India, the parents of young girls have only one thing in their mind – to get her married. Her parents were no different.
It was fate, or should we say God’s Design – completion of SSLC exam, one of the uncles asking for the girl’s hand for his oldest son in marriage, and the parents readily agreeing because he was the most eligible groom for their daughter by their standard – educated, employed and of course good looking! The girl in question is never asked for an opinion as is the norm any where in the country.
The girl was of course happy – not for getting married per say but that she would be going away to a big city. The groom to be too comforted her, saying that she will be able to pursue her studies after the marriage.
Soon after marriage, and even before the result of the SSLC exam was out, the newly weds were in Bangalore! The trip back to their home town after three months, to collect the certificate was exciting! Going to the school in a sari with husband accompanying to collect the certificate is still etched in her mind. Desire to join a college was fired when the marks card with good grades – a high first class, which very few students used to get those days, was received.
“Man proposes – God disposes”
The meaning of this saying was understood by the couple soon. By the time they came back to Bangalore – the wife had conceived. The plans of joining college had to be put in the back burner.
So, by the time she was sixteen, oh —- sweet sixteen; a baby boy was born – two months premature – all hair and bony limbs. This was a special gift from God. On a total solar eclipse day in 1980 and also as it was the Shivarathri festival; a very auspicious day indeed.
The nursing home in the small village in Kerala was not equipped to care for premature babies – no incubator or any special treatment. The doctor advised them to keep the baby warm by covering him in cloth and not to bathe him. However, the baby faired pretty well and by the time he was three months old, he was a plump little fellow.
Hoping to get better medical help the mom and baby were brought to Bangalore in the 4th month. The paediatrician on examination stated – “Something is amiss, take him to NIMHANS”.
What followed were a few years of many doctors, many therapists, and different kinds of treatment, prayers and poojas by Grand mom at Kerala.
In between all this, at 18 years of age, another baby was born – a lovely little baby girl. The pregnancy and the first year after her birth were filled with anxiety. Till she achieved all her developmental milestones every single day was spent in fear and the nights in nightmares.
Still she has no idea how the years from 1980 to 1984 passed. Many good friends were there to give them the much needed helping hand. They were ever ready to look after one of the babies or at times even both of them. Many children were around to play with the two little darlings. The house was always filled with children of the neighbourhood.
It was going to be the age when the little son should be going to school. How can a child who is still not walking or talking be put in a school? The question was beginning to worry the young parents.
God decides to intervene…
Spastics Society of India started a branch in Bangalore, at Indira Nagar. A good doctor at NIMHANS advises the parents to take the 4 year old to that centre.
Still she remembers the first trip there. The kind Therapist looking at the little boy and explaining things in English, the husband telling her that his wife does not understand English and the therapist reiterating that “No, She will follow what I am saying!” –
Weekly trips to the Home Management program (where children and a parent attend sessions once a week and are given activities/ exercises to be carried out at home). It was possible as husband was working in shifts and Friday was an ‘off’ day for the factory.
However, the little fellow was soon ready for day schooling. So they shifted from the friendly neighbourhood to a place nearer to the Spastics Society. They found a good school for the little girl too.
They now settled into a routine. Many roles to play – wife, mother, and home maker — Found a few good friends in the new neighbourhood. Learned to cook new things – Punjabi dishes from a Punjabi friend, Telugu dishes; especially “Avakai Pickle” from a Telugu speaking friend, Akki Roti from a Kannadiga friend and many more.
Daily visits to the children’s school followed. Interacting with their teachers – young women who were more or less the same age.
Yet…why and what was this unrest in the mind? This feeling of inadequacy?
Many questions in the mind –
“How am I different from these young women”? “Am I not intelligent like them”? “Am I not capable of doing all the things they are doing”? “Is my life meant only to cook, clean and take care of the family”? “Won’t it be possible for me to speak English like them”? (English was one of her favourite subjects in school and she always scored the highest in class and always got the teacher’s appreciation).
When these thoughts, unhappiness and unrest set in the mind…how does the body react? Frequent and severe headache. Medicines became ineffective.
But…time does not wait. The children were now 6 and 8 years old and going to school full time. She too had plenty of time at hand after doing the house hold chores.
God Intervenes again…
A chance interaction with the daughter’s school principal opened the door to many things. This particular person with a strong feminist streak in her and a believer in women’s empowerment was a great influence. The school principal rekindled a fire in her belly to study. The desire to do something, other than caring for the family was ignited.
She initiated the first step by taking spoken English classes on Saturdays – after half day of school. This gave her the confidence to spend a few hours every day at the son’s school – Spastics Society of Karnataka – volunteering, observing, learning, using and practising the English learnt on Saturdays.
She gained more confidence. Began to believe that “I can do what others like me are doing”. “I am not inferior to any one”.
Lo and Behold!!! God intervenes yet again!!!
Spastics’ Society started a teachers’ training diploma program and she enrolled without a second thought. This was a great opportunity to learn and help her child better. (The plan of continuing education through correspondence was there before too. The good husband feeling bad that he was in some way responsible for discontinuing the education process had made enquiries and concluded that correspondence course was not possible at that point because of the age factor).
The student group had a mix of many talents – post graduates, graduates, under graduates – all who had English medium education and then of course – Malayalam medium SSLC (me!).
The single point agenda was – learn, learn and excel!
She took help from anyone who was willing. She asked many people to correct the assignments before submitting them. Self edited the answers many times before going for the exams. Finally all the hard work paid off. She stood third among a group of 18, surpassing the English medium graduates and post graduates. (Not boasting, not bluffing!)
Soon after the results were out, a job was offered at SSK. She grabbed it without any hesitation. She was confident about managing the home and school without upsetting anything. Husband was extremely supportive and also proud of her.
A few years passed – again the same old unrest in the mind. The same feelings of inadequacy – this time not as a person, but as a professional. Just a diploma is not enough to move ahead in one’s career. The parents of students would want the teacher to be better qualified.
The head aches were back!!
What is the remedy? Definitely not medication!
Continue education and to equip oneself with adequate qualification. She enrolled in IGNOU for a degree program.
Managing home, a job, meeting the demands of growing children, (by now teenagers) and studying for a degree. Not easy at all. Night after night sitting till late and writing assignments, studying for exams –Despite all the demands and taxing schedules, the feeling was good. Mind was at peace. Head aches vanished.
In spite of everything the desire to excel was always there.
It took four years to complete the degree instead of the minimum three. The grades were good too. Finally, she began to feel good about self. Her status at the job changed. Two more diploma courses in Special Education were done. She completed her B.Ed too.
Both her children have done well in their studies as well. With God’s blessings’ son was able to get a job as soon as he completed his tenth. He followed mother’s path and did twelfth and graduation through correspondence – managing job and studies together.
He uses a wheel chair al right. But for the mother he is her son like any other son is for a mother. He is actually her lucky mascot! All good things that happened in her life are because of him.
For the world he may be a person who can’t walk and somebody on a wheel chair – meaning disabled. But actually, he is no less than any one else. He can take life’s challenges head on, which many “normal boys” of his age may not be able to. He is very comfortable in his own skin and does not mind the wheelchair; (but of course when his entry into many a public space is restricted because of the wheelchair, he feels desperate).
He has done many things that can be recounted with pride. He has made presentations at many seminars for trainers in the field of disability. He dreamt of going to the paradise of Indian youth – the United States of America where many of his cousins are working.
It became a reality in the form of an invitation to present a paper at an International Seminar in Washington DC. His company came forward to finance the trip and so he could make it. The natural choice to accompany him was Mommy dearest – so the mom-son duo had a memorable trip to Washington DC in the year 2003. They still cherish the memory of this trip and now he dreams of going to the United Kingdom – the next best??!
May be God will intervene and make it happen too ….
Their daughter, the pretty young lady that she is, completed her B.E and worked for a few years before getting married. Her wonderful husband is also a good friend to her brother.
The wait is now for the next unrest in mind. That would help raise the bar and push for a post graduate degree!
Will one consider this success? There were two options – to remain an “SSLC pass” housewife or to make something out of the situation in which one is in. Choosing the first one would have mean opting for an easy life but by choosing the second, she decided to endure difficulties.
If the outcome of enduring the difficulties is good, can we not call it success? It is not just the hard work but a combination of many things as well:
God’s blessings and timely intervention;
A great child hood that shaped up a confident person;
Very supportive husband and children;
Great friends and colleagues;
A great institution like SSK and many mentors there;
Last but not the least – A spirit that never says Die —
Her motto is: Where there is a will, there is a way
(This story was like eating cake. All ready and rich and creamy! The author is a very talented writer and without much editing the initial script lies here before you. She too writes in 3rd person by choice. The only additional information I asked her to include was about their trip abroad.)