Monday, December 21, 2009

Versha from Bundelkhand

“There is nothing in my life to be happy about” she said a minute ago but now I can see a faint smile on her face. We are sitting across from Versha the President of Abhilasha Gram Sanghatan as she tells us her story.

My mother died when I was young and my father soon became an alcoholic in his sorrow. I was brought up by my Dadi (paternal-grandmother). Soon my Nana (maternal-grandfather) took me home to stay with his family. With limited resources in the house this led to problems with my aunts and soon I was back in Lalitpur. My Dada used to support my brother, sister and me. Though shifting between my grandparents homes did cause a problem for my enrollment at school the teachers were kind and allowed me to get back to my classes.

In class 9 when I was giving my final exams I came home between papers to find some waiting to see me. I did not stay long and returned for my next paper but in the evening when I returned I found people in the locality celebrating outside my house. The next thing I new was that I was getting married. My father I remember was not in favor of the marriage because of my tender age but my grandmother was insistent, she wanted to see her grandchildren before she died. I was 15 when I got married.

After a brief stay of two months at my home post marriage I came over here to live with my husband and his family. From the moment we started living together I told my husband that we should rent a place in the city and live there so that we could educate our children. My husband worked as a security guard first in Jhansi then at Babina and then he went to Maharashtra to work as a driver. He would visit us once in 2 months or some times more often.

Some months ago he returned to live here with us and worked at the military area as a daily wage laborer. One day in August he complained of a stomach ache so I asked him to rest. When he did not get better I asked my mother in law to come over and she massaged his stomach with the leaves of the Andi tree that used to give him relief in the past but it did not work. Later in the day my father in law gave him a pain killer to ease the pain but that too did not help so the next day we took him to the block hospital. At the hospital he was given an injection and some medicine. The treatment failed and by noon he could not swallow. I too began to have similar symptoms but kept quiet since I did not want to worry him and the family. Soon he could not keep his eyes open and his speech too began to falter. When his situation deteriorated to a point that he could not breath properly we got terribly worried and took him to Jhansi.

First we took him to Kapoor Nursing Home, there the doctors asked us for two thousand rupees that we promised to pay and we admitted him. You know he had no bad habits, he did not smoke or drink, didn't chew tobacco, he didn't even eat meat! At the hospital when he began to throw-up from his mouth and nose I could not hold myself together any more and broke down. Since the doctors were not giving him proper care we took him to Kherati Hospital.
The doctors at Kherati hospital told us he was serious and put him on an intravenous drip and asked us to take him to the district hospital.

At the district hospital we waited for an hour before some one attended to him and when they did they kept asking him to confess what he had eaten. I don't know why but they suspected that he had attempted to commit suicide. They put fingers down his throat to make him throw up and all the while kept asking him to tell them what he had eaten. When he repeatedly told them that he had eaten nothing they just left him. I thought they had gone to discuss and decide what to do for him but they did not so we had no choice but to take him elsewhere. We took him to D M Mishra hospital where he was immediately admitted into emergency. Since I too was quite ill by then the doctors admitted me as a serious case. I could not see him from where I was but I new he was there. I was given an intravenous drip I remember, but then I passed out.

When I woke in the morning I was told that he was doing better but had to be shifted to another hospital. My relatives told me that we should return home, no one told me that my husband had passed away while I was sleeping. When I got home I found many of my relatives waiting at the house, I thought to myself how lucky I was to get so much concern from them because of my illness. But it was when I finally entered the house that I learnt the truth. I was then dressed as a bride and taken to the river for the ceremonies. My family had hidden the truth from me all the way from Jhansi till I got home.

At this point she wipes a few tears from her cheeks that have seen thousands others roll down in the moths that have passed since the fate-full day and then continues with her story.

The women from the Gram-Sanghathan are better than relatives you know. When they heard this news they came with food and money to help me out. Today I am four months pregnant but cant have an abortion because I am of frail health, but I already have two children so I don't know what I will do. I plan to open a shop in the village and make ends meet, I’ll take a loan from the Samhoo to do that.

Later in the evening we returned to the village to attend the meeting of the Gram Sangahtan (a village level association of SHG’s) and met Versha again. There with representatives of all the 17 SHG’s that form the association she was a changed person. With all the problems she has she vowed to lead the women in helping them solve their problems. To see some one in such dire straits smile is unthinkable but she did and it shook me to the bone.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


Vinya, is an inspiration not only to the impoverished women in Bundelkhand but to all of us at the Rajiv Gandhi Mahila Pariyojana.

Having been associated with her “Samhoo” - (Self Help Group), for over 10 months, sitting on the steps of her house Vinya recounts for us her story.

Vinya needed money to buy a goat. Historically all villagers borrow money from the village “sahukar” (money lender), thus subjecting themselves to almost a life term in debt. Since she needed the money she too had no choice at the time.

After joining her “Samhoo” Vinya was able to borrow from the local nationalized bank, with better interest rates and accommodative payment terms. With this help she was able to free herself from the clutches of the moneylender.

Vinya is now a proud owner of not one, but 12 goats! She has also managed to sell a few of them and generated profits for herself.

Today, Vinya is not only the President of Roshini Samhoo but, also of the village level association.

Like many other women benefiting themselves through Roshini Samhoo, Vinya believes that their Rs. 10 per week saving has been able to rid them of their dependence on the sahukar for financial help.

Over the next half hour, Vinya shares with us the future plans which the women in Roshini Samhoo have – to work towards developing medical facilities, in the light of the alarming rise in deaths due to pneumonia tops their list.