• Alo Pal, board member, writes….
  • Parvati’s father passed away when she was 13 which is when her schooling also stopped.

She spent the following years selling cow dung cake with her mother from cattle that did not belong to them. At her wedding she did not know that her husband and lied about his profession and his age and also the fact that he was an alcoholic. Her alcoholic husband abandoned her when her son was 2.5 years old and her daughter a mere 10 months. These are the circumstances when we typically read  tragic stories from all social strata combined,  of abandoned married women pushed to precarious  lifestyles, living undignified moments  of the stranded and the abandoned,  unwelcome by their parents’ or husband’s families.  Fortunately for Parvati her mother and older brothers stood by her and gave her enormous emotional, moral and immediate material support and shelter.   After three years she decided to get more autonomous and got a loan of 3000 rupees from a relative and bought a grinder and started selling readymade Dosa batter to shops.

With this little enterprise she saw through her son complete a diploma course and Sharana intervened and sent her daughter to school. Sandhya completed her B. Com college degree last year. Through these years Parvati’s mother helped her in her work. She diversified her business a few years back with an indigenous health drinks cart. She rises at 4.00 am prepares her drinks and is ready to serve morning walkers pick healthy refreshment on their way back home. Her son too assists her.  Parvati was chosen as a candidate for our Women’s Entrepreneurship loan scheme as an example of a woman who showed extreme resilience in the face of extreme social and economic difficulty and yet through that period strove to live a life of dignity and hard work in order to support her children and herself. Her first business venture was born of her own initiative. On contact with Sharana she continued to support the education of her son and took only as much help as she required. Throughout her adult life she has been a role model  in carrying on her life on her own terms with her attempts to be self sufficient without any  education nor any viable vocational skill. This loan has enabled her son to open his own juice cart at another location in town. It also enabled Parvati to stock up on outsourced ingredients for her health drinks. Recently her son came down with an unknown virulent allergy attack and his business paid for his treatment. Such are the small but significant milestones that are achieved with our intervention.

There is a quiet strong poise in Parvati. She knows her estranged husband lives with her mother in law who is now ailing. We will never know if it is the vestige of a social conditioning or is it her large heart when she says “My husband will require shelter soon. My children do not want to have anything to do with him; I’ve lived these years of hard work and preserved my dignity, but were he to be without shelter, he could live here but on my terms “ She still wears  signs of marriage but she adds that she never thought of them as being safeguards with the status of being  “married” in her society “These flowers in my hair and the turmeric on my skin is a  continuity I maintain from what I got from my mother.” she adds with pride.

An encounter with Parvati cannot leave you unmoved. I’d say her countenance bears lightly the individual struggle she has lived for the most part of her life. Hers is also a heartening story of a family rallying around an abandoned mother of two little children. But is most importantly a story of a woman who has worked hard to be self sufficient and independent despite the odds.

-Sharana has changed the name of the Women in the above account as well as omitted some personal details to protect the identity of the family