Penned By Board Member Alo Pal

“Why didn’t she give her 12th exam?” I asked Anbu, who had come to me that morning with Marie Josephine. “I needed to earn money fast Madam” replied Marie Josephine instead. Orphaned at 12 Marie has since lived with her grandmother and needed to be solvent quickly as they survived on her grandmother’s old age pension and housemaid wages.

– Do you need to pay rent?

– No Madam, it is my grandmother’s own house.

– So that is at least not a problem.

– Big problem madam!

– Why?

– My uncle and his wife want their share of the property and don’t want me to live there.

So given these trying circumstances Marie Josephine was enrolled in a course of Nursing Care assistant after her 10th, but unfortunately this did not pay too well, and she requested for further upskilling with Sharana. She was then enrolled in a course of basic cosmetology. No wonder! When she sat in front of me for the session, I remember thinking “how well-groomed she looks”

– So, you work at a beauty parlour?

– No madam, I freelance.

– How did you build your client base?

– Instagram madam, I have 600 followers, I’ve been acquiring clients via word-of-mouth publicity. With the support of my friends and growing social media base, I’ve seen significant growth. Here’s my card.

And she gives me her card that she has designed herself. I also go through her Instagram account. From professional, to bridal to a very interesting look called “god face” I look at her work and her. What a confident self-assured young lady she’d become and yet a few years back she had survived a suicide attempt swallowing phenyl in her college, humiliated by her uncle who had abused her physically mercilessly earlier that morning even as she was about to bathe and appear for her exams.

– Don’t ever think of that again.

– No madam, I will work, earn money, help my grandmother.

– Will you move out now that you earn well?

– No madam, my grandmother’s house is my house too, I am not afraid anymore. I will not move out. I am trying to get a job abroad but I will come back to my grandmother and take care of her.

Today, three years after she started her business, she continues professional caregiving in the mornings and goes to the homes of her clients for her work as a beautician and makes about 25 thousand a month. A very far cry from the helpless child who lost her mother to jaundice at 4 and her alcoholic father at 12, living under the shadow of fear of a menacing uncle who found her very existence an impediment to his claim on his mother’s property. Sharana has been instrumental not only in providing her education and financing the vocational training courses but counselling her through the tough lows of life. She’s self-assured today thanks to Sharana holding the outstretched hand of help when she was little. Sharana is still her place of solace when she feels down.

As she gets up to leave, Marie Josephine looks at my hair and says

– Next time madam I will colour it for you.

– Sure!

She leaves and I have on my lips a smile.