As she sweeps the dust off the Besant Nagar 7th avenue stretch, she glances up at the white spires of Annai Velankanni church with a glint of yearning. Fraying ends of a saree, greying hair and an unmistakable streak of exhaustion on her face — Apoorvam is an earnest picture of a daily wage earner.
Although having just recently braved the fury of the floods, she is back on her feet and chats with the other contract cleaners as she sweeps the road ahead of Christmas. “My home was flooded, but I have seen tougher times so we coped somehow. It’s nice to finally be able to see some degree of celebration after a bad spell,” she says, pointing to the shops selling seasonal Christmas wares.
Being around the church brought back memories for this mother of three, who talks about how bells mesmerised her at a very young age. “I used to frequent them (churches) a lot. My parents were not pleased though,” chuckles the 47-year-old with a look of nostalgia.
Eben during troubled times, she found herself frequenting the streets of her hometown Cuddalore looking for a church — a habit that continued after she moved to Chennai. “My husband used to beat me for breaking tradition, but I decided to live as I felt was right.” It was this independent streak that led her to actively push her children through their education, the oldest of whom she declares proudly, is “married and settled”.
As her fellow workers heave and shovel the dust off the corners, Apoorvam describes the year-end celebrations at a Parry’s corner church in vivid detail as she recounts the years. “There were lights everywhere and the streets are packed with people. I especially enjoy the carols,” she beams. Though her paltry monthly income of `2,500 barely keeps her and two of her younger kids afloat, she still harbours hope that she will be in the thick of celebration, not just holding the broomstick as merry shoppers pass by.
“I want my son to become an engineer so that he can have a comfortable life. Maybe then we can exchange gifts for Christmas,” she adds with a smile.