CHENNAI: I was married at the age of 14, and I had to face a lot of difficulties. My husband abandoned me. He settled down with his new, fifth wife. At that time, I didn’t know much about marriage and divorce, so I accepted all the hurdles that came my way. I have two daughters, and both are married. Three years back, my son, Vijaykanth died in a train accident at Jeeva Station near Perambur. I now live with my daughter-in-law and two granddaughters in the congested streets of Pulianthope. My family survives on the petty income that I earn through polishing shoes.
I worked as a housekeeper at the Central Station but the income they offered was not sufficient. I used to prepare tiffin and sell when I got married. But both my eyes were operated due to the excess heat and I was advised by the doctors to discontinue this work else it would affect my mental health, too. I am the man and also the woman of my family. I can also go to the extent of begging money for my family. I used to talk to passersby and polish their shoes, collect old items and shoes from the junk dealer, polish and stitch them and sell them.
I start working at noon and reach home by 10 pm. I earn `10 by polishing one pair of shoes and `100 by selling one pair of new shoes. I don’t have any other job nor do I have any well-wishers who can help me in this difficult phase of life. If I miss even one day of my work we don’t get one square meal that day. In a day, I earn `600-`700 by selling six to seven pair of shoes. I borrow funds from various people to meet the daily expenses of my family and pay them back in installments. I even talked to the school authorities where the kids study and explained to them about our financial status and asked for assistance in paying the school fees in installments.
There are other needs like new clothes, uniform, books, school fees and household items for which I take loans. Sumadhi, my daughter-in-law, was initially restricted from going out and confined within the four walls of the home by her husband so she isn’t aware of the routes in Chennai. She is not able to go out for work and support the family financially so she stays at home and looks after the kids.
There are other problems I have to face like the government officials sometimes order the cobblers who set up their shops on the platform as it makes it difficult for the pedestrians to move by. In spite of all the problems, my only aim is to see my kids grow up and lead a successful life, and to live without any burden of settling any kind of loans. I want to live my life peacefully.