THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Clad in a rose-coloured saree, Sheeja P S was anxiously waiting to hear the message to ignite fire on the hearth to start preparing pongala. The 40-year-old was seen on the premises of Arogya Bhavan near MG Road where she had found herself a little space to offer ‘therali’ and ‘mandaputtu’ - jaggery and coconut sweet - to the deity. For so many years, she has been a regular at Attukal Pongala. But Sheeja has never seen either the hearth before her or the crowds of devotees on the much-anticipated day. The woman, deprived of vision, arrives with her mother, aunt and sister-in-law to offer pongala for Attukal Devi. While sitting before the ‘pandara aduppu’ with her hands folded together in reverence, all she is aware of are the prayers to Attukalamma that fill her mind and her little big dreams she wish to fulfill.
“It is a gratifying experience for me to come and offer pongala to Amma. I wish, someday, she will bless me so that I gain eyesight to see my Devi”, she says. Though Sheeja could not offer pongala near the Attukal temple, she is satisfied about being able to do whatever little she can. “It is an arduous process to reserve a place near the temple in advance to offer pongala. Moreover, the return from there will not be easy as the crowds will be too much for me,” she explains. By the time, she had scrapped coconut and was getting ready to mix the ingredients in the pot to prepare the dishes.
Right from her birth, Sheeja was visually challenged. Her parents, Purushothaman and Santha, had tried their best to secure eyesight for their daughter. But her optic nerves could not be corrected. Sheeja accustomed herself to the world of darkness and learned to live facing all odds. “She performs her chores all alone. Even for washing clothes and preparing food, she does not seek our help”, her mother says.
Soon after finishing graduation from the Government College for Women in the city, Sheeja found a means for livelihood on her own. She opened a telephone booth at Kallara with the financial assistance received from the Kerala Federation of the Blind, a bank loan and the bits and bytes shelled out by her dear and near ones. Though the centre ran for years, the death knell rang around four months ago. “A technical error happened with the entire system all of a sudden. Apart from this, challenges caused by the proliferation of mobile phones too was on the rise. I decided that it is better to pull down the shutters than running a non-profitable business,” she says.
With two brothers married and settled down, the only income of the three-member family comprising her parents and the unmarried Sheeja is the paltry amount her septuagenarian mother earns out of vegetable selling. Sheeja, who has passed degree with first class expects that Amma’s blessings could help her in securing a government job.