ERNAKULAM: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade! And life has been serving 43-year-old Mary Sheeba of Pancode in Ernakulam with lots of lemons. Undeterred, Mary is forging ahead, aided by sheer determination and the will to work hard.“Life hasn’t been a bed of roses for me,” said Mary, mother of two kids -- a daughter and a son. “I have none to help me out and was struggling to make ends meet when a debilitating disease called fibromyalgia struck.”
Explaining the medical condition, she said, “Fibromyalgia is a disorder characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue, sleep, memory and mood issues. There is no cure for it. But the symptoms can be controlled through medication.”
Before the disease struck, she was a fashion designer. But the condition made it impossible for her to continue. Her doctor, however, suggested growing plants. Both as a means to alleviate stress and as a livelihood. “Since gardening has always been a passion for me, I didn’t need much convincing. I loved growing pathumani plants (portulaca grandiflora or table rose),” she said.
Mary started with 50 varieties of table roses. Now, she has 100 varieties, besides 180 varieties of begonias and 15 varieties of hybrid lotus, among other plants. She has set up all these in the rented house where she and her kids live.
“It has been 17 years since I began living in rented houses. When I started my pathumani nursery, many people helped me. They came forward sponsoring pots. However, as soon as my small nursery takes shape, the owners would get jittery and ask me to move. It is tough. I incur a huge loss when we move. Say, if I have 1,000 pots, during transportation, at least 200 break. And I have to begin all over again,” she said.
But she is not averse to working hard. “All I need is three cents of land to set up a shack which can serve as a home for me and my kids. Then I won’t have to move from rental to rental and will be able to concentrate on my nursery. The nursery as such is bringing in a steady income, but I dream of the day when it will serve to provide livelihoods to other women like me,” Mary said.
She said getting a vacant plot for a nursery is not as difficult as finding a home. “The nursery on the land next to my current house was given to me by Hema, who had come offering help after hearing about my plight. I have set up 1,000 grow bags of pathumani plants, sunflowers and five types of amaranthus,” she said.