Friday, 13 June 2014

My Children, My World

- Priyanka Venkatasubramanian
Surekha (second from the right) with her colleagues in Sant Krupa Hospital
Surekha Madhukar Paghare is a 28 year old widow from Manmand in Nasik. She joined the Bedside Assistance course in our Nashik Centre in December 2013 and is currently working as a trainee in Nashik’s Sant Krupa Hospital. She got married at the age of 15 when she had only finished her education up to the 9th Std. Within 2 years of her marriage she gave birth to her first child, a daughter, who is now 12. She also has another daughter aged 10 and a son aged 10.
Her life plunged towards a downward spiral when her husband died six years ago. She has been living with her parents ever since. She moved out of her in-laws’ house for reasons so grave that she finds it imprudent to reveal them. No one from her husband’s family offered her any support except for her brother-in-law’s children. She explains her decision to refuse their help, “I thought back then that my nephews would one day have a family of their own with their own responsibilities so I should learn to be independent from the very start.” At this juncture one cannot help but be in awe of the maturity and integrity she displayed even as a twenty two year old.

She had before her the daunting task of raising her three children single- handedly. One can get a glimpse of her resilient attitude during this tough phase of her life when she says,“ I had to become my children’s mother and father. I had to prove myself even though I am not educated.”

In the past six years she has undertaken numerous jobs to make the two ends meet like working as a sales person; going from door to door selling cookers, stoves etc. and working as domestic help. Her mother too worked as domestic help and contributed to the family income while her father succumbed to alcoholism. In the year before joining the bedside assistance course she was working as a mavshee or aayah in Sai Seva Hospital.

It was there that she heard about the course from another aayah and was encouraged by a nurse to take up this course since she had seen Surekha show a good understanding of the intricacies of a nurse’s work. Even though working as an aayah helped her earn a decent salary it did not help her earn respect. Her children would feel hesitant to speak about their mother’s profession. Moreover she was overburdened with work and was constantly bogged down by threats of cuts in her salary. All this prompted her to leave her job and take up the course. 
Her elder brother who felt that her decision to take up this course would spoil their family’s name expressed his strong disapproval. Even her in-laws, who had for years not met her or spoken to her , quickly came forward to vent their displeasure. However she paid no heed to these censures and decided to stand by her decision to join the course. “ I wanted to do it for my children so I went ahead and did it.” , she reminisces with a smile.

Soon her day was filled with a whirlwind of activities. She would wake up early in the morning, prepare food, send her children to school, and undertake an hour long journey by train to reach the training centre. She would return home by seven in the evening only to leave home again to work as domestic help in two houses. During her course it took her some time to get a good grasp on English but her teachers at Pratham encouraged her and were a constant support. Having completed her course successfully she is now in a happy place as a trainee.

Her joy knew no bounds when she was addressed as ‘Sister’ for the first time. Now her children have no hesitation whatsoever to reveal her profession and are proud of her. All this, she says, has been made possible because of Pratham. “Had it not been for Pratham I would have continued working as domestic help but it would not have been possible for me to earn the respect which I have now earned for myself.”

Priyanka is a second year student from Gujarat National Law University. She is currently interning with Pratham Institute and is working on gathering & sharing more such inspiring stories. 

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