Wednesday, 23 April 2014

My friend Eashwaramma (how the other half lives ... ) Part 1

Eashwaramma is our neighbour. She is in poor health and assetless. Initially the noticeable things about her are her emaciated look with one blind eye and the other eye hazy with developing cataract. Later when one knows her well, all that is noticeable is her decency, goodness, common sense and mental strength under soul destroying difficulties. Her mother died young and she moved from Ravanaiahgaripalle to Dinapeta to 
her grandmother. Then her grandmother got her married to her sister’s son and her troubles multipled rapidly after that. Her husband Seenaiah was a wastrel, and always suffered from poor health. Once because of him they had to pay a hefty fine of rupees ten thousand and were even asked to leave the village. 

She had a son and a daughter. Her daughter Kalpana (pronounced Kalapna!) is married to a very poor, squint eyed, half blind, unwell  man at Dinapeta. His eyes had got damaged because his mother had had a handful of gilledu (Calatropis gigantica) leaves when pregnant in an attempt to abort. He does not go for labour given his poor health, and finds even grazing cows difficult as he cannot see the thorns on the path. But he is an authority on the Mahabharata, and regales people with stories for hours. Kalpana had no child. Eashwaramma’s son and daughter-in-law Siddeshwara and Sarla, were living with her. The daughter-in-law got the son murdered when he got wise to her affairs. With this, Eashwaramma was shattered completely, her health dwindled away and her one good eye also became weaker. But she pulled herself together. Her two small grandchildren, Kavya, a girl, and Sasi, a boy, then aged five and three, were now dependent on her. Unable to bear the tragedy the family went to an oracle, a manifestation of Nalla Gangamma. There they were told that her dead son would be reborn as her daughter’s son. Kalpana, barren for many years, got pregnant. A grandson Mani was born, and to them it was the son reborn. But her daughter’s delivary in an allopathic hospital led to many complications, and after the ensueing operations she is now not able to work as of earlier, and finds even house chores difficult. Then Eashwaramma’s own husband, Seeniah, died and she was devastated. The sense of the two small children being dependent on her own indifferent health was too much for her. But she also pulled herself together and started attending to the grandchildren.

She is now grazing a cow and bringing up the two children, and sending them to the government school. The responsibility of earning is on her, and she says that as she is away the whole day on work the children simply run around in the hot sun the whole day and fall ill. She sometimes t
hinks of sending them to the Devasthanam welfare hostel at Tirupathi because she feels may not be able to take longtime responsibility for them given her poor health. She says that she heard that the hostel will even take on the marriage expenses of the granddaughter. But also she lives in fear of the children being spirited away by the mother’s family. Sometimes she gets very agitated when she does not see them when she comes back from work, and is unable to find them in this village. Worry for their wellbeing, financial difficulties and worry about their dependency on her wear her away.

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