Friday, 25 July 2014


Redima, Redipa and Redi Prasanna - their leaky hut is on a rock and it commands the most breathtaking view of hills. The children have tied their mother’s old saree on the tree opposite, and that swings them up to heaven. Her mother Rajamma, sweet natured and pretty, always has a smile on her face. If asked, she says that her husband works hard and brings money home to the family, though he also drinks. Actually he also beats her up badly when he's drunk.

Their house is just outside the main hamlet. They are the Madiga community, which is the lowest even among the dalits. Her father, a habitual drinker, who has antagonized most people there through his drunken fights.  They were barely ekeing out a living. Then he brought along a second wife into the same one roomed hut. Now there is one more boy child. 

Redima has a supply of tales. She says how she found liquor bottles hidden in the haystack, and it was her grandmother who had hidden them there! Her father and his mother, her grandmother, both seem to drink like fish ! But Redima loves her father, and he dotes on her. The father weeps when she leaves for the hostel. When I was telling Nandini that her father doted on her, Redima piped up saying that her father also dotes  on her. 

Redima  is one of the most cheerful, bright and pleasant children. The mother begged me to find Redima a hostel when the child entered sixth saying that the family situation was so bad in every sense that the child would be best away from home. We found an SC hostel where we knew the warden as a kind woman, and the child adapted, and managed to stay among the top scorers in class. But she used to have blinding headaches and unbearable stomach aches, and she came to Chennai with us once to be treated by Dr. Girija. She recovered considerably, but the poor and spicy food in the SC hostel took its toll, and again her mother said her headaches had returned and she was unable to remember what she studied. I sent her more medicines ... what more could I do ... she is in her 10th now.

Redipa, is one of most lovable children I have known, and says his ista devata is Narasimhalu Swami. He has had these unaccounted fainting spells that would not respond to any medicine or other treatments. The village finally put it down to possession by the spirit of a dead girl and I put down to severe malnourishment. 

The 5km walk to school daily and back takes it toll on his less-than-healthy body, and his legs ache every night. We got him a cycle, and that helps a little.

June 2016

I called up Redima. She sounded dull. When she came to Chennai last month there was the gash in her head that had been caused by her father in a drunken frenzy. God knows what she was facing, and my heart ached. The demon of drink has to go. When i see upper class friends enjoying a drink, and thereby continuing to give value and credibility to drinking, I wonder. If i ask they say, "The poor should not drink." I have stopped commenting.

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