Friday, 25 July 2014

Rediamma


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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 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 and also beats her up badly when he's drunk.  The mother runs the household by going for coolie work. There are three children to feed. The mother needs medical care, but has neither time nor money to attend to that. The mother's pleasent smile never leaves her face, and than has helped the children last through all difficulties. 

Image may contain: 4 people, outdoor Their house is just outside the main hamlet. They are the Madiga community, which is the lowest even among the dalits. Her father with his habitual drinking 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. She was my daughters classmate till class 5 in the village school. 

After her 5th, her mother begged us to find a hostel, as the house situation with drunkeness and poverty was disabling she said. A friend helped us locate the hostel in Chandragiri, and the hostel warden was a kind lady who mentored Redima, and whom we stayed in close touch with for a year till she got transferred. There Redima used to worry about home all the time, but gradually settled in. But right through she has suffered from splitting headaches. Medicines helped only partly because the cause was deeper than just physical. But she studied hard and was always among the top three in her 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, her brother, is one of most lovable children I have known. He has had  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.

2017


The girl was wanting to finish her 12th, study to become a nurse or an ayurvedic doctor, support her mother. But as her father drunkenness got worse, he started beating up his daughter. The family unravelled, the mother got her married away to her brother. Even before the child finished her 12th. It was all done in secrecy. We knew too late.


We could do nothing more.

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