A common story

Every morning, as part of the routine, seventy year old Bhagwati or as we fondly know her as Amma, has been pushing a vegetable cart up and down the colony road. A petite frame, a frail built, an arched back and sunken eyes; Bhagwati comes across as a tired and retired lady, with many a burden on her shoulders. Well at seventy, when knees give up and the heart sighs along, Bhagwati should be resting and not crying out louder each day to lure out the sleep deprived residents with her fresh, handpicked vegetables.

Bhagwati has been pushing the same cart, on the same path since thirty years, the first push attributed to the sudden loss of her husband within ten years of her marriage. Unfortunately, most women in India, especially belonging to the economically weaker sections, usually take up such tasks due to urgent causes. Bhagwati’s example highlights the need to provide job opportunity and security to women especially from poorer backgrounds.

Born in Agra, Bhagwati migrated to Delhi after her marriage around forty years ago. Her daily routine since then has comprised of travelling to Okhla Mandi by rickshaw to handpick vegetables in bulk and returning back hands full to south Delhi, where she makes her sales in the Saket region.

Struggles have been a part of Bhagwati’s chapter. With the early demise of her husband, the responsibility of her household and her children fell on her shoulders. The regular job is hence a necessity.

Grief took a toll on her again last month, when she lost her only son to a respiratory disease, leaving behind three grandchildren who are yet to complete their graduation, directly dependent on their grandmother’s income. On an average she makes around three hundred per day and on a good day she even makes up to thousand. Nothing compared to the dreams she has for her grandchildren.

Having seen the worst, Bhagwati aspires to educate her grandchildren so that they never have to face the wrath of poverty. Her eldest grandson is pursuing a graduate degree from Bhagat Singh College, Delhi University and her granddaughter goes to the School of Open Learning while the youngest is preparing for twelfth class examinations. Though Bhagwati is able to earn enough to fulfill the basic needs, she fears her failing health and dwindling days might prove as hindrances in her grandchildren’s academic pursuits. Hence, everyday she dons an invisible cape, inhales as much strength as she can in her shrunken lungs and gives out her loudest cry.

I have, my whole life, woken up to the musical appeal of Amma. She has been that shade that spreads calm and provides respite. Her blessing have provided a protection and a balm; her enquiry about my health has always painted a smile on my face and her loving heart has always bid me farewell, from the first day at kindergarten to my last day of graduation. I still, every morning and without fail, am greeted by a gentle blessing. And everyday, I notice the wrinkles and the lethargy a little more.

Amma is a woman of substance, zeal, endeavor and strength. And falls no short of a hero for me. I have grown looking up to her and now though my hugs encompass her completely and her reduced self looks up to adore my smiling face, her will is remarkable and yet very grand.

Bhagwati or as I fondly remember, Amma, is nothing less than a superhero. She is also a sample story for all those who suffer with similar ordeals. Amma just happened to be known and hence I could share her story, while many unsung heroes remain invisible. But the capes still flutter and all that we lack is the sight to recognise the power, people like Bhagwati exemplify.