‘Neither I have much to lose nor I was privileged enough to gain things in my life,’ Malti said with a bleak voice. Her pale face with dark circles around her eyes and a repulsion to smile typifies her sleepless nights and tussle to face atrocious reality.
It’s been more than 6 months since I met Malti during my survey work, but the story of her life shook me to my core and stayed with me so far and I believe it will stay with me forever. It terrorises me to think how hard it is for the unprivileged women to fight against the odds to keep their family safe all alone. In the case of Malti, she faced domestic violence and she lost the only one who ignited the fire in her to live.
Finally, I decided to pen down her story and put it up so that it reaches other people and they get to know the struggles of unprivileged women like Malti and how society fails to do them justice.
The Tale of Malti
A 43 years old lady sitting on a corner side of a road near the temple was selling tiny accessories. The small shop had no customers but neither was she shouting like other hawkers nor she had displayed those accessories attractively. I went up to her out of curiosity and looking at her gloomy face, it felt there must be many stories hidden behind her gloom.
I started taking her interview with a very jovial attitude and she was replying to my questions. Though I was not able to ask the reason for her melancholy, I kept beating around the bush with my questions giving indications for her to open up to me.
Finally, she opened about the reason behind her agony which she had carried her entire life.
Malti was married at a very young age to a drunkard and served him till his death considering it to be her dharma. She never questioned him or dared to stand for herself against the domestic violence she faced or how every day he snatched the hard-earned money from.
She worked as a house help in 6 houses and at night, she used to sell flowers to cater to the basic needs of living. Even during her pregnancy, she had to work day in, day out, just to survive. After her daughter was born, she finally got a reason to stay alive and be happy about.
But soon her daughter was diagnosed with a rare disease of the lungs which results in infection and jaundice. She didn’t break down though. She worked harder to give a proper education to her daughter and also arranged proper treatment for her.
Soon in few years, her husband was diagnosed with cancer and his treatment drained them of all the resources that she had been saving but he died. Both mother and daughter were yet living a happy life, defeating all the obstacles, they had each other to be happy.
But happiness is a myth and God was not too kind to her and soon misfortune summoned her. At the age of 17, Malti’s daughter was diagnosed with a malignant form of lung cancer. This news was Malti’s worst nightmare.
She decided to fight against the massacre of diseases to save her daughter that she did everything that can be done. She took her to the government cancer hospital but because of the lack of health care infrastructure, they couldn’t cure her. She used all her savings and got her admitted to a private hospital. Draining all her resources, still, she falls short of capital.
She went door to door for help but no one turned to help. She worked extra time to cater to the need. She performed all kinds of work which ranged from working as a daily wage worker in the construction site to being a sex worker.
In spite, of all struggle, she couldn’t afford her last few chemo-therapies and she saw her daughter die. She was the only reason which ignited the fire in her to live.
She had so many regrets for her incapability to save her daughter that I witnessed her anger on the system and how society treats the underprivileged.
‘Gareeb ki jaan ka koi kermat nahi hota hai’ she said, rubbing her tears.
From that instance, I could not stop questioning myself if this is the truth of the society that we live in?
Is it true that the society and system fail to promise well-being and dignity to the unprivileged?
In India, a huge number of people die due to poverty, hunger, and lack of free or affordable health infrastructure and inaccessibility of treatment. Food, shelter, water and air are the basic needs of human life and they lack all these basic needs of life. Urban slums face the worst of all cases. Destitution is a non-excludable attribute of ghettos.
The poor have consistently been compelled to live in the most exceedingly terrible housings around there. The statutory bodies and informal institutions implemented strategies to follow up the guidelines or get to complete the assigned works but they failed to empathize with the pain and suffering of these people.
Interviewing these underprivileged people made me understand their fierce attitude. All they ever wanted was societal acceptance and respect. Not getting that made them become sullen. Children from the ghettos were lacking the basic necessities for proper growth. The social reformists fail to approach the basic problems which are widening the gap between the rich and the poor.
Regarding the poor and underprivileged people as weak then segregating them and pushing them towards the cliff without providing them with the capabilities to grow and empower themselves will not solve any problem or do any betterment.
There are many more underprivileged women like Malti who are struggling all alone against the harsh waves of challenges in life, children like her daughter die without medical care, hunger, poverty, and acute diseases and lose the chance to fully rejoice the wonderful gift i.e. the human life. We somewhere fail to understand such a state of vulnerability brings a threat to the whole society and not just them.
The interview shook my conscience, knowing about their pain and suffering. The hope is lost for them. The first step towards betterment is to internalize their state of pain and suffering.
This piece may not have any data or numerical values but the attempt was to hold a true picture and a heart-breaking event from their life. Writing this piece was my duty towards Malti because I still remember, her talking to me gave her a slight ray of hope that people may still consider understanding her and their community and would extend a hand for help.
‘Didi agar ho sake to hum jaise ki liye kuch karna…’ Concluded Malti with a smile on her face and folding hands with a gesture of respect and love.