"I Would Like to Die a Peaceful Death"
Jaya’s eyes are strong and clear; her smile, when she flashes it, is bright. She gives the appearance of one with great inner strength, and when you hear her story, you understand how that strength was given ample opportunity to develop.
Jaya is in her late 40s. She is in the best work situation of her life; she is a four-kilometer bus ride from an IT Park in Chennai, in Tamil Nadu, India, where she works as a housekeeper, mopping and dusting and cleaning. She regularly swings from the 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift to the noon to 8 p.m. shift. She doesn’t mind swinging back and forth; she is happy for the regular work.
“I make 7200 rupees a month,” she says. “My rent is 3500 a month.”
When asked if her income, which translates to about $109 USD per month, is enough, she shrugs and gives us a matter-of-fact look. “It is not sufficient,” she says, “but what to do?”
That is a question she is tired of asking. She has probably asked herself that question thousands of times, until she tired of asking it, because there were no clear answers.
Now, her answer is this: She gets up, she goes to work, she comes home, she watches television. She is attracted to the shows that are sad, that show people in desperate situations.
That is the kind of life that she relates best to.
“I do not want to live a long life,” she says.
Reshaping Her Destiny
Rahamat’s destiny did not start out so pretty.
She was married at age 12 to a man twice her age. Still a child herself, she soon gave birth to two sons and two daughters. Her husband, whom she says “did not have good habits,” died at age 40, when she was 27.
Put yourself in her shoes: 27, four children (the oldest being 11), a fifth grade education, no money to her name, no job, no one to help her, no way to raise her children.
And, she thought to herself, this is no way to raise my children. I must do something.
Relationships Create Opportunity
Photo: Alpana Aras-King| www.alpanaaras.com
One day his flooring job took him to an NGO, Guild of Service, in Chennai. While he was prepping a floor before installing laminate flooring at the NGO, he was shocked to see Mr. Selvarasan walk past. His former grade-school teacher noticed him, stopped, and talked to him, catching up on what had happened to him since he left school to go to work.
“How do you like installing floors?” Mr. Selvarasan asked.
“I am glad for the work,” Venkat answered.
Mr. Selvarasan smiled. “But you always loved learning, didn’t you?”
“Yes, sir. But now I work.”
Mr. Selvarasan stared at Venkat for some time, a slight smile on his face. “I have an idea for you,” he said at last. “One where you could work while engaging your mind in what you love: learning.”
Venkat’s eyes came alive at that. “What do you mean?”
“We need help here,” said Mr. Selvarasan, who helped out part-time at the NGO. “We need tutors for our after-school program, for one thing. We could use a person like you in many areas. Are you interested?”
“Yes, sir, I am very interested!”
We haven't put all of our stories up yet but come back for more! We will be adding new stories periodically. If you want the full experience, you can buy the book at the below link. Check below to see some photos from the book and some of the many faces included in the complete text!