Sunday, June 26, 2011

An eternal S-walk.....

No, this is not about the Slutwalk likely to happen in our capital.

This is more about , my household help S., and her eternal trudge , to get her life organized, so her children can get what she never got.

I've blogged several times about S. She is my household help for the last 25 years. Sometimes I think she is a lady ahead of her times. Illiterate, but very smart in a native kind of gutsy way, she was married off early, had 3 sons , 1 daughter, all the while suffering at the hands of a drunkard, violent, useless husband. Her parents, went and brought home their daughter (with kids) and gave her a life. Very revolutionary for those days.

Today she has a 2.5 room very small tenement which is her own, and she, her 3 sons, 1 daughter (all adults), three daughter-in-laws, and 3 grandchildren, stay there, possibly in willful dynamic equilibrium. She educated her kids, who now work. Her daughters-in-law are both more educated than their respective husbands, no one discusses egos, because everyone is so happy and busy with life and S. is very proud of them.

Very clearly, this matchbox of a house is not going to be enough . The grandchildren are growing up. Recently, S heard about a special government scheme for folks from the Scheduled Caste Category (she belongs) , where, those below a certain yearly income could register for and be allotted, a tenement which would be heavily subsidized by the government.

The main thing you needed for this is a "caste certificate". She has hers, because her late father, who worked in an academic institute as a mason's helper, was very aware of such things, and got hers made, a long time ago. The main thing required there is details about the father. Amazingly , no caste information about the mother is asked for.

S., has put in her application for the tenement because she qualifies income wise. She now wants her adult children to apply, particularly her daughter, who is back after being cheated in a marriage, and now works in a women's hostel cafeteria.

S's children studied up to the 7th grade elsewhere away from Mumbai. The thing is to get their school leaving records which might have a record of caste. They also need their father's details. A father, who has not bothered to look up his children for the last 20 years.

S, needs to go to Pune to make some application , and then go to her husband's village, to check out records with the local authority, the Talathi. Records may or may not be there. She doesn't think her husband will help or will even be bothered. The Talathi will probably have to be paid a price for allowing folks to peruse his records. S knows all this because a relative did this kind of thing in his village.

And so S., suddenly disappeared last week, without informing me , and landed back over the weekend. She occasionally does this after informing me , when she has to attend a court case in Pune, where she is trying to oust a fellow who is occupying a room belonging to her in Pune, and claims it is his, and she has a lady lawyer helping her.

When she told me about this tenement scheme and the caste certificates, I had asked her to check with the same lawyer lady , for help regarding this. Last week, S., took that to heart,and rushed off with her own documents to check with the lawyer. She particularly wants her daughter to apply for a place, so she has some security , post-S.

After doing her own S-walk, nay, hard S-trudge, to some old schools and stuff, she has convinced the lawyer to handle this for her and put in applications for caste certificates for the children. Which will mean lawyer fees, some more trips on demand to Pune, but this is any day better than a lone woman battling out the bureaucracy in the village. Those of us who she assists in housework on a daily basis, have agreed to help her out financially with the fees and stuff.

The irony is, that the mother who gave birth , nurtured, and educated her children single handedly working 7 days a week, 365 days a year does not count here at all. Else the children could have got their certificates based on hers. The government in all its patriarchal "wisdom" insists on the father's caste certificate. And here is a good for nothing father, who really doesn't deserve either S., or the wonderful children.

I hear about people who got false certificates made to enable college admissions in a special quota, and I recently read about the false caste certificate scam in New Delhi, where people paid 5 lakhs (5,00,000) for such false certificates, and supposedly the perpetrators of this scam have been arrested. I wonder if anyone even asks for the father's details here, other than name.

And then I wonder, why the mother's name and certificate is not enough in such cases. Her children work in places where missing a day means a cut in salary. Much as they want they cannot accompany her everywhere.

A President, a ruling party chairperson, an opposition leader in Parliament, all women. Four Chief Minsiters of states, all women. Day in and day out they spout forth on corruption, power, scams, and when they have finished talking about large sums of black money, they raise the gas prices and talk about the Aam Aadmi (~common man).

I wish someone thinks about the ordinary woman, makes laws that are useful to her, and educates her truthfully about them.

I wonder if I have my information wrong. I know that today, particularly for schools admissions and stuff a mother's signature is acceptable and on par with a father's. Maybe there has been an update on the rule for caste certificates.

Until then, the S-walk continues, the saree wrapped on both shoulders, pallu covering her head, changing buses and trains in the thick of rain and traffic, standing endlessly outside government offices, with papers in an old cellophane bag, accompanying the lawyer lady, doing affidavits, giving a thumbprint whenever asked.

So many S-walks over the years. So many obstacles.

But she learns from each.

She holds her head high. This is one walk I support.


  1. i have been reading about S all these months in your posts. my respect for her keeps going high every time. kudos to her and women like her to have the courage to deal with all these obstacles and still carry on their lives with so much dignity! we have so much to learn from them...

  2. I agree with quaintkal, I respect S and women like her who have so much courage and willpower.. and who ensure that their kids have a better and secure future than they had!
    Its ironic that many middle class people who have a much more comfortable life just like to pass the buck and blame others for any problems they or their kids have in the life.. People like S are the ones who can bring about a gradual change in the society.. I hope her children respect her and imbibe her strengths..

  3. My 'namaskar' to S. Would love to meet the gutsy lady next time I come over!

  4. thats one S-walk!!! she is a great lady

  5. Women have always had to fight for every justice that they had been denied. Women didn't get the vote until my grandmother was a mother. But strong women like S. do change the system eventually.

  6. A lady to admire. Hope her and her families needs are soon fulfilled

  7. All the very best to S.
    And yes, the mother's information ought to be legally valid. In our lifetimes? I hope so.

  8. My father (who is a lawyer) had blogged about this caste issue a while ago and I'd raised the same question there:

    If S needs legal help, he might be able to help. He's in Chennai though.

  9. GB Thanks so much for the link. I did write in, and have already received a response ! So grateful .

  10. quaintkal, Kinmin, Sandhya, R's Mom, Darlene, Barbara, Dipali Thank you., and thanks to GB 's comment above, I have been able to contact someone who can give us some very valuable advice. Hopefully things may work out for S.

  11. PS: Love the header pic- your house? Most inviting.

  12. I support this S-Walk too! She amazes me everytime! Kudos to her!

    Luvvv ur header :)

  13. That S sounds like some kind of woman. Good for her and so nice for you and the others she works for to help her with fees!

  14. Congratulations :) This post in one of the winners of 'Tejaswee Rao Blogging Awards - 2011' (TRBA 2011). We would like to create an ebook with all the winning entries in 47 categories on Feminism and Gender Issues in India (and one category on Animals Rights). Please do let us know if you are fine with your winning post/s being included in this ebook. ( Please click here to let us know).