June 30th, 2017
Meet Marakka, our sanitary worker, Pourakarmika, in ward 178. Our first meeting, three years ago wasn’t the most pleasant. Annoyed by a growing garbage dump close to our house, I had picked up an argument with her. Since then things have changed. And it has mostly to do with an eight year old Mahalakshmi and her determination to survive against all odds.
Mahalakshmi is the daughter of a local rag picker couple, both addicts and physically abusive. Unable to take their abuse anymore, and in the fear that she might be sold for money, one evening Mahalakshmi ran and took refuge in Marakka’s home, whom she knew as someone she could trust and love. Marakka herself has two sons and a few grandchildren, all of who live in a cramped house. Mahalakshmi refused to leave Marakka’s side. Marakka informed her parents, who threatened her and said that they would file a case of kidnapping.
Around this time Marakka told me about her dilemma and asked for help. I made a few calls and discovered that there was no way Marraka could legally adopt the child. Putting the child in an orphanage was also complex, since she is technically not an orphan. The parents needed to be handled first. We called for a meeting with the parents. Mahalakshmi refused to even look at her parents; her mother sobbed, but was visibly drunk, bruised and distraught. Her father chose to stand a few meters away. We spoke to the mother and made her understand that we are only trying to find a safe space for the child, and not take her away. The child obviously wanted a more stable life, wanted to be in school like the others. The mother looked helpless, yet nodded quietly.
Today, Mahalakshmi is in a safe space in a hostel, few kilometres outside Bangalore. Her five year old brother Dhanu has also joined Mahalakshmi. They go to school regularly and visit Marakka during vacations. Marakka takes care of both the children, visits them regularly and makes sure their basic needs are met. A few of us pitch in to help her out. Though initially the parents kept in touch, over the past few months, we have lost track of them.
A few months ago when I saw her talk about the children with so much love in her eyes, I asked her what made her do it. Why did you take Mahalakshmi into your fold, despite opposition from your family? She said she had lost a daughter too. When she was eight years old, her daughter had disappeared, never to be found.
Today, given the crisis in the employment of Pourakarmika, Marakka is unsure if she will have a job in a few months. She already has two months’ salary due. Even then she is here six in the morning working till two in the afternoon every day. That takes a lot of motivation.
There are many fights women like Marakka fight for themselves, for their families and for the strangers they open their hearts to. More strength to them and more strength to you, my dear Marakka.
In the pic: Marakka as she prepares to meet Mahalakshmi and Dhanu with a bag full of goodies.
Meet Marakka, our sanitary worker, Pourakarmika, in ward 178. Our first meeting, three years ago wasn't the most…
Story By – Lakshmi Karunakaran
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