“When you are born into a lower-caste family, life automatically becomes a strenuous journey. Especially without quality education and exposure to the outside world, children here grow up with the notion that things will always remain carefree like their younger days, until adulthood quickly fastens its shackles. And starting there, the shock and responsibility to sustain becomes so much that they don’t even get time to look back.
And in that very sense, I’ve seen my own path panning out unexpectedly right from my twenty-first year. Born in Perambalur to a family of wood cutters, my childhood was devoid of means to a good life and our scenario saw me going out in search of work as the eldest son. There was no other way, you see! Since schooling itself was a luxury that I had no access to, my only available alternative was to toil!
Here again, with the baggage of an entire family resting on my shoulders, I didn’t have a moment to spare. So I went blindly by the advice of a few trustable people and shifted to Koyembedu in 1994. I started out as a tea assistant and after hopping through a couple of odd jobs, I finally gathered enough money to slowly build my life as a pull-cart vendor.
A very small job indeed but that’s all I knew- to transport piles of gunny bags and cartons across the lengths of the market! Of course, there have been so many times when I wanted to stop but when you’re a daily wage worker, retirement again is an impossible feat. It’s a concept exclusive to the rich and people like me have to slog day-in and day-out, till our last breath with very little to save and savour on eventually!
The only thing I can do now is empower my daughter towards a better future. I really hope she in turn sees the plight of her ageing father and learns to be financially independent. It’s more important for her to stand tall on her own feet and not be dependent on any man, even her future husband.
And going by that vision, I’ve scraped off all my savings and made my daughter, Madhi study computers in our village. Whenever I get the chance to travel, I can’t but wonder with astonishment, on how she understands all that technology. She goes about typing something in her laptop and it often intrigues me for I feel I wouldn’t be able to do it even in a thousand years. But jokes aside, the twinkle in her eye somewhere gives me confidence that she will uplift our clan in the years to come. In the end that would be the greatest gift I could’ve ever wished for, as a father!”