Hats Off To A Brave Woman
by Vaman Acharya
It was 6.30 a m. "Trin, Trin, Trin", there was a sound of calling bell followed by the knocking of our gate continuously. Thereafter shouting 'come fast, come fast'. All these actions were over within 60 seconds.
Everybody in my house knew that flower vendor Shivamma was waiting outside to deliver the flowers. We used to get the flowers daily from her. On the last day of the month we settle her bill. I was very much impressed to see the hard work of 75 year old Shivamma. It was going on for the last 10 years. Her simplicity and hard work impressed me a lot. Even at this advanced age, she was active and working hard from morning to evening. She is a flower vendor selling varieties of flowers like rose, motiya, karminee and plumeria to the door steps of the residents,shop owners and car drivers. She was doing this job since a long time.
MY experience with her was memorable. She never tolerated even one minute of delay. Realising her urgency, we never loose our patience. We take a little more time to collect the flowers, not due to laziness but to reach the gate, we have to pass through two doors. The main door is locked during the night. Unlocking the main door to open main gate, it takes at least two minutes.
One day, I asked her, “Shivamma, why are you making such a hurry? Don't you have the patience to wait for a while?"
Her reply was really heart touching.
This story was narrated by her, not in one sitting. Whenever she got leisure time, she used to continue the story. I summed up all the episodes.
“Sir, I get up at 5 a m and arrange the varieties of flowers in a separate plastic bags. Keep other materials like blade, thread and small plastic bags. I keep everything in a bamboo basket and carry on my head. I take precautionary measure to put folded cloth below the basket. This would give me great relief for my head. On the previous day afternoon, I go to the wholesale flower market at a distance of 5 kilometers and buy the required flowers. I return in the evening. I take light food at 8 p m. I go to bed invariably at 9.30 p m. In the morning, when I get ready come outside to catch a city bus. I have to wait for 15 minutes to 30 minutes for the arrival of the bus. I have to spend another half an hour in the bus to reach the
locality. My customers are family members, shop keepers,and car owners. I am covering two residential lanes, one small commercial lane and a particular spot on the main road. Most of them buy flowers for adoring God. It takes me two hours to finish the day's job. If I held up in one place, my further work would be adversely affected. Though I am illiterate, I know how to see the time in the watch. One of my customers gifted me this watch. In rainy season, I remain in my home."
“What about your morning tea and food?”
I observed her eyes were fully wet.
“Sir, my only daughter, left me at this old age. She is living with her kids and husband. She rarely visits my house and enquire. I take tea and food in the roadside hotel. I reach home in the afternoon. In the evening I try to cook rice, ragi muddi. Some times, my neighbours give me food. I am a poor woman. As long as I am alive, I will struggle hard to earn my livelihood. I am prepared to starve, but never beg. My self prestige is most important."
“Where do you get flowers? How do you buy?Are you making payment by cash or credit?" I asked.
“Sir, I take the flowers by both means. I know the flower merchants since a long time. They have full confidence in me. Even if I clear the dues very late, they don't bother. I don't have any problem with them."
I was stunned to hear her daily schedule.
I again asked her, “Do you have any other income to support?”
“I am getting a pension of Rupees five hundred per month from the Government under the ‘Jeevan Sandhya Pension Scheme.”
“I further asked, “How did you get this pension sanctioned?”
She was laughing and replied, “Sir, one of the gentlemen like you helped me get this pension. At the sanction level, I approached several government officials continuously for two years. I got it sanctioned only after paying the bribe. It was deducted in my arrears. During this time, I suffered a lot.
"You did mistake by paying bribe. You should have protested by reporting to higher authorities."
She replied, "I am illiterate and don't have strength to take up the issue."
I felt very much to hear her heart touching story. I asked myself a question, "Why government officials demand bribe from a poor woman?"
I did not get the answer.
We have to learn a lesson from the story of Shivamma.
Hats off to a brave woman Shivamma! ***