5th of July, 2015.
I saw her diligently sweeping the floor of the temple. I noticed her in the rush and between a crowd of around 500 people, ensuring that kids don’t leave their parents or get lost. I noticed that she was the lady who facilitated the great Puja of Radhe Krishna by cleaning dishes and weaving garlands of red and pink roses for the deity.
She is beautiful, I noticed, ages of experience had added curls to her cheeks and forehead, but the calmness on her face, that smile was contagious. I smiled. She wore a maroon saree and blouse. She was simple, not at all dressed to impress but she was elegant, in her own ways. She finally saw me looking at her and smiling. She looked at me with confused and unsure eyes. She looked to her back and then to her sides to finally ensure that she is the one whom I am smiling at. The doubt on her face now morphed into lines of confused smile. I approached her. She continued with sweeping the temple floor while not ceasing to smile at me.
I asked, ” Chachi, what is your name?”
Her brows climb up in confusion again, “Swahili Devi”, she says.
I kept on smiling at her in my characteristic way and so did she, eventhough she was curious.
The bells started ringing. It was time for the evening Puja.
“Chachi, I want to talk to you, can you come out with me?”
“I am sorry but I have some work, I can talk to you only after the Puja”
I aquienced with a smile. She went forth to hand over the garland to the Pundit. He took it from her and then she was asked to stand far away. She immersed herself in the arti song and I immersed myself in looking at her.
Swahili Devi is a mother of a fifteen year old daughter and also a widow. She was around three year old when she was married to her husband who died at the a young age due to excessive alcoholing. She wanted to study, she wanted to become an officer who wears a black blazer. She wanted to learn to talk in English and travel in a car and as early as that age in a rag picker family, she had such dreams!
The dreams that were never fulfilled like the dreams of other girls in her village when she was married. Girls of her village were not allowed to hatch even simple dreams because they are married, very young.
She got pregnant with her first and only girl when she was sixteen. Her husband died shortly after that. Little money in form of silver jewelry that she had were used in death rights of her husband. And she was left with nothing but tears, two stomachs to fill compounded with the problem of illiteracy.
She remembers the day when a man named Kartar Singh came to her at that time offering her a handsome price money for working as a sex worker but she denied against that easy money and today she is proud of her decision.
Amrita, her daughter who is fifteen now, goes to an English medium school, “St Angels”, studying in grade 10. She has always topped her class and aims to become a social entrepreneur. I wanted to meet her but she was in her school.
Swahili does have serious financial problems, times come when she could not clear Amrita’s fee for months but it passes, owing to tremendous courage that is a part of both Swahili’s and Amrita’s personality.
Swahili is working as a principal sweeper for the Govardhan temple since fifteen years and I see that she loved her work. She does this in the morning, in the evening and in the night. In late night she cleans all the statues of the temple. She sometimes takes the place of the security women in case someone is absent and helps the temple association.
She has been working so hard and so diligently and she is proud when she says that she has never begged for money or help and she is thankful to her lord for that.
Amrita too is very proud of her mother and they sail through hard times with smiles.
Today I thank Swahili for teaching me a lesson of courage, of determination, of following the dreams in all odds.
I absolutely admired the way she did her work so diligently.
Swahili’s story is just another story of courage that we come across but her story touched my heart for the reason that she never traded with her own value system to sew torn ends in her life. Misfortunes never defeated her and today because of her, Amrita is on way to realize her dream. Amrita sure will touch and change many lives after becoming a social entrepreneur and all that contribution to the society is, Swahili’s as well.
A woman could be at times be weak, at times, can be very very strong. We worship her. She is the power!
Like and share to show your support for Swahili.