Some years back, my mother had known this young lady as a carefree girl in a half-sari running around the market selling leafy vegetables. My mother loved the girl’s cheerful smile and ready wit, and whenever she needed greens, she made it a point to buy it from this particular girl.
Then, my mother got busy with other things, and when she returned to the market several months later, the girl had disappeared. If at all her absence registered, it must have been momentarily – after all, girls that age get married and move away all the time.
Then, my mother found the girl again- rather she found a sad young woman, who looked not unlike the cheerful girl that my mother had known. The girl had got married, got pregnant, had a child, and when she just couldn’t make ends meet, she was forced to go back to doing the only thing she knew – sell green vegetables.
Post marriage, nothing had really changed for her – she still had to sit on the hard stone pavement selling greens, she was still subject to the same business risks as she was before marriage, she still had to deal with the same irate customers that she had to earlier. The only thing that had really changed was that she had a baby to look after, and a cranky husband to manage.
Her smile had vanished. She no longer had anything to dream about.
Would anything really make a difference to her life? If someone lent her money, would she even want to expand her business, knowing she would have to repay the loan even if something went wrong? If someone sent her to trade school, would she even want to go knowing she may have to drop out anytime if she got pregnant or her child fell ill? Is there a way out for this girl? Would she ever be able to go to sleep at night secure in the knowledge that she and her family would eat the following week? Would she ever be able to put enough aside to know that when her family falls ill, they can afford to consult a doctor?
Is there really a way out for this young lady?
With education, her daughter can learn a trade, get a job and rise above poverty.
With education, she may learn how not to have more children, so she can give her child a better shot at happiness.
But a real change for her, in her generation? I would love to believe it is possible, but I am not sure how.
But then, she is one of the luckier ones. She has the capacity to earn money – for most of my nation’s poor, even that is but a dream.