My Story: My Mom Dropped Out Of School To Help Grandma Financially & Started Selling Idlis At The Age Of 10

“My Grandma LAKSHMI AMMAL belongs to a very small village Kottaiyur near Watrap in Virudhunagar district, Tamil Nadu.

She got Married in 1961 and a year later my Mom was born and then my both uncles. Since her husband was working in another state she was staying with her parents and raising the children. Every month the money order would come and she was able to manage to send her children to school.

Her husband was back in village for good and then started few small usual fights but later the same year he left the house and stayed with his elder brother & family. As my Grandma couldn’t afford to pay the rent, she moved back with her parents and with that started the devastating legal fight for monthly financial support to raise the kids.

My Grandma’s family was debt ridden and had to let go. But my Grandma decided to put up a fight and moved with her husband in the same house where he was living with his family now. My mom and uncles, along with my Grandma were made to live in a cow shed. Be it rain or sun or winter. My mom dropped out of school to help grandma financially and started selling Idlis at the age of 10. My mom, Saraswathi walked 10-15 kms to work in a brick factory, she would also go for local construction works and also for farming, without sleepers. It was not her choice but life did not give her other options.

Grandma was given a small piece of land by her husband with condition of sharing the produce. The land was full of Babool plants, she could not afford to get any help due to labour charges. She single handely spent days off rooting them, of course her family supported her as much they could. Now that the money they earned could only provide them one meal a day and that used to be Raagi koozhu (Raagi powder boiled in water). Her day would start at 3 Am and would go until 12 or 1 at night. From 3 am to 5 am, she would make Idli and dosa , wake my mom at 5 am to help in making chutney and she would leave to the field for farming. By the time, mom would finish selling Idli, Dosa and join grandma. Both would then walk in search of some other extra work for some money. They would be back home at 8 pm. In the meanwhile all they could get was permission to stay in the shed in lieu of cooking and doing house hold work for the family with whom they stayed.

Grandma couldn’t take it any more and moved out and stayed at a mud house built by her father. My uncle’s got a job, later mom got married to my dad but still she did not stop working. She saved money, bought her own piece of land and continued farming until her bones gave up but even that didn’t stop her in having a small petty shop and running her business from there.

Her race is never ending. When I ask her, “Ammi, why don’t you relax now and take rest?” She says very innocently, “PALAGI POCHI”, means she has got used to being on her toes all the time.

Now, she has given her farming land on lease and now she gets share of the produce along with the lease amount.”

Submitted By – Kavitha Pandian

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