I wish to share about an interesting family that I met during my Volunteering trip to Ooty (If you are not aware of my volunteering Ooty trip, check this blog post).. Meet Mrs. Viji and her mother Bommai . Viji is staying with her only daughter Priya and her mother In Ithalar, Niligiri dt. Her husband is no more with her and she along with her mom is working in a tea estate as a daily labor. Viji’s daughter Priya is currently doing 8th std in a nearby private school.
On our trip, we use to have breakfast and dinner at her home. I should mention that she is a great cook and you will eat at least 50% extra than what you usually do! Every day, after my school visit, I use to goto her house and keep asking their stories to know more about them.
Sharing some of the stories which I heard from them.
Vijaya Akka (‘Akka’ means sister in Tamil) struggled a lot to put her daughter in LKG where she has to pay Rs 5000 per year as school fees. None of her relatives helped her at that time and she got it as a debt for a huge interest. It is during that time, she joined a tea estate as daily labor to pay back the money. This made me curious to understand what they actually do in tea estate.
And here it is..
To reach the tea estate, they need to walk 3Kms from their home. They will be carrying a cover in which the will put the tea leaves which they have picked. They use to pick 50-60Kgs every day. After picking, they need to carry it nearly 1 km by walk where they will hand it over to the agent from the tea company. They will weigh the tea leaves and give a receipt mentioning the total weight of tea leaves plucked that day.
Once a week, they will exchange this receipt in the tea company for cash. During non-season time where less tea leaves are available, they are paid in terms of daily wage. That is Rs120 per day.
The culprit inside me was quick to wake up. I asked them “What will happen if you pick only 60-70Kg instead of the normal 100-120kgs? Will they pay the same daily wage?”.
They replied, “Yes. They will pay the same amount irrespective of the weight of the leaves we plucked”.
The culprit inside me got so curious and questioned them ‘Then, why do you pick 120kgs when you are paid the same for 70kgs also?”.
They replied “Why should we cheat them when they pay for our work? That’s not right. We cannot have a peaceful sleep if we cheat who pays us for our work”.
Wow, what a reply from this lady! Isn’t that a lesson that every one of us should learn?
During season time, they are paid Rs 3per kg of leaves which comes to Rs180 per day. It is during this time they will pay their old debuts.
After hearing their story, I asked them whether they are happy with the money which they earn. They told that they are very satisfied with what they have and also thanked God for all what he has given them. I just felt that this world would have been a better if everyone has the attitude like them. Just reminds me of Mahatma Gandhi’s quote:
The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed
Story # 2:
The next day, I asked Viji akka, how many kgs of tea leaves does she and her mother picked? The number was very low than usual. I asked her why? And here is what had happened:
After walking 3kms to reach the tea estate, they got a call from local bank regarding their housing loan for which they have applied for. Their presence was required to meet a local panchayat president regarding it. Viji akka’s mom decided to come back to Ithalar to meet the Panchayat president in the bank, which is 3kms from the tea estate.
A 56 years old came running 3kms to reach bank. After meeting the Panchayat president, she ran back 3 kms to reach tea estate. Do you know why she ran instead of walking at this old age??
Because, her daughter Viji akka use to get ‘Fits’ (Epilepsy) often. Since, she was working alone in the tea estate now, she ran for 6kms up and down so that she can go back to tea estate so that she can take care of her daughter.
If you actually calculate, she walked for 6kms and ran for 6 kms on that day. That is a total of 12kms by foot at the age of 56. Wow what an inspiration she is!!
Mothers are the same irrespective of age, irrespective of age. Mothers are really God! (Read my ‘Mom is God’ blog post if you have not read the story about my mom. If you have any interesting story about your mom, please share in the comment section. I will be glad to hear that)
Story # 3:
2 days later, when I went to Viji akka house for breakfast, I noted that they are not getting ready to go to tea estate that day. I asked them why? They told that there was a death in their village. I asked so what?
She told that if there is any death in their village, none of their village people will go to job to tea estate. It’s a practice that they follow in their community for many centuries.
I asked them about losing their wage for the day. They told, ‘Yes, we will not get any money for the day, since we are not going for work. But, that’s okay since we will get time to spend time with the family who has lost their dear one’s’.
Wow!! This is happening in 21st century. Ithalar is a small village with less than 150 families in Niligiri district in Tamilnadu. There is nothing special about the village except for the people living there. We have much to learn from them.
Just reminded of this quote:
Not everyone is living. Few just exist.
Happy to see that people in Ithalar are living.
After my visit to Ithlar, I realized that a place looks beautiful not because of its geographical location, not because of the resources it has. It is because of the people it has..