Poverty is unbearable. Absolute poverty is absolutely unbearable. Only those who suffered poverty themselves will understand the suffering of others.
I remember these two lines from a Malayalam poem, which convey this message:
ദാരിദ്രമെന്നുള്ള തറിഞ്ഞ വർക്കേ
പാരിൽ പര ക്ലേശ വിവേകം ഉള്ളു
Paaril paraklesa vivekamullu.
Many families have survived with only Kanji, the semi liquid rice and a chammandhi for a side dish, which has only a few onion and green or red chilli pieces and salt crystals added for taste.
When Thankam ( name changed) joined our institute she didn’t have a pair of footwear to wear. To enter a Medical Institute barefooted, was not allowed but our Director, considering her financial background didn’t object. He didn’t even advance a small amount lest it would have hurt her feelings. Only after drawing her first salary she could buy the footwear.
She was a top class assistant. She took care of her family too, by educating her siblings and securing them life partners. In the process, she neglected her health, didn’t take timely medicine for BP and had a stroke, when she was around 50. She died after a few years with memory loss.
She was a frail girl, thin and spicy like a green chilli.
Once I told her, ‘ when you joined the institute you, you were thin and spicy like a green chilli. Twenty years are over now but neither your body weight has gone up by an ounce nor your spiciness has comedown a bit. Wonder how you could maintain your status quo so efficiently!’
‘Simple, Sir,’ she replied, ‘ my staple food for twenty years before drawing my first salary was green chilli thokayal and kanji for side dish’.
I remembered Thangham for no reason this morning and enquired another former colleague about her daughters.
‘They are married and well settled in life, Sir’, he replied.
Good. They never had to live on kanji and thokayal. Nor they would have attended their workplace barefooted.