THE STORY OF SILENT SERVICE
- A Simple Biographical sketch of a role model physically challenged woman
“The only handicap is to depend on others. For physically challenged we don’t want any compassion or consolation. We want opportunity to express our talents and earn our livelihood. If the opportunity is given we will prove our ability.”
She is standing at the entrance of a Company with files. Oh, perhaps she might request employment expressing her disability, one might think… Yes. Only half of this is truth. She is seeking employment not for herself but for others… like her to other physically challenged women. With broken feather she walks erect with confidence. She is young, beautiful, dynamic lady doing accounts work in a Theological Seminary in Madurai District of Tamilnadu. She is the only bread winner of her 4 member family. She doesn’t have her left forehand right from her birth. It is difficult to believe but absolute fact. Yes. Amuthashanthy was born with one arm from her birth itself.
When she was born as a girl baby with one hand, her mother Jayamani burst out with a great agony in deep anguish. The relatives advised her mother, ‘your family is not in good condition now. You can better leave the child in the Hospital and through them join her in an orphanage.’ But, the very girl who was referred by relatives as a bane to household has now lighting the lives of so many families – seeing this my heart is full so says her mother Jayamani with tears of joy.
ONLY HANDICAP IS TO DEPEND ON OTHERS
The path Ms Amuthashanthy treaded in the past was not the bed of roses but full of bricks and thorns. She could not crawl in her childhood. The troubles she had to undergone can never be expressed through words but can well be felt in one’s heart. She does not like to be looked after by each and every family member. She had joined in Avvai Ashram in Tirunelveli Dist. managed by Gandhigram Trust at the age of 11 for VIth std., Avvai Ashram is a residential hostel for destitute girls which gave her complete training and moulded her personality in all life skills. She also learnt there tailoring, candle making, camphor making etc. She got State Award in Essay Competition when she was studying her VIIth Std from the then Chief Minister of Tamilnadu. This gave her self-reliance and motivated her to go forward. There she realized the great lesson – ‘Not for you, be ready to be of service to so many like you….’ and which has become her life’s mission. Education has become a passion for her. This passion led her to complete her Post Graduation and join in a decent job though she had to undergo lot of hindrances from family circle.
Her job did not stop her to take up her mission. The pain she had undergone due to physical disability and family circumstances motivated her to dedicate her life to the welfare of her numerous challenged sisters. She was eager that they should not face the struggles and pain she faced in her life. She says, ‘the only handicap is to depend on others. For physically challenged we don’t want any compassion or consolation. We want opportunity to express our talents, earn our livelihood and join the mainstream of society. If the opportunity is given we will prove our ability. She feels for challenged sisters endowed with good talents couldn’t get good opportunity is my concern.’
COMFORT TO CHALLENGED WOMEN
When she was working in the Seminary, after her working hours she used to spend her time to meet the various needs of Physically Challenged Women (PCW). She used to visit remote villages and identify challenged women in distress who knows no hold for their future. The conditions of many of these girls are very pathetic. Their parents wouldn’t permit them to go outside from home. Due to acute poverty they don’t give them proper education. She talks to them lovingly giving courage and hope. She had to pacify and soothe their hearts with her loving words of solace and concern. These challenged women immediately gather full energy on seeing Ms Amutha Shanthy’s blooming face in spite of the fact she has been carrying on everything with just one hand. They instantly feel that she is their own sister and pour their hearts to her. Her feeling of oneness with the woes of challenged sisters and her deep concern for their welfare draws them towards her.
She says, ‘during weak ends I used to go to their houses and meet them to understand their deplorable situation of discomfort. I bring them to training centre and show them how other challenged women affected with more disability lead a respectable life by earning their own livelihood. Putting them in a positive environment slowly I change their outlook by feeding them with the soothing words of self-confidence. I also see situation vacant in News Papers and visit small industries and private companies to identify vacancies. It would help me to arrange for the placement of deserving challenged women to suitable position.’
Her care and service extends to Visually Challenged and deaf and dumb women. She used to write exams for Visually Challenged girls. She also does regular book reading for them. She gets numerous letters from her challenged sisters and brothers seeking solace and comfort. She answers every one of them giving words of courage and confidence.
IT’S ALWAYS POSSIBLE
When asked what is that inspired Amuthashanthy to take such a decision to plunge in the service of Physically Challenged Women (PCW)? She said, “For last 6 years I got the blessed opportunity to associate closely with the world of PCW. The constant interaction with PCW in rural areas made me to think – I should act. This constant fellowship provided an in depth knowledge to the plight of PCW.
The needs are many. Some of them want to complete their education. Some are seeking an employment. Some wants wheel chair, crutches, tricycle etc. Ultimately they all expect a decent livelihood without depending on any one. Most of them are from very poor economic back ground, rather, struggling to maintain their livelihood.”
“I have made a detailed research into the problems of PCW and subsequent personal visits to remote villages presented me clear action plan seeking permanent solution to their problems. It is great pity to note that many of them are not even aware of the details of grants provided by Government for their development. The deplorable condition is that even after many announcements of grants for the development of physically challenged, not even 1% reaches the ground level. The demonstrations, fasts are done by physically challenged in various districts is only to draw the attention of Higher Authorities to implement the statutes and grants already announced by the Government.”
“Based on the above assessment and being a PCW myself by birth I am convinced that it is my prime duty to bring sunshine to the numerous lives and keenly felt the inner call to dedicate my life for the cause of rural based PCW. Only a PCW knows the real situation of another PCW.”
“No more weeping, no more blaming of any one – up and doing – it is time to arise and awake and stop not till the goal of economic independence of PCW achieved. I strongly believe that mere economic independence without having faith in values of life will never result in contented life. All my efforts will go along with infusing positive approach in PCW by following cardinal values of life.”
ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE
When I meet PCW after hearing all their woes I gently ask them to count their blessings. I make a note of all the positive points. No doubt. Physically challenged are facing numerous problems. What about our blessings? I constantly highlight this point to PCW. “When we obtain the help and love from society, we feel, it is our duty to pay forward it to society at large. We can afford to forget anything but not our attitude of gratitude to even a smallest of help we received. We receive love, kindness, care and concern from the society. It is our foremost duty to pay it forward to other sisters who are in similar situation. No one is a stranger in this small world.” Each of the physically challenged sisters of our Centre is inspired to guide and help 10 challenged sisters in their villages.
PIERCING THE HEART – DEEP FEELING
As I began to interact with PCW I felt deeply wounded and my heart was pierced as it were. I share here few problems faced by PCW.
1. PCW used to go to Employment office. The staff there used to ask them to go and take Xerox copy. Here the PCW may be a person with just one leg. The staff treats this PCW like any other normal person ask them to go and take photo copy without realizing how much hardship it would cause to PCW. PCW may have to cross the roads, wait in the hot sun or traffic.
2. Many of PCW wouldn’t take water or food when they go out just to avoid the nature calls.
3. While traveling in train, most of us may not realize the inconvenience of challenged persons in using toilets with crutches, disability shoes, artificial leg, crawling disability.
4. Rural based PCW condition is still more deplorable. They are not permitted to go to schools because of non-availability of proper transport.
5. It most cases of PCW there is lack of emotional maturity to withstand the problems of day to day life. When asked to one PCW, what is your goal? She simply replied, existence itself is a big question before me – how can I set another goal for me to achieve. One could guess from this she is struggling hard to earn her single livelihood.
6. There is no relaxation or friendly approach in cases like sanction of loan for disabled in Banks and employment opportunities in Govt.
7. The most of the grants announced by Govt. have not been come into effect even after lot of petitions, appeals, fasts, struggles etc. and Non-implementation of the Persons with Disability Act of 1995 has left the physically challenged people high and dry.
8. The world of physically challenged is not expecting any big thing from the society – just a word of encouragement, a pleasing smile and a kind look – this would mean a lot to us.
BEACON LIGHT TO CHALLENGED WOMEN
Ms Amutha Shanthy has resigned her bread-winning job and work full time for her cherished dream to become a reality from 2nd October 2005. She is now running a Tailoring Unit in Madurai in Tamilnadu, where twelve disabled women and four women from very poor families with little education have been provided job training and also earning. The poor women have also been provided free accommodation.
She is also running free tuition centres for poor children in four remote villages near Madurai, by employing four poor and qualified unemployed women (two of them are challenged women) and paying them honorarium. To sustain herself and her activities, Ms Amutha Shanthy is carrying out some part time accountancy work in late night.
Like a typical revolutionary, she has not thought about her own future welfare or as to where she would get the resources from when she left her job and started this small service activity. Anybody who has an opportunity to meet this young lady and discuss the issues with her would be instantly impressed by her extraordinary commitment and conviction for the cause. She says that the only way of ensuring that more physically challenged people are employed in public services is to sensitize them and launch an awareness campaign in their favour.
Counseling to challenged women has become a regular feature for her now. It’s unique sight to see the challenged women visit her place from far off places to get her guidance to make their livelihood meaningful. ‘It’s Always Possible’ attitude has been injected with physically challenged Families during her village visits. Her very life inspires many PCW to take up an upright and meaningful life.
Because of her tireless endeavour, many have completed their studies, many have joined in good employment, and still many have achieved laurels in the Sports field. She is not interested in any kind of awards or felicitations. She dedicates everything to her own challenged sisters. When asked, why she is not evincing any interest in awards, her crisp reply would be ‘if you do it to your own sister will you expect award or honour? I just fall like silent dew on the hearts of my numerous challenged sisters.’
We come across in this world many great achievers who scaled the heights of success. Among these here is one who counts success of any physically challenged women as her own.
Yes! She has no time to thought of her life, the journey of this humble soul is going to a village to wipe the tears of her own challenged sisters. She has a vision to reach out to more and more of her challenged sisters in villages with a mission to enable them to join in the mainstream. A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle.
Her contact address:
Ms Amutha Shanthy
Thiyagam Women Trust
Annai illam, No.66/44, Kambar Street,
S.S.Colony, Madurai 625 010