She is real. She is flesh and blood. She lives in Bilaspur- the second largest city of Chattisgarh situated at 133 Km from state capital Raipur. She is a mother of a son and 2 daughters, all married by her now. She is a grandma. She was married at the age of 14 and had her first child by 15. She works for living in a small jewellery shop at Bilaspur as a guard cum attendant. She smiles a lot, though at the age of 40 plus has already undergone the scalpel for removal of a cancerous uterus, followed by a painful chemotherapy. She is not educated but a brave-heart, a gladiator in her own right. She smiles a lot. She is also now a part of my larger family and is known as Guddi to all of us.
I saw her for the first, sometime in 2005. On a construction site, as a labourer, she was dutifully sprinkling water on brick stacks at the end of the day’s work. Unlike other labourers, she worked extra time to get 20 Rs a day more. She was one of the scores of ubiquitous Bilaspuri labour working for contractors around our cities. This under construction house was for one of my relatives in Lucknow and the contractor had designated her, as the labour-in-chief and entrusted her to take care of the building material over the site. She was therefore at sight, all day and night. There she lived in a 5 feet high tarpaulin covered temporary structure of aligned bricks at the site, like seen perhaps by all of us at various under construction houses around our neighborhood (though we hardly ever pause at these sights and sites). I, too did not notice her presence much at first glance. I nodded only when I was told, her name was Guddi.
With her, lived two girls of 11 and 7 and a son of 10. Though she was married, her husband had abandoned her. She had to work during day time and take care of the building materials left over the site as the material was not protected by a boundary wall or a lock and key, at the site. This was also an area which was under development and till then, there were just a few houses where people actually were living. Though this is also no secret, that in these urban islands, despite the fact that even if, many more were living in their safe and cozy houses around Guddi’s construction site, hardly any would have had looked at her twice. Though the presence of few more humans around, would have had given a false sense of safety to her. This routine continued for long and the house got completed over next year and half. Guddi left the site to found the shelter somewhere else.
As I used to come over to Lucknow once or twice a month, I too forgot her. On a visit, I got to know that Guddi had changed her profession. Instead of a labourer, now she was working as a maid servant in the area. She used to wash dishes and do dusting and cleaning etc in six to seven houses and made around 1500 odd Rs to make her ends meet. Now, she used to come daily to my family too in the same house which she had got built with her labour and which was being used by my father and mother (Amma) as a temporary accommodation, pending construction of our own house. Once on a trip to Lucknow, I did notice that she was the same lady working as a maid. I also learned about again her professional switch (if i can call it that way).
Guddi was so simple and so non complaining in taking up household chores that she became favorite of most, if not all households in the colony. My mother, a tough task master, too started liking her. She liked her presence and so did Guddi, as she had someone to listen to her journeys of life. She was living more than a 1000 Km away from her larger family and that too, in a big city like Lucknow. At the unripe age of 30 then, she was mother of 3 growing children without the social or economic support of her husband. She was struggling, gracefully though. It is a sad fact that most. if not all of us, see them as being economically useful and hardworking labourers only. Their human side more often than not, remains untouched and unexplored. She had access to Amma and therefore this lady while being paid for her work developed an affinity with Amma. She hardly complained on any issue and kept smiling with her beetle dyed teeth.
I too started noticing her now even more frequently as she was part of my family in some ways. The life continued to roll and for few more bucks, Guddi spent some time on our own under construction house in the same colony. She as well as we, had the confidence in her ability to handle a construction site. Her children continued to grow. Gradualy, her son at 17 was more than marriageable as per Guddi’s standards. She was looking for a girl, but choice was not much here. In her last 7-8 years in Lucknow, she had seen the rough and cold side of the urban life and had suffered many harassment from lecherous males.
She was worried about her children too. My father advised her to return to Bilaspur where she could find suitable match for her children. She could expect better social security too, back home. The only problem for her was that she had no house of her own where she could live. Her husband was living with other woman already and her mother did not have space or resources to accommodate her. Her problem was genuine and though she had some savings, that was not enough to get even a 20 sq yard house. My father seeing her predicament and penury, asked me and my brother to help her financially so that she could afford a semi pucca accommodation, back home. We had developed an affinity for the Guddi, due to her attending our mother and the household chores. Some money was pooled in therefore and then she managed to get a semi pucca house at Bilaspur.
She left after sometime. We missed her smiling presence for few days. Amma missed her more as Guddi had developed a bond with her apart from helping her over house errands. She took some time to adjust to vacuum left by Guddi. She gradually settled at Bilaspur and married her son soon. She invited us too. We could not go but father did send some gifts to her by courier. She was in constant touch with Amma and my father, and kept updating about herself. We were happy to learn about her well being.
After almost two years, one day in a fluke accident, Amma fell in the bathroom and broke her knee. At age of 68, this was a bad new for all of us, as Amma was to remain confined to bed over next 2-3 months and she needed some one close and a lady to help her take the call of nature etc. We are a big family but ever one is busy and none of the son was living in Lucknow at that time. Every member of the family was saddened by the news of the mother, but none was ostensibly free to be besides the mother to take care of her exclusively. In old age husband and wife perhaps care about each other most and my father was worried about mother a lot more. Getting no clues whatsoever, he decided to dial Guddi.
Upon listening about the news of Amma being ridden on bed and her subsequent urgent need for help, Guddi, the brave heart did not pause for a second and landed at Lucknow in next 2 days. She had left her own children at Bilaspur and was happy to attend Amma and help her to live decently. We realized that Guddi was a lady of a golden heart almost like a Florence Nightingale. What she was doing for mother could not be done by any of her own kins, and she did all that smiling with her beetle dyed teeth. Amma, fired by her own will power and egged on by Guddi’s unceasing care and help started recovering. Guddi stood by her and did all, what actually a mother could do for her girl child. There were many emotional moments therefore, and all of us felt immense gratitude for her great humanitarian help. Money, could not have arranged this much of care and trust for an old lady. Guddi now became like a family member for all of us and we now started taling to her more often.
Mother recovered after two months or so and Guddi left for her home once gain. The advent of mobile telephony in remotest corners of the country helped us to remain in touch with her. She married her her other two daughters as well and became a grand mother too. We continued to wish her and she reciprocated always. She was now very close to us, emotionally.
One fine day, we were shocked to know that Guddi had developed cancer in her uterus. This news was traumatic for all of us and we thought how could God be so unkind to his noblest daughter. Luckily, cancer was not at third stage and the doctor assured us that she could be fine if the treatment was followed strictly. We decided to pool in our help financially and medically and helped her to get operated. She underwent surgery and then, chemotherapy and started recovering. We were praying for her. Guddi started smiling again and we thanked God and heaved a sigh of relief.
Guddi faced some more disappointment at the family front as her married son faced her own family troubles and left her to live in a separate accommodation. Her sons in law too did not prove to be too worthy, but Guddi continued to struggle gracefully. She was now working in a jewelry shop as a maid cum guard. Her fearless nature and her honesty always comes handy to make a living for herself. The bonding of our family with Guddi continued to grow.
Guddi was invited last month as a guest in the marriage function of my younger brother. She landed 2 days before marriage and though she was to be a family guest only, she took charge of the all the household activities and once gain took good care of all of us rather than it being other way around. Everything went smoothly and all of us were happy at the end of the reception.
While taking stock of the gifts by guests and family members (a really funny and interesting exercise) we came to know that Guddi had given valuable silver anklets and waistband for the bride. This was too expensive and and heart touching. Here was a lady who was working as a maid and guard in distant Bilaspur and who had come all the way from Chattisgarh to attend the marriage in the family of her ex employer and had taken leaves and put in almost an entire month’s salary of hers to gift, the bride. There were many valuable gifts, but perhaps no other gift could be more valuable as hardly any one not even we, had given the gift equal to an entire month salary of ours. Who was richer therefore ? Guddi or we? There was love and affection clinging to those gifts and our eyes moistened.
When you come across persons like Guddi, you start believing that God is there for sure and manifests himself more through noble souls like Guddi, perhaps. Have you met a ‘Guddi’ ? A Guddi of flesh and blood?