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Be the Difference September 22, 2010

Posted by Gomathi Reddy in Culture, Desi Indian, Politics.
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Shantha is my domestic help. She is quite a loud character, but one with a heart of gold.  She is constantly complaining about somebody, or something in a miserable tone!  Though I get bugged with her non-stop chatter, I like her for what she is – quite chirpy at her age, and someone who will never bluff her way through, with me. There have been many times that she has been late to work, or has taken the day off without informing me.  The next day, she’d choose to speak the truth, than pull a fast one at me, despite knowing that I’d blow my top for her absence.  And I like her just for this great sense of integrity and honesty – a rare thing in people from her social strata.

And she is an ardent AIADMK fan.  She can’t think of voting for anyone other than her favourite MGR’s AIADMK. I like the way she still talks about her teenage idol, who became the founder of AIADMK and then moved on to become the most charismatic Chief Minister in the annals of Tamil Nadu.

Between washing vessels and sweeping the floors, she makes it a point to share her view that the DMK’s welfare measures are all nonsense.  I warn her that she is speaking to an ardent DMK fan and she better watch what she is saying.  Not one to sense my tongue-in-cheek comment, she earnestly points out to me that their election promise of a free Television to all was a big fiasco. Apparently she never got her TV, because the local DMK representative was expecting Rs.1,500/- as bribe to handover her TV, which is being mouthed as the freebie by the party.

No, way,” I say.  “Yes, it is,” she claims, and she substantiates her claim with murkier details – details that no “fourth estate” publishes.  If it is just another day of the week, I listen to her and wonder if her cynicism can also be classified as intelligence.  On a bad day, I’d be glad if she winds up and leaves early.

Recently she was hospitalized, apparently after a bout of Typhoid.  I had no information on her whereabouts, but I was sure that she’d be back.  And I realized I did miss her, every morning, while brewing tea.   She always wanted her cup of tea, hot and strong.  She was back after three weeks, and narrated her sordid tale of how her children were not around when she needed them most, and with an abusive husband in tow, she said she wanted this job much more now, than ever.

And she said she got admitted to a corporate hospital!  “Wow!  That’s good!,” I said.  She said, it was a very impressive place, but very expensive.  “Why didn’t you call me? How did you manage?, ”  I asked. She very reluctantly said….”Its all because of this man!”

“Which man?”

“Athaan ma!  Unga Kalaignar Karunanidhi! (Your Kalaignar Karunanidhi!)

“What?  I don’t follow, what you are saying,” I ask her, suppressing a smile.

“Andha Kalaignar Kaapeetu Thittam ma….…Athaan” (That one…That Kalaignar Health Insurance Scheme)

Her voice was all  gratitude. She went on to explain that, but for the Government’s free-for-poor health insurance scheme, the hospital which treated her with expensive medicines was beyond reach and unthinkable for the poor like her.  And she got cured, and she cared two hoots about the diagnosis, or if the hospital charged the insurance company lot more than what was dished out to her as “treatment.”

She said she felt a lot better, and she was glad that she was back to work, and for the first time since she has been my domestic help in two years, she said that she owes it all to Kalaignar’s health insurance scheme.

Welfare if it really reaches people – can make a difference.

I was happy for her.

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