A woman in her twenties arrives from Kerela to Bihar as a teacher way back in 1965.Coming from a well off family she has just heard of the poverty and deprivation in Bihar. Deep inside she knew she wanted to work for the needy and downtrodden .Spending some evening hours at a leprosy centre and assisting the medical staff during cholera outbreaks, the deaths, the caste and class differentiation even in extreme poverty moved her. She came across a community called Musahar community ,the most backward of all where the men folk worked daily as labors and then drank in evening, women were abused ,girls were married off at the age of 7-8 years ,dirt and filth occupied their colonies, poverty has taken such an ugly form that they started eating “Rats” and to her utter shock, rapes of the girls by dominant caste groups were a common occurrence ,never reported.
“Sudha Didi “ as they fondly call Padmashree Sudha Verghese ,the woman behind Nari Gunjan of Bihar empowering dalit girls and women since 21 years ,Ask Sudha didi and she will tell you her journey as a woman in a man’s world ,no one can uphold MARDANI in such a true sense as her.
From constructing nalas to demanding equal pay for work for the women ,educating their children to making aware of their rights, Sudha Didi was everywhere on her cycle, at their call . Though there are endless stories of service and humanity by this lady what really made me salute her was when she decided to fight against the rape of the dalit girls .It all started when she persuaded the family of a Gang rape victim in 1997 to file an FIR against the rapists assuring them that their prevails a justice of land and the accusers just can’t walk away. The dominant caste from which the rapists belonged came to their colony and threatened them. They could have never imagined that a frail looking Sudha didi was the strength behind women standing against them .After Thana gheraos, Road blocks, petitions , dhamki,years of legal fight and attempts to even shoot her she managed to put the rapists behind the bars .It lits up her eyes when she tells me that within two years of that incident ,9 rape cases were reported which brought down the incidences of rape as a tool to suppress women of lower caste.
From a lady who just walked into a musahar tola to stop the child marriage of a 8 year old girl ,as I pass through the girls hostel to meet Sudha Didi ,I saw a group of girls training for karate,somewhere inside girls were practicing instrumental music ,some were studying and as they wished me Good evening didi ,I realized that this woman has pulled these girls out of the trap of poverty ,rape and oppression through her Nari Gunjan which has 250 hostels, 550 self help groups and now giving training to thousands of girls for making them self dependent.
I ask her –what drives you to work tirelessly for these girls?
Sudha Didi- I found meaningfulness in life by dedicating my life to them ,to the people who were left with no choices.I have seen many deaths, multiple struggles which gives me hope to carry forward this journey with people. It’s a blessing of God that I chose to work for them and without their support ,their generosity ,their love and care I could not have done what ever has been achieved .Its these people who drive me ,they eat a chapati less but they never forget to feed me ,they catch fish and rats and gift it to me as a matter of gratitude. what more can I ask for
I Ask her –At any point of time ,do you regret not having a family, coming to Bihar?
Sudha didi- Never! My family comprises thousands ,why would I regret
She smiles and we wave goodbye to her and to all the girls ,I am returning back again to teach Dance to the girls ,I was happy,I was contempt that I came to meet Sudha Verghese for the “MARDANI BLOGGING Contest” but above that I was carrying back utmost respect and a sense of service from her.
Some days make you a better person, I Just had one J
This is written as a part of I am Mardaani activity exclusively at BlogAdda.com for Indian Bloggers.