"She was 25. Married. 2 children. Her husband was a contract labourer, working with the Government, laying roads. He laid the tar as the road roller flattened it. She sat along the corner of the road watching him while she sold cigarettes on the side to a bunch of IT engineers, taking a break. Just as she gave them their change and looked back, she saw her husband lying in a pool of blood. He was accidentally hit by a tractor along the way."
This is what Lakshmi amma told me when I asked her about her life. She continues to sell cigarettes in the same spot so that it's a reminder that she has to do what it takes to educate the sons and keep the family together.
I was a puzzled and hardly knew how to respond. Saying "I am sorry to hear that" would have not done justice to the amount of resilience that I just experienced in a flash in front of me. I smiled at her and I nodded. I looked at her in awe and admiration. I held her hand and thanked her immensely for making time to talk to me. She made me chai. And offered me a smoke. As I sat on that wooden bench holding a glass of chai, I thought about her RESILIENCE
- She knew she had to go on. She knew she would have to face the taboos of society being a single mother. She knew she had to go out everyday to earn food and find money to afford a decent quality of life for her children.
- She put all her faith into herself. She told me about how it made no sense for her to look outside for help, but turn within and find all the strength. She said that "one has all the strength to fight in every bone of their body"
- She made frugal plans. Life had to be very calculated that moment onwards. She managed her finances well. Every month she would set aside some money for a rainy day. She had given this money to a friend of hers who she believed would keep it safe. Her friend also helped her invest in a local community private finance scheme, so she was also able to earn some interest
- She found something to anchor herself into. Lakshmi akka secretly converted to christianity. She visited the church everyday and told me that she was able to find so much courage in herself after going to Church. It was her go to place. To feel energised before taking on the next day
As I work with women in Corporate India talking about Confidence and resilience, I never forget to tell them the Story of Lakshmi Akka. Of course one can say that her realities were different. Yet, I believe that we can draw from every story we hear
- Looking back at your journey, what have been some of your toughest moments? In those times what anchors have held you and given you strength?
- Who are the people in your closest trust circle?
- What is it that keeps you going and what do you look forward to every new day?
- When you look around in your life, where all do you find resilience?
I want to close with a poem from Jane Hirshfield
by Jane Hirshfield
More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another. A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,
mitochondria, figs — all this resinous, unretractable earth.
Do leave your thoughts in the comment box and I'll be happy to begin a conversation about you.