The streets of Chennai nurtured Sulochana for more than four decades. The 53-year- old vibrant woman, full of vivacious energy, began helping her mother, at the fruit and vegetable shop on the wayside, from the tender age of 10. A Telugu, hers was a love marriage with a Tamilian. Despite hardships she is chirpy. Shail talks to a face in the crowd, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.
“All good things which exist are the fruits of originality.” ~ John Stuart Mill, English philosopher, political economist and civil servant.
Sulochana vibrates energy. The first impression could have you mistaking the vital energy for sales skills. But, when one gets talking one realises that the energy is for real, not put on. Instead of feeling sad and incomplete, which I usually do when I interview the many people on the streets, I come out feeling energised after talking with her!
All of 53 years old, she still behaves like a young woman full of vibrancy. She said that a resident of Chennai for generations, she started working from the age of 10. Her mother had a fruit and vegetable stall and every day after Sulochana came back from school she would go to the stall to help her mother out. Naturally, with a busy schedule like that, Sulochana, as a child, did not get to study beyond the 8 th standard. But, over the years she became a responsible young woman and also fell in love with a young Tamil man, Chinna Kutty. There was no way that he could have not fallen for the charms of this spirited Telugu woman. Yes, a case of two states! They married despite the difference in states and also despite the age gap of 10 years between them.
“See! Despite it all, God has kept us together for so long,” she tells me. I smiled and added that they had happiness for many more years.
She proudly tells me, “My father worked as a coolie in the railway station here but my husband worked as a record sorter in a government institution.”
I see the gleam of pride for her husband in her eyes.
“Any children?” I asked.
“Three, my dear” she tells me endearingly. The eldest one, my daughter has studied B.Com, while the other two children have studied only until 8th class but all are settled in life. And you know, I am a grandmother of twelve grandchildren!”
As she interacts with the customers, she appears younger than her age. “Do your children take care of you?” I ask. Sulochana clarifies, “Oh! They do. But they don’t have to because I am independent and take care of myself and my husband without any problems.”
She then, ponders a wee bit, “My son, the youngest of my children, he is not doing very well. So, I give him something every now and then.” When I looked at her, she continued, “Daughters will settle down wherever you put them but it is not the same with a son.”
“What do you think about politics?” She says, “Not interested at all. I just go, stand in line and cast my vote. I have got no time for any useless banter.”
I inquired, “Did she return home early?” She states, “Earlier, I used to do that because by 6 pm, after sunset, almost all the shops would close. Now, I sit here till around 8 pm.”
“But, what about the containers filled with fruits at the end of the day? What if something is still unsold?” She emphasises, “Oh! I leave it here, covered up. Nobody dares steals anything because it is my possession.” Her strong feminist streak is palpable.
Do she manage to go out somewhere, like her native place, I inquire. “Sometimes, but at other times, God Almighty calls me. See, I have been going to see Ayappa Swamy every year for the past five years. I observe all the strict conditions needed for it. Am I not blessed?”
Yes, indeed. Blessed she was. She made my day with her optimism, the very epitome of brimming life despite the circumstances. Her positive nature was visible by the large number of people chatting with her. Office goers smiled at her, as she wished them and called them to buy something. Even her glass bangles jingled delightfully. What more did a happy woman need!
Pix by Vinod Naraen
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