From gloom to self reliance - Phoolmati Pasi

Phoolmati selling wares to a woman in her shop

Smallpox has been eradicated from India as well as from many other countries. Is it, though? Unfortunately, the claim is not all encompassing, as there are still cases that rear up once in a while. Phoolmati Pasi, resident of Bhelka, a small remote village in Manjanpur, Kaushambi, was one of those ill-fated 6-year olds, who was one such casualty of the disease.

Fortunately, she survived the dreaded disease, but lost her eye-sight in the bargain. Her loss of sight can also be attributed to the dire lack of proper medical facilities in her remote village. In addition, being a girl-child wrought further miseries for her by way of parental neglect and disinterest. She seemed to be doomed to a meaningless life full of gloom and adversity.

Soon Phoolmati realized the fact that she was going to be blind for the rest of her life, and the fact that she would be dependent upon others for everything. The disregard and indifference of her parents made her feel a burden and a liability for the family. She blamed herself for bringing ill luck and unhappiness into her home and life. Her self-confidence was completely gone and she was highly dejected and frustrated, due to which she sank deeper and deeper into self-pity and depression with the passage of every day!

Our field worker was informed about Phoolmati’s miserable plight by a sympathizing neighbor. She went to the despondent girl’s house, but was refused admittance and was asked by the parents to mind her own business and not to meddle with other peoples’ family matters. They rudely told the field worker that a blind woman cannot do anything except just drag along and should be satisfied with whatever she got. Their negative attitude prevented them from even wanting to hear about, or believe in, any training or rehabilitation for their blind daughter.

However, without paying any heed to the discouraging and insulting behavior, our field worker continued her pursuit, hoping one day to be able to establish direct contact with Phoolmati. And, then, one fine day, she spotted her along with her younger brother outside their house. Seizing this golden opportunity, our field worker struck up a friendly conversation with her. She spoke of things that she felt may interest the young blind girl, accompanying her warm chatter with friendly and affectionate taps and pats. This slowly but surely comforted and reassured Phoolmati and after three visits to the house, our field worker had extracted a half-hearted consent from her parents to allow her to help their visually impaired daughter to be trained in some basic skills.

As usual, Phoolmati, too, was in need of a lot of counseling to overcome her deep-rooted apprehensions and feelings of insecurity. But, as the three-month training commenced, Phoolmati soon became elated as she learnt new skills. Now, she was so much more independent and was no longer a liability upon anyone. Mobility and other life skill training activities had introduced her to a fuller life experience and her new found self-confidence was reflecting in all her interactions.

Next came the time to make her economically independent and so she was imparted training in running a small daily needs shop. For this she was taught the skill of identifying currency notes and coins as well as simple mathematics—counting, addition, subtraction etc. Once she was trained, she was helped to set up her own little shop in her home with a loan of Rs. 10,000. She ran the shop from morning to evening and was very happy and enthusiastic about her new found status and respect. She eagerly looked forward to opening her shop every day and was able to earn at least Rs. 50 to Rs. 60 per day.

She feels that after all, life had become worth-living for her as well. The training and financial assistance provided to her had made it possible for her to live with independence and dignity. She was now, a useful member of the family and society.