You never know what sexual harassment does to a woman, do you? It made Venkata Lakshmi turn to the law books, while driving an auto to feed her family.
NEVER SAY DIE
Lakshmi was an all-rounder at school. The youngest of three siblings, she was encouraged in all she did, especially by her uncle Paniyam Shankar Murthy. She passed SSLC with a first class. Lakshmi’s first choice of career was the Indian Police Service. She enrolled for 1st PUC at MES College and joined NCC too. On a morning jog, she saw a child about to be hit by a speeding bus. She flung herself on the road and in the nick of time, saved the child. A bravery award is proof of her act.
She had barely started her BA when her mother asked her to get married. Lakshmi, determined to continue her studies, moved to a government college with nominal fees. She taught private tuitions and sold vegetables grown in her backyard to support her education.
However, she subsequently had to discontinue. Not willing to go down without a fight, she enrolled herself as an external candidate in open university and worked in a SSI unit.
The turning point came when some anti-social elements tried to kidnap her over a small issue. She took the legal route to justice and became embroiled in a nine-year court battle.
Eventually, she dropped her studies and focused on her job and the case. She says she was repeatedly pressurised by police and politicians to give up the case and compromise with the culprits. She lost respect for the policing profession, which had captured her imagination once.
She finally agreed to get married to a man her mother had chosen for her. But after the wedding date was fixed, the dowry issue came up. The wedding was called off after all preparations. A family friend later introduced her to Rajendra, a welder who was then working in UAE. They got married.
Their daughter was born within the first year of marriage. With not enough income and job security from welding, Lakshmi’s husband bought an auto and started driving it. Lakshmi got a loan under Pradhanmantri Rozgar Yojana and started a canteen and catering business from home. With another loan, she built a floor above their house and leased it out.
But the repayment of loans soon became a burden and Lakshmi’s husband returned to Dubai. The auto was hired out to a driver. All was going well until her neighbour started harassing her. Her neighbour, Balaji Singh, wanted to have an affair. She flatly refused.
But he started pressuring her from various quarters. Her tenants moved out. The final blow was BESCOM shutting down her catering business as she had no commercial power supply at home. Exasperated, she got a driver’s license and started driving the auto. It’s been five years and it is now the only source of income for her family.
BACK TO COLLEGE
To escape her neighbour, she sold her house and moved to a rented place with her daughter. “If I had a good financial status and if I was a qualified professional like a doctor, advocate or engineer, then my family and I could lead a better life. With my arts background, I decided to pursue a degree in law. I approached the then principal of Babu Jagjeevan Ram Law College,” she explains.
She says she was initially apprehensive as she was already 31 years old. But looking at her educational background and her motivation, the principal and one of the lecturers, advocate Nagaraj, encouraged her to pursue her education there.
Everyday, she leaves home early in the morning, drops her daughter to school, and then ferries Bangaloreans till late morning and then goes to college. “I miss many classes. But the college administration has pardoned me. Friends help by sharing notes. I have completed four semesters with second class grades and without failing
in any subject so far,” she says.
Her lecturer Nagaraj says, “She has managed to pass in all subjects with good grades. She is motivated. The college is not in a position to give her a fee concession. If she is able to attend classes regularly, I am sure she can score better in exams.”
Meanwhile, her husband has returned to India. Welding has affected his sight and he can’t drive an auto. He says, “I am not educated and we have a daughter who goes to school. It will be better if at least one parent is educated. I am happy that my wife is studying law.”
Lakshmi has five more semesters to go. If the grit she has shown till now is any indication, expect her to don her robes in less than three years!
(Note: If you think you can help lakshmi in anyway, then please feel free to contact me)