In The Garden
Sita (not her actual name), a new member of FCN was holding a woven basket as she pushed herself off of the ground from one place to another, primarily using her hands instead of her legs. She peered into the endless flowerbeds picking out small leaves that fell off. She was covering the soil across the flowerbeds with small gray pebbles when she noticed us walking toward her. We had to call her a couple of times before she was able to acknowledge our voices. She turned and her face instantaneously lit up with joy. She smiled as she brought her hands together into a namaste. She swiftly pointed to the flower bed adjacent to the one she was working on, showing us the progress she has made.
She told me she was from Shadnagar and recently joined the old age home after being found on the streets with no food. She told me that even after all of the conflict that life has thrown at her, she has still succeeded and she is still here working, helping the old age home that kindly took her in. She told me that she loves speaking to youngsters like me and that for people so young, there is so much more to life and that life is like a war that is meant to be won. She spoke to me about how she never had parents to support her growing up and having parents is the most important part of any child’s life. She turned to my dad and thanked him for providing me with the opportunities that he has given me. She held my hand and started cracking my knuckles as she told me to take care and that life will throw all sorts of challenges at you but endurance is always key. At first, it scared me. It was hard enough that I had to wonder if she was going to injure my fingers. One of the workers then assured me that Ravanamma does it with everyone and it was no big deal, though I still wonder how the habit started and why she does it.
Seeing how cordial this woman was with my father and me, I would’ve never expected what was to come next. As I waved goodbye to her, I asked one of the workers what her story was and why she joined the old age home. She told me that it was due to her vulgar language. Ravanamma was working at a restaurant as a clean-up person when she started repeatedly shouting crude things at customers. The restaurant had to fire her and she was unable to find another job due to her bad reputation in the area. Even with her willingness to do work, she was turned away time after time. She was left homeless and wasn’t able to even afford food. The police found her on the side of the street and called FCN to admit her.
Hearing this story, I was so surprised. I’d just met a completely different person. This helped me understand how people behave and react when they’re left alone in a world where no one is there to support them compared to when they have a community of people willing and interested in supporting their growth. I wonder how many people we encounter out on the streets who seem rude, aggressive, or even threatening maybe just need a place where they can feel safe.