Ranjitha Gunasekaran first visited The Banyan in 2005 as an intern from The Hindu deputed to write a piece on the much-loved diva/resident the late Waffles.To this day, several staff members know her as ‘Waffles’ Ranjitha. She was reeled in to work full-time at The Banyan for 6 months in 2007-08 by Vaishnavi, The Banyan’s co-founder, and was part of the Communications and Fundraising team. Since she left, she volunteers from time to time.
Ranjitha jots down here some of her conversations with our clients during her recent visit to Adaikalam, The Banyan’s transit care centre.
“How can someone say that about their own mother?” Pavithra* asks me. “I mean whatever happens, that is the person who conceived you and bore you for 10 months and gave birth to you. How can she say those things about her mother?”
I nod in agreement. I have no idea who or what she is talking about.
“She is sitting in the dining area and crying and calling her all sorts of names. She says her mother tortured her. But still how can you say that about your mother? She is the woman who conceived you and bore you for 10 months and gave birth to you.”
Some people don’t have nice mothers, I venture.
“But still! My parents have been everything for me they looked after me and took care of me even now. Do you have what I have?”
No, I don’t think I do.
“I am very happy. No one should ever have what I have. Men are not good. They will beat you and deceive you. Whatever happens your parents only will take care of you till the end… You should tie your hair. Will you buy me earrings?”
Maybe next time?
Parimala wants to talk to me. Unlike Pavithra, in a nightgown, with short hair and no jewellery, Parimala is wearing salwar-kameez-dupatta-pinned-up. She is powdered and accessorised.
“I want to do social work. I want to help people. I have two jobs now. I work in a person’s house as a maid and I also clean vessels here in the afternoon. I want to go out and do social work.”
Very good, I smile, struggling not to appear patronising.
“I have a son. His name is Sanjay. It’s his birthday. I am going to see him tomorrow. He is three years old.”
What about your husband.
“He committed suicide. Then my son was born. I don’t remember anything of that time. But all that is in the past. I am better now. My parents left me here. I want to go out and help people. I used to love Surya. Now I am better. All that is over. Now I want to do social work. I like dancing. I know all the songs. I like Dhanush anna’s songs very much. But why are all the songs blaming women? Why are they saying all these things about women? Why is the song saying, “adira kuttuda”? Shouldn’t we also write a song saying these things about men? You and I should write songs about men, turning it around. “
Sure. We should. I agree.
It’s just ——- and me now. Sitting at the row of steel chairs outside the meeting room. Staring at the wall ahead of us.
“My name is —–.”
I went to a college by that name! Mine is Ranjitha.
“I am from Bangalore. My father’s name is —– and my mother’s name is ——“
That’s my mother’s maiden name too!
“Ok. My uncle’s name is —— My parents died.”
My mother and brother died.
She pauses briefly. We both stare ahead at the wall. She continues with her life story.
I realise I am only to listen. Not to try and “relate” but too soon the door opens and it’s time to go.
[*Recollections of conversations with residents at The Banyan. Names changed to protect identity]
If you would like to befriend a resident, please visit Adaikalam. They need your friendship and you will soon find that you need their friendship too!
You can offer your support in other ways too, just follow the links below.
Contact Swapna for more info: +91-9840135913. firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Archanaa for more info: +91-9840523235. email@example.com