Leela’s Story

I haven’t posted anything in a long time so I thought I’d try a retrospective post on… You guessed it, Tamil Nadu!

For our career fair we had to do so much preparation it was painful. One thing I regret I couldn’t give more time to was the women at work board. It had been displayed at our centre for a while and I wanted to update it with new stories and photos of inspirational women that were never too hard to come across.

I only managed to get a couple of additions but one woman I talked to really stayed with me. Leela was a primary school teacher who stopped to talk to us about why she loved her job. She said that the money gave her freedom and that she encouraged all little girls to stand on their own two feet so they grew to be respected.

She also talked of her passion for teaching and how lucky she felt to come into work every day and know she was guiding children into brighter lives than she had. Leela told us she had problems at home but as soon as she entered school gates she was safe and free. I wondered if Leela was abused but she wanted none of that to be part of her story and would only speak of her professional life.

The people I spoke to would so briskly mention personal struggles that would consume me. Asking another woman if she had any health issues elicited about five casual words. It translated that she had HIV. Yet she spoke for minutes about her babysitting and housekeeping.

These women live a life I cannot imagine with strength beyond suggestion. Leela got all excited about getting a photo with me: just a white woman who couldn’t speak her language. Truthfully I was humbled to share the lens with her and ashamed that I had nothing real to contribute to her world.

My little sister’s working towards the same dream as Leela. How jumping a continent can make them so different.

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