The Abandoned Daughter Becomes The Caregiver
Eighteen years ago her father Baban left them to settle with another woman in an alluring city. Following this Priya's mother, Pushpa along with her daughters were forced out of the house by her in-laws. Priya’s grandma played a major part in throwing them out.
They had to return to Pushpa's parent's home. They became homeless once again after a few years when Pushpa's parents died, and her elder brother’s newly wedded wife forced them out of the house.
Bihar is a highly patriarchal society, where women / girls face considerable hardship and discrimination, in terms of rights to education and employment. Child marriage, dowry, domestic violence, low female literacy rates are rampant here.
It is well documented that removing gender-based discrimination and improving gender parity will be key to pulling up low-income states like Bihar.
Life of an abandoned woman in patriarchal rural Bihar can be very challenging. Facing such challenges, Pushpa reconstructed her life.
Living in a tiny rented single room, she gave tuition to earn a livelihood. She got her daughters educated and Priya completed standard ten.
Pushpa, however, knew that her daughters needed a better future. Hope came into their lives through good news from local girl Vandana. She told them about Akhand Jyoti's education and empowerment programme for underprivileged girls.
In February 2015, Priya enrolled for the three-year 'Diploma in Ophthalmic Techniques' (DOT) course, which is a part of the ‘Gender Equality Programme’.
Under this programme the girls are provided with free full boarding; education, vocational training and formal academic qualification as an Optometrist; employment; and finally, an opportunity for a better quality of life.
As part of the ‘Diploma in Ophthalmic Techniques’ course students are taught comprehensive screening of patients for eye issues, identify error of refraction and to prescribe glasses. They are also taught to do primary eye examinations for other advanced issues such as cataract, glaucoma, and pediatric disorders, which enable ophthalmologists to further examine and treat the patients.
After three years of rigorous training, in June 2019 Priya appeared for her final (3rd year) examination and passed with flying colours.
Today she is gainfully employed at Akhand Jyoti’s base hospital at Mastichak as a qualified optometrist, contributing to the Akhand Jyoti’s blindness eradication efforts.
Initially, Priya was quiet shy and hesitant. To break this barrier of silence among women and curb gender discrimination in a strong patriarchal society like Bihar, Akhand Jyoti has initiated it’s “Football to Eyeball” programme, since 2009.
Priya started playing football for fun. Her association with the game positively changed her personality. Her regular participation in extracurricular activities with classmates, such as self-defense training, dancing, art etc., helped her a great deal to emerge out of her shy cocoon.
Priya's story took an interesting turn one fine day when she was examining patients at the hospital. This was a part of her 3rd-year-course curriculum.
An elderly lady walks up to her examination console. This lady was accompanied by a middle-aged man.
It took a few minutes for Priya to gather her thoughts and realise that the gentleman was none other than her father. She remembered him from an old photo.
Recollecting that moment Priya says,
My father who had abandoned me as a child, was now about to seek medical assistance from me for my grandmother, who had forced me and mother out of the house.
Her initial feelings were that of hatred and disgust. At first, she thought that this cruel lady should not get back her sight. She was being rightly punished for her misdeeds.
On deeper inner retrospection, Priya remembered the lesson of good values she had picked up at Akhand Jyoti.
The core values of being compassionate, showing respect and being committed no matter what.
Overcoming the bitterness in her heart, she took care of her grandmother. Not revealing her true identity she performed the processes to get her grandmother's cataract operated.
She took extra effort while her grandma was at the hospital.
In the end after regaining her sight, both grandma and her father thanked and blessed her for helping them so much. They did this without knowing who she was.
Priya did not utter a single word. She says,
I knew that I had championed hatred with love and compassion.
Akhand Jyoti had not only churned a lady out of an underprivileged and abandoned girl but had instilled love where there was hatred.
Nurturing a woman of compassion, who would positively contribute to the holistic development of her community, her nation, and the larger humankind.