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30 year-old Haseen lives with her two children in a small one-room shack in a village on the outskirts of Bangalore. Life for her and her family is a gruelling struggle for sheer survival. With no family support, she manages to eke out a living by doing odd jobs. An abandoned wife, Haseen has no contact with her parents and none, but one of her six siblings.

By Venkatraman Iyer

Some 15 years ago, Haseen was married off to a man that her family thought was suitable for her. But soon after the marriage, she realized that the man did not hold a regular job and wanted to live off her income.  Every once in a while, he would go away for months and come back to her only to vanish again. Each time he came back and apologized she would let him in, in the hope that he would change for the better and be more responsible. But that was not to be. Then, some seven years ago, when she was carrying Sania, her daughter, he vanished for good. She has no idea where he is now. ‘What right,’ she asks, tears streaking down her face, ‘does this man have to play with my life? He’s the father of my children and it is his duty to care for them. No religion allows men to behave like this!’
To add to Haseen’s woes, both her children have serious health problems. Her 14 year-old son has a heart condition. Her daughter, aged about 6, suffers from a lung problem.
Haseen is not in a position to take up a full-time job, there being no one else in the house to look after her children. A fortnight ago, she managed to get a job in someone’s house in Bangalore as a part-time cook. She wakes up early in the morning, gets her children ready for school, and then walks them down to the main road, three kilometres away. Then, she walks back to her shack, finishes her household chores, and walks back to the main road and takes a bus to her place of employment. In the afternoon, she comes back all the way, picks up her kids and walks them back to her house, and then goes back again walking to the main road and catches a bus to cook dinner for her employers. She returns at night, walking all by herself in the dark, back to her children. That is what life is like for Haseen.
‘There are nights when I cannot get sleep when both kids are unwell,’ she says. ‘Last month, a snake sneaked in to the shack at night, and we couldn’t get a wink of sleep. We kept watching its every move till it slithered away in the morning.’
Haseen is a special woman. Despite her harrowing fate, she does not complain about her plight. In fact, she’s always on the look-out for opportunities all the time to help other people in distress. She has helped several poor widows, handicapped and old women apply for the government  pensions  that they are entitled to, but know not how to access. In the midst of all this, she found the time to appear for the 10thstandard Board examinations this year. Unfortunately, she failed in most subjects, as during the examinations she was helping a poor neighbour reclaim her new born baby from a family that the woman had willingly sold the baby to.  She had to go to the local police and succeeded in getting the baby. In the bargain, she had to pawn her only possession””her nose ring. But she is determined to appear for the examinations again this year.
Swabhimaan, a public charitable trust that I have been associated with since its inception, works in the slums of Rajendranagara, near Koramangala, in Bangalore. It focuses on health, education, micro-finance, skill development and vocational training. We at Swaibhamaan have been in touch with Haseen for the past two years, and realize that, given the necessary support, she can run a very good kitchen and in that way become economically more stable. She is an excellent cook, and so she can use her culinary skills to generate a decent livelihood for herself and her children. We are convinced that a hard-working woman like Haseen needs just a helping hand to live a respectable life.
We have discussed this idea of a kitchen with Haseen. For this, she would need to move to a busier neighbourhood, where she can supply breakfast and lunch to working people. We have suggested the Rajendranagara area, where we have many friends with whom we work and whom Haseen, too, is familiar with. Small, compact homes are available here for reasonable rentals. We can help her get admission for her children in schools in the immediate neighbourhood so that she can manage her business from home. We estimate that she will be able to earn about Rs 10,000 a month through her kitchen.
If Haseen is able to shift to Rajendranagara and set up her kitchen-cum-home there, the “activist” in her will be a great asset to us as we work with a large number of women in that area. We will be able to benefit from her skills to help many more women in similar situations.
While this is an appeal to raise funds to help Haseen and her kids start a new life, we would want all well-wishers to know that we salute the spirit of this phenomenal woman and mother.
You can help in cash or by providing kitchen items in good condition that you think Haseen might find useful.
Money can be sent for Haseen by bank transfer to her daughter Sania Taj’s account. Her bank account details are as follows:
Name of Account Holder: Sania Taj
Name of Bank: Vijaya Bank
Branch: Gunjur, Bangalore
Account Number: 130501111000200
IFSC Code Bank: VIJB0001305
If you want to help in kind, in the form of kitchen items, you can contact on:
[email protected]. For more details about Swambhimaan, see our website: