Ilavarasi wants to study
A 22-year-old girl, born as an unpleasant surprise to her Tamil Brahmin mother and Thevar father, who later abandoned her, and who is now looked after by an NGO tells Shobha Warrier about two dreams she wished somebody could fulfil.
There is sadness all over Ilavarasi's small face. Except for a small red bindi, her face is plain. Her eyes are always downcast and half shut as if she doesn't want to see the world, and her voice is barely audible.
She is just 22 but she has seen it all in her life.
She was spotted looking vacantly at the railway track with tears rolling down her cheeks by Esther, one of the volunteers of the NGO, Indian Community Welfare Organisation (ICWO).
"From the way she was sitting there, so depressed, I knew there was something wrong. So, I went and started talking to her but she refused to answer my questions. Finally, she said, I want my mother. That was not what I expected to hear from a girl who was staring at the railway track. I thought she'd had a fight with her mother," Esther said.
Image: Sreeram Selvaraj
Photographs: Ilavarasi at Indian Community Welfare Organisation
Ilavarasi wants to study
The truth was, she didn't have a fight with her mother; she was looking for the woman who gave birth to her.
I looked at Ilavarasi expecting her to continue her story but it was as if she didn't want to speak at all. After a few minutes of silence, she started talking and then it was like the floodgates opening.
"I don't know who my mother is. I don't know who my father is. I don't know where they are. I only know my Appa and Amma who brought me up. Those who brought me up were two construction workers. When I was four, Amma ran away with a man and after that, I was sent to my Appa's relatives. Nobody wanted me permanently and they shifted me from one house to another."
The beginning of Ilavarai's story was a love affair of two college students from two different communities. "When I pestered, I was told one day that my mother was a Brahmin and father, a Thevar boy. In no way, their families would have agreed to their wedding. When they found that my mother was pregnant, they ran away to another town. After my birth, they gave me away to the construction workers who lived nearby and went back to their families. That was how they became my Appa and Amma."
After her Appa's death due to throat cancer when she was 16, she was sent to her Amma's house. There, what awaited her were sexual advances from Amma's husband. She ran away from there to her Periamma's (father's sister) house and there also, the same fate awaited her.
By then, she had grown into a beautiful tall girl with waist length hair.
Ilavarasi is angry now at the way she was farmed out to so many different homes; as if she were not welcome anywhere. Her conception was an unpleasant surprise and birth unwelcome to her parents. "If my mother had killed me before I was born, I would not have suffered like this. I have only received mental torture and rejection all my life. I want to know who my parents are, and I want to ask my mother, why didn't you abort me? Why did you give birth to me? Did they once think that the baby was also a human being and what future awaited her? For them, I was a waste that had to thrown into the dustbin.
Image: Ilavarasi at Indian Community Welfare Organisation
Ilavarasi wants to study
I don't want anything from them. I am sure they would be living happily somewhere with their families. But I have to ask these questions. I want this to be a lesson to all the others who abandon their babies and run away."
Ilavarasi stopped there and she looked at the faraway horizon silently for sometime. "I haven't slept for days together. I was scared. When the tension went beyond what I could handle, I decided to end my life. Esther Akka brought me back to life... After many, many years, a few days ago, I slept soundly," she confessed.
Despite all the worries and disturbances, Ilavarasi studied well and secured 91 per cent in her 10th Board exam and 98 per cent in her 12th standard exam. " I was good at studies and athletics, and I came back from school with trophies and certificates but there was not a single person in my life who cared about all that. As I walked back home with the best student and athlete trophies, I dreamt of my mother hugging me and kissing me."
Though she did well in her 12th, she could not go to college. "All my life, my dream was to be an IAS officer. I studied well. I got excellent marks. But nobody was there to educate me. I was forced to work after my 12th standard. I still want to continue my education and achieve my dream of becoming an IAS officer."
Ilavarasi, the girl who was abandoned, unwanted and never dared to dream has two dreams in her life. "I want to locate my mother and ask her a few questions. Then, I want to study..."
If you want to help Ilavarasi realise her dream of studying further, you can get in touch with ICWO at firstname.lastname@example.org
Image: Ilavarasi with Esther at Indian Community Welfare Organisation