Poetry Of A Common Indian Female
Welcome to the life of Nanda Shetty. As you read on, you will see how this lady has fought fiercely throughout the years, all the while keeping her beautiful smile intact. She has defied barriers and broken walls around her, and made a life worth living for her two daughters and herself, which at one point was not possible at all.
As I entered the old worn out building, I instantly got the vibes of what I was about to witness. Nanda Shetty had readily agreed to give me an interview simply based on her gut feelings. I removed my shoes outside. I was nervous because it was the first interview for this book. I entered her home carrying a journal, a pen and my phone with the intention of using all these aids in conducting her interview.
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“Beta, you would not need any of that.” Nanda said with a smile, as her eyes fell on my interview equipment.
I sat on the sofa and Nanda went inside; after a while she returned with a plate full of samosas and a host of other sweets.
“Eat!” She ordered.
I just nodded my head and picked up a samosa with no intention of eating it.
“Shall we begin?” she asked.
“Definitely!” I said, still holding a samosa in my hand and my eyes observing her face- Vibrant, confident and at the same time motherly.
“Have your samosa beta.” She said pointing to the standstill samosa in my hand.
I hesitantly took a bite, and prepared myself to ask the first question. I knew at the outset that this story was grand and filled with all the colors of life.
She spoke mesmerizingly and I kept on listening…
Nanda Shetty was born in Mumbai on 12th March 1966. She was the oldest child followed by one sister and two brothers. Nanda’s father was a businessman with enough money to provide a luxurious lifestyle to his children.
Nanda began her story, “Beta, I was born in town and was hardly familiar with the suburbs.” (A section of Mumbai i.e. old Mumbai, which is also known as ‘town’- one of the costliest places in the city.)
Nanda had the best of everything-Education, Lifestyle etc. She was not aware poverty, since by God’s grace she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth.
“My servants used to bring me tea every morning, and I was completely unaware about what goes on in the kitchen and on top of all that I didn’t know how to cook, not even an omelet. That was the kind of life my father had provided for us.”
Life changes when you get married and Nanda’s father’s decision to marry her to a boy proposed by a family member changed Nanda’s life drastically. The boy’s family was not their financial equal but the boy was a sportsperson with a good physique. Nanda’s father, on the recommendation of the relative who was a confidante, decided to marry Nanda to Vishwanath Shetty. And what happened after the wedding changed Nanda’s life completely and forever.
“He was a good man with good manners and a cordial attitude- the kind of man that every girl would want as a husband. But the thing which ruined my life was his gambling.”
Vishwanath Shetty being anathlete was a charismatic man but with a dull attitude towards domestic life. Earning money, which is the prime duty of a man with a family and household was nowhere in his scheme of things. The only thing which interested him was gambling. Nanda bore all this patiently for a while and was able to survive as her father was a strong source of support. Her father would give her money for all her needs for the house. Being a respected man in society he could not break his daughter’s marriage. Nanda too, despite being traumatized by her husband did not contemplate divorce even for a minute as it would have a negative impact on her father’s image in society.
“My father gave me lots of gold (she smiles) since we Shettys love gold (she smiles again), and a house as a gift.”
Neha Shetty was Nanda’s first child and she couldn’t have asked for more. As Neha arrived in the couple’s life, Nanda thought that now at least her husband would become serious about earning, but it never happened. Her husband was not earning any money and she was consistently being supported by her father. Six years went by and by now Nanda was completely engaged in her household and Neha with occasional fights with her husband. Although, Nanda was a strong woman, her husband did his best to make Nanda weak. And that is what she hated the most. But, she never really opposed it.
God knows why? “Once I had gone to a Five Star parlor in town to cut my hair. I had knee length hair, which I cut down to almost shoulder length. When I came home to surprise my husband, instead of appreciating how I looked, he slapped me right in front of Neha.”
Despite Nanda’s father’s warnings Vishwanath kept hitting Nanda. But Nanda being a true Indian woman never told her father about any future physical abuses, instead decided to keep mum and bear it all alone. Disaster struck Nanda when her father, her strongest support passed away. Nanda was broken from inside. Her insensitive husband was no good at consoling her or providing her with any kind of emotional support.
“My father gave a loan of Rs.1,80,000 to my husband for setting up a hotel, but the useless fellow spent it all on his gambling, arghhhhhhh!! I hated him for that. After my dad passed away, he lost more money and I was forced to sell our house, in fact my house, which my dad gave me.”
So Nanda Shetty, on the insistence of her husband sold her house which her father gave her. Vishwanath was in complete charge of the money which was raised after selling the flat and he decided to buy a house in an illegal building on the top floor, which virtually had only four walls, with no doors and no windows.
“Beta, when I came to this house for the first time, I was saddened. It had no doors, no windows and no water supply. What I mean to say is, it was only a box!”
Nanda was devastated. Her husband had brought them to hell, she thought sometimes. They stayed on the Fifth floor with a small attached terrace to it. Nanda could not bear it. She would often fight with Vishwanath- but all in vain! Neha was six years old now and was admitted to a nursery school. Nanda paid her fees with whatever little money she had with her as all the money that remained after selling the old house and buying this house in an illegal building was under Vishwanath’s control.
“I sometimes begged him for ten rupees, but did not get it. Neha would cry endlessly, but her father would not listen.”
In January 1991 Nanda moved to Kisan-Nagar, a hub of illegal buildings in Thane, with some of them spaced apart by just a hand’s length. Dirt and filth which Nanda had never seen before was present everywhere and she was now forced to live with it.
When her sister visited her once, she asked Nanda, “Di! How can you live in such a stinky place?” And Nanda had no answer to her sister’s question.
“Beta I would not go down to the streets to buy anything, since I was not at all comfortable with the place. Mosquitoes everywhere, overflowing sewage pipes and the place had a peculiar smell that I hated. ”
In the middle of that year Nanda came to know that she was pregnant once again. She could not decide whether it was a curse or a boon.
“It was around May 1991 that I realized that I was pregnant. I was afraid about it. How would I manage with two children? That was a constant thought in my head. I went and told my husband, but he was least excited. I felt like killing myself! ”
On October 29, 1991 Nanda gave birth to Devi Shetty- her second daughter, which in her own words, came almost unexpectedly. Recalling the extremely tough times Nanda says, “When Devi was born, I did not have any money to pay the hospital bills. My husband was nowhere around and I somehow with great difficulty brought Devi home and paid the hospital bill by selling my gold.”
Those were some of the most difficult times of Nanda’s life, but the worst was yet to come. Devi was three years old now and Nanda had no more money for running the household. Vishwanath would sit at home for the entire day doing nothing. If at all Vishwanath felt like doing something, he would hit Nanda. Completely depressed, Nanda asked for help from her mother and family, but they refused. Nanda felt the lowest of her entire life and felt lost. How was she going to bring money to the house, so that her children would at least have food two times a day? She would cry endlessly all day, every day.
“I seriously thought of suicide!” she says, “but later thought about my daughters and dropped the idea as I knew there will be no one to look after them.”
Nanda was passing through the worst phase of her life and she was trying to perform to the best of her ability. But the situation was far tougher than what she could handle alone.
“Kabhi kabhi, hum ek sabji teen deen chalate the.” (We used to eat one vegetable for three days.)
Nanda had never faced the kind of severe poverty that she was facing now. Vishwanath couldn’t care less and that irritated Nanda a lot. If she raised her voice, she knew what answer she would get, so she stopped complaining to her husband after a while.
“I sometimes had no money to bring rice also. Neha was nine years old now and she needed good food and a good education, and for that you need money. I decided that I would work, what work, I did not know at that time, but I decided that I would give it a shot.”
Driven by a compulsive desire to earn money, Nanda went to her distant cousin brother who had a finance office at Bombay Central. Her cousin being a good man offered her a job to look after the accounts and gave her a salary of Rs. 1500. But the real problem was something else. Nanda did not know how to handle the accounts. Nanda accepted the offer despite being a laywoman in the field.
“My desire to feed my children was so great that I agreed to work for a mere salary of Rs. 1500, which at one point of time I used to spend in a single day.”
The problems did not end after that.
For the first month Nanda travelled daily from Mulund to Bombay Central, which takes one hour and the same in reverse direction at around eight in the night, the peak hour of return traffic. There, Nanda met Arun Kumar Mishra who used to come frequently to the office for finance related work.
Nanda found him to be a decent and helpful man.
“Although initially I was finding it difficult to understand the accounts, I was somehow able to grasp it quickly. But the real problem for me was the train journey which would exhaust me at the end of the day. Honestly speaking, I had never travelled by train before.”
“For the first time when my brother called me to his cabin for giving me the salary, I was teary eyed. I was completely overwhelmed by the idea of receiving the salary. However small the amount was, I felt a happiness that I had not felt in my entire life.”
Nanda received her first salary and things changed after that. It took her quite some time to get accustomed to trains and the maddening crowd of Mumbai. She had already spent five months at her brother’s company and by then she was a pro at the accounts.
“By god’s grace I have a sharp mind, so very quickly I became their hope for anything related to accounts, and my brother was paying me thrice the salary which he had offered me initially.”
Things were slightly better at home for Nanda now as there was a regular source of income. Although she had to work very hard for it, she was happy; at least she was not dependent on anyone.
“My cousin once called me to his cabin and impressed by my work, he offered me a loan of five lakhs if I wanted. I very politely refused and told him that I do not require any loan, but please give me the salary on time.”
Neha and Devi were in school now, and Nanda made sure that both girls were admitted to the best school available to them. Her husband still did not do anything apart from beating her once in a while. She once requested him to work so that she would get a helping hand at paying their daughters’ school and tuition fees but what came as a reply from Vishwanath shocked her completely. He said, “What’s the need of sending them to school? Cancel the admission and keep them at home!“
Nanda was shocked beyond words at her husband’s attitude towards their daughters’ education. She kept her cool and decided that no matter what, she would make sure that both girls would get the best education she could give them.
“That statement from him depressed me completely. I myself being very well educated by my father would not settle for anything less for my daughters.”
Nanda started working relentlessly day-in and day-out. At the end of six months she was making decent money, which was enough to bring in food and pay the bills.
“Everything was at least stable now, not great but decent. It so happened that one day my cousin was in need of some money and he asked me if I knew someone who could help him out.”
Nanda being herself in crisis could not think of anyone and gave up the idea of helping her cousin since she did not know anybody who could help him out.
“One day I was working in the office and Mr. Arun came in unexpectedly. Upon asking why, he said he was going to give some money to a friend who needed it.”
Nanda’s sharp brain ignited like fire and she requested Mr. Arun to lend the money to her cousin. Taken aback by Nanda’s request, Mr. Arun took some time to think and finally agreed to lend the money with the condition of taking it back in two months.
“Two months passed and my cousin could not return the money to Mr. Arun. I was the mediator, so I was answerable to Mr. Arun. Although he did not say anything to me, he very politely requested me to convince my cousin to pay the money back.”
Nanda did request her cousin to return the money, but he could not give it back since he was also in trouble.
“My mind gave me one more idea; I knew my cousin had one shop which he had mortgaged from someone since he had to take money from them. I told my cousin to give the shop to Mr. Arun till the time he doesn’t return the money, and he reluctantly agreed.”
So that was it. A Master Stroke! – A move that changed Nanda’s life forever, once again. Nanda took ownership of the shop and handed it over to Mr. Arun. The monkey was off Nanda’s back now since she had given something back to Mr. Arun, who blindly on her instruction gave money to her cousin.
“Although I had handed over the shop to Mr. Arun, he came and told me that he does not know what to do with the shop and requires my help.”
Nanda was reluctant to give up her established job, but eventually decided to enter into a partnership with Mr. Arun.
“So we struck a deal that I will handle the shop doing god knows what business and will pay a monthly rental to Mr. Arun and no deposit.”
Nanda went to the shop the very next day of the deal and decided to do something with it. But what could she do? She was not sure about it but she did think of a Public Call Office.
“P.C.O’s were in those days, so I decided to install a public telephone in my shop. But for that you need a phone, and to get a phone you need to apply for it in the telephone exchange. The latter part was tough, really tough!”
Nanda did not know the workings of a government office, maybe because she never needed to enter one before in her life.
Somehow, with great difficulty Nanda obtained a phone and the engine of Nanda’s shop roared to life.
“Only a P.C.O was not enough to generate revenues so I thought of making some people who could type to sit in the shop for typing service as the shop was in close proximity to the court and there was adequate demand for typing.”
The gamble paid off well and soon a large crowd in front of Nanda’s shop could be seen at any time of the day, generating good revenues for Nanda, eventually helping her to look after her daughters in a much better way than her husband could ever have done.
“Everything was going well, when suddenly one day I saw the police at my shop and later I found out that they had come to take away the shop from me.”
The person whose shop Nanda took against money from her cousin wanted the shop back and was trying to put pressure on Nanda with the help of police and some local goons. Nanda was instructed to report to the police station the next day on charges of illegal acquisition of property.
“I was really scared initially. That shop was the only means of feeding my children, and if they would have taken away that shop from me, my children and I would have starved, because I had no other way of earning money.”
The real character of a woman comes out in times of crisis, and these were the testing times of Nanda’s true character.
“I don’t know how but I got the courage just by looking at my daughters’ faces when I came home that day.”
Nanda very boldly went to the police station the next day and threw the shop’s keys on the inspector’s table.
“I threw the keys and told him – give me my money back and take the shop, I don’t want it.”
The inspector was really shocked by Nanda’s fearlessness and asked her to sit down and narrate the entire incident to him. Nanda told him how exactly she came to be in possession of the shop and told him that she is ready to vacate the shop as soon as she gets her money back.
“The inspector was really impressed by my story and told me not to worry and go home. He shouted at those people who filed the case against me.”
“Mam aapko kuch bhi takleef ho toh mujhe boliyega. (Mam if you have any trouble just let me know.) That’s what the officer told me.” (She smiles.)
From here on Nanda, without any fear started operating the little shop she had and managed her household. Things back home were not so bright. Her husband continued on the same lines and did not do anything apart from beating her but less frequently now.
“Mr. Arun would sit in the shop from the morning till 4 in the afternoon and after that I would go and stay till 11 p.m. And we would swap the schedules every month.”
Nanda would sometimes come back home at around 2 a.m. and many times she would have to deal with drunken auto-rickshaw drivers. Nanda always, by just thinking about Neha and Devi tolerated everything that life was throwing at her.
“The world is a cruel place, especially if you have to raise two daughters single-handedly.”
It was around the early part of 2000’s that Nanda saw an advertisement of IATA somewhere at some station. Since she was always eager to learn new things, she joined the course using the little savings she had with her.
“I joined the course since the typists at my shop were trustworthy and I could leave the entire shop with them. I was the oldest in the batch and the remaining students were a bunch of kids aged around 20 to 22 years.”
Nanda was juggling many things at once; the shop in the day time – which was her only source of bread and butter – and the IATA course-in which she was introduced to learning once again after so many years and finally her home and family.
“I would memorize the country codes while coming back in the jam-packed local train from the shop after the whole tiring day of work since that was the only time I had for learning, I would cook after coming back home and then again I would tell Neha to take my exam.”
Nanda was managing everything with some god given strength as she says. She cleared the basic level of IATA with flying colors, but did not do an advanced course, because she did not have the money.
“My batch mates who were really younger than me were really fond of me and forced me to complete the advance course also but they understood in the end. I still have very fond memories of IATA.”
To create an alternate source of income Mr. Arun had an idea. Since he had recently started dealing in chemicals, he was sure there was good scope in it. He knew about chemicals and Nanda knew how to talk and strike deals, so both Mr. Arun and Nanda started their venture into chemicals with baby steps.
“He would bring material from suppliers and I would strike deals with the customers. That was it- our basic business model.”
was earning decent amount of money by now to fulfill almost all desires of her daughters and to feed her useless husband. Her daughters were doing well in school and Nanda made sure they were not deprived of anything that they needed or desired.
The year was 2006 and what should have happened years ago, according to Nanda happened that fateful day.
“I came home from work at around two in the night really tired, agitated and my ever useless husband started shouting at me, I don’t remember what about but he eventually raised his hand on me. Although it was not a new thing for me, I was shocked.”
On any other normal day Nanda would not have responded the way she did and would have quietly cried herself to sleep, but not that day. Encouraged by Neha, Nanda picked up a stick that was placed in a corner and slapped her husband with it.
Furious and angry Nanda hit her husband as many times as she could, finally stopping upon seeing a tear drop from her husband’s eyes for the first time in her life.
“My elder daughter Neha was really agitated with her father, so when that night he tried raising his hand on me, Neha lost her cool and told me to give him back, that too in his own style.”
“He did not expect me to explode like this, but it was simply unbearable for me. Years of anger, humiliation, and rage at my husband forced me to hit him. I threw him out of the house in the middle of the night and till now he has not come back.”
Nanda’s life improved dramatically after her husband’s exit from the house. She began working with more focus and dedication. Neha got married and was blessed with a son named Rudra. Life was good now and everything was falling into place eventually. Finally Nanda decided to shut down the shop and give it back to the real owner upon his polite request.
“I had carved my entire life from that shop, it gave me a lot. Whatever I am today is due to that shop. So finally, when the real owner of the shop was dead and his son came to me and very politely asked for the return of the shop, I gave it back to him. I had earned a lot from it and wanted to help that poor fellow who was really in need of it, just like I was initially.”
Nanda kept going with the chemicals business along with Mr. Arun till around 2012. But fate who had always troubled Nanda decided to test her thoroughly once again.
In the second half of 2012, Nanda’s younger sister Rupa Shetty was diagnosed with kidney failure. The doctors told her that she could only survive if she gets a donor. The situation was critical, as Rupa was weakening day by day and her chances of survival was reducing every minute. Nanda, being an overprotective sister since childhood stepped up to the stage and announced that she would donate her kidney to Rupa.
“There was no confusion in my head. I wanted to save Rupa at any cost, that’s why upon everyone’s disapproval also I went ahead and donated a kidney to her as I loved her a lot.”
If ever you’ve wondered how it feels to lose an organ from your body, ask Nanda. It took her nearly two months to walk properly and as she was on a slightly heavier side, the transplant gave her a lot of trouble.
“The operation was successful and Rupa’s body accepted the kidney really well. But my body took some time to get used to it.”
The real problem Nanda faced was to climb the five floors of her building since it did not have a lift. It was very difficult for Nanda to climb those floors with her heavy body after the operation.
“Nowadays I don’t go out much, because just the mere thought of climbing those dreadful steps scares me (She smiles).”
Nanda’s life is good now. Devi, after completing her education joined a company and she also lends a helping hand to Nanda.
“I mostly stay at home and give tuitions, Rudra and Neha come over once in a while and my grandson Rudra is a very naughty boy, he creates such chaos!”
Nanda’s life could have been better, but what she has done over the years is truly remarkable. Single handedly, and without help from anybody, she worked relentlessly to raise her two daughters the way nobody would have imagined her doing so initially.
“I want every young woman to become like me, fearless!”
You would not believe it; as she told me in the beginning I really did not record anything on my phone, nor did I write down anything in my journal, nothing! -Just plain simple listening to the journey of her life.
I have to say that she really spoke well, almost creating her entire life as a visual film for me.
As I am about to finish the interview, Nanda drew my attention to a small chair in a corner. I looked at it and then at Nanda.
“Look closely!” Nanda said.
I looked with increased attention and found a small stick made of bamboo on that chair.
“That was the stick I hit my husband with!”
I kept looking to and fro between the stick and Nanda and she smiled.
“Why do you still keep it there?” I asked her.
Nanda just smiled back at me with her beautiful, intense eyes and offered me more tea. Although she did not answer my question I understood more than what she could have said. What a LADY! A truly inspirational story of a common Indian woman, who literally fought the entire world and carved her own way in life for her and her daughters.
If you want to buy this book please visit this link: http://bit.ly/PoetryOfACommonIndianFemale
About the Author: Virendra Desai, is an Advanced Business Strategy Advisor & Subliminal Communication expert. You can write to the author at [email protected]