Published: 07th March 2020
Everyday Sheroes: Retailer by day, student by evening, meet this diffabled 21-year-old
In our run-up to Int'l Women's Day 2020, we have curated this series of stories of women who aren't extraordinary — but our world may just stop going around smoothly if they decided to call it a day
Nothing is impossible, believes Seetamma Desai. She doesn’t just believe in this adage, this specially-abled youngster, who works as a retailer in a Pantaloons, a clothing retail chain, in Bengaluru, lives it every day. Hailing from Tarkaspet in Kalaburagi district, this 21-year-old is the energetic and enthusiastic one at work. And this trait of Seetamma is what inspires and motivates everyone around her. The story of how Seetamma ended up working at the store is a rather interesting one. She says, "I have four siblings and my father is a farmer. A few years ago, we borrowed `6 lakh from a local financer and were unable to repay it. Since my father is the only breadwinner in our family, I decided to work and help him repay the loan."
If you think that Seetamma is just another class X pass out working as a retailer, then you are wrong. She is pursuing her Bachelor’s in Science from Bijapur Open University. She says, "Science was the subject that I was always interested in pursuing. In 2016, when I passed my PUC II exams with 75 per cent from Morarji Desai Residential School, I decided to take up BSc. Though I wanted to pursue Engineering, our financial situation at that point wasn’t favourable, for that matter, it still isn’t. While I attended college regularly for the first and second semester, I couldn't continue for the third and chose to study through correspondence. LKET Degree College in Yadgir is affiliated to Bijapur Open University and upon request, they agreed to help me pursue a degree through correspondence."
Retail business and Bachelor’s of Science are two completely different streams so what led her to join the retail business? She explains, "As soon as I finished my second semester, members from Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana visited our college to conduct training in computer, lifeskills and provide employment to college students and unemployed youth. In June 2019, I travelled to Bengaluru and was trained in retail business, basic computer, English-speaking skills and so on. But it is our choice whether we can work here or go back to our hometown. I grabbed the opportunity and thought about getting a job. There were several companies that came to hire us and I was selected by Pantaloons to work as a retailer. I joined them in September 2019 and it's been six months since I have been working as a retailer."
Customers at the store talk to me in a friendly manner and appreciate my work. Some people have even come forward to help me financially, but I have not taken their help so far
Seetamma Desai, Retailer
You will be surprised to note that Seetamma has not left her studies. Recently, she passed her third semester exams in BSc with 76 per cent and hopes to score more marks in the fourth semester. "I aim to complete BSc and continue my higher studies to get a better job," says Seetamma who is an optimist.
A medical failure or negligence?
Seetamma was not infected with polio as a child and she walked normally till the age of four. Narrating what caused the defect in her left foot and the lower abdomen region, she says, "I don't remember exactly what happened to me. According to my parents, I fell from a flight of stairs when I was a year old. While there were no external injuries, there were a few internal ones. My parents were happy and assumed that there was no problem as I walked normally. However, when I turned five, I could not walk properly and felt a terrible pain in my left foot. They took me to one of the government hospitals in Kalaburgi. After the X-ray was done, the doctor suggested an operation. But during the operation, the doctor operated on the sciatic nerve instead of the nerve that was injured. After the operation, I could not walk an inch or even move. We consulted doctors in several hospitals and they suggested another surgery. But there was no guarantee that I would do well or remain alive. Therefore, my parents did not go for another surgery."
This phase was not easy for Seetamma or her parents, who agreed to all sorts of suggestions to help her walk again. "Some doctor suggested that I tie my leg with a three kg sandbag. I did that for three months and it was too painful. The skin on my leg started peeling and was oozing blood. When my father realised that this was not working out, he asked me to try walking. Even when I was seven years old, my mother would carry me to school every single day. It took a lot of courage, a willing mind and hard work just to get up and walk," explains a teary-eyed Seetamma.
When we asked if they complained about the medical negligence, Seetamma says, "My parents are uneducated and at that time, there was no social media and activism wasn’t strong. Even if we complained, what changes would that have brought about in my life? I would still not be able to walk like everyone else. We neither filed any complaint nor raised our voice. My parents and I have learnt to live with this."
Despite having a problem in her left leg, Seetamma works for nine hours every day and most of her work involves standing. She gets an hour for lunch break during which she sits. She goes to the store at 9 am and returns only at 9 pm. Her job includes folding clothes, segregating clothes as per the size, talking to customers and offering them suggestions regarding colours, brands or even prices. "I get a monthly salary of `12,000 out of which, I give `7,000 to the family for their expenses. And the remaining goes towards paying rent, food and so on. Sometimes, if my siblings want some new clothes or money for their school or college fees, I provide them with whatever money I have, " she concludes.
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