Published: 08th March 2020
Everyday Sheroes: Meet Sangeetha, everyone's bestfriend on a hot sunny day
: In our run-up to International 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 not for them
If you live in Chennai and have to walk to work, then there's no greater friend — especially during those scorching summer days — than the Akka who sells coconut water or 'elaneer'. Yes, there might be a juice shop at every corner of the street but this is probably one of those times when you listen to your parents' advice and opt to go the 'elaneer' way because it's more hygienic and mostly because juice these days costs a bomb.
One of Ambattur's most wanted coconut water sellers is Sangeetha. She and her husband have been selling coconut water at the Ambattur junction for the last five years. And though that doesn't seem like too long, Sangeetha says there's nothing that she would rather be doing than providing the best coconuts for her customers. Although she was born in Tindivanam, Sangeetha was brought up in Chennai. She is the youngest of five — she has two elder sisters and two elder brothers. Being the baby of the family, was she spoilt then, we wonder. "Yes, I was," she says, with a wide smile.
Sangeetha only studied up to eight standard. "I was terrible at Math, just couldn't get my head around it," she says, laughing. Well, who can't identify with that, right? So, she quit school for a bit and eventually met her husband. I ask the routine question any Indian couple is asked, "Love marriage or arranged?" "Love only," she shares as she throws her husband, who is closely watching us and smiling along, a quick glance.
Together they have three children — one in the tenth grande, the second in eighth and the third in the sixth. Every morning, Sangeetha wakes up at around 5:30 am and while her husband sets off to work, she starts with the cooking. I ask her if she packs her children's tiffin boxes and sends them off to school too before heading to work? "No, no. They do that themselves. They are very self-sufficient children who do everything on their own. I don't have to worry," she quickly replies. As soon as she's done in the kitchen, she joins her husband at their selling point by around 7:30 am.
No injuries? "Oh, that happens all the time. See, look at my fingers, cuts everywhere. That happens, it's a part of the job," - Sangeetha
For the next 12-13 hours, Sangeetha spends her time selling coconut water alongside her husband. I figure it must've been hard at beginning to cut the coconuts just the right way? "That wasn't too difficult at all. I learnt it quite fast," she says. No injuries? "Oh, that happens all the time. See, look at my fingers, cuts everywhere. That happens, it's a part of the job," she tells me as she shows me her hands.
What does she do with her time in between serving customers? "Look at what's in her hands, she's happy with that," her husband tells me pointing to the phone in her hand. When she does take a break, Sangeetha catches up on some television series. The ones on Vijay TV are her usual go-tos. But she says that she has no favourite character, "If I follow what they do, I won't ever be happy," she says, fiercely shaking her head.
After her daily dose of coconuts, customers and TV series, the couple packs up at around 8 pm and they head home. "I go home and cook dinner. Then, we're all off to bed," she says. And the next day she's back at work. So, is she a happy working woman? Happy to be serving coconut water all day long? "Well, yes. I love it. If I wasn't, why would I be doing it 12 hours a day?" she asks nonchalantly.