Today I want to introduce you to a girl who has been in our school for three years: Radhika. She is eleven years old and has just now started studying in the 2nd grade. Just like all our children, she is from a poor family. And just like with all these families, there is a sad story behind.
Radhika’s parents got married in 1994, in a village not very far from Vrindavan. Her mother Meena told us that they moved to Vrindavan only five years ago, when her husband, who was a labourer, found this to be a developing town where there are always men needed somewhere on a construction site. He started working there and with the many small theaters where stages have to be built and equipment has to be shifted from one place to another.
By then, the couple already had four children, two daughters and two sons. Upon coming to Vrindavan, they used their savings to buy a house. They bought it on Meena’s name. Work was going good and although the income was not very high, it was good enough to furnish the house, send the children to school and live without very big sorrows. They had made friends among other workers and people of the theater groups. Meena was happy, moving to Vrindavan seemed to have been a very good decision.
She was of this opinion until he came home with a strange suggestion: he had met a woman and wanted her to move in with them. In disbelief she told him, well, live with whomever you want but if she comes here, I want money to raise my four children! He answered that they should sell the house – then he would give her money, she could buy a place for herself and he would buy a place for himself and his lover. Writing and reading these lines sounds rather peaceful but in reality these were conversations spread over days with lots of fights which often turned violent. Meena didn’t seem to know her husband anymore – he came home, they had a fight, he started beating her. All love that they had seemed to be gone. All because of another woman in his life!
Obviously, Radhika’s mother refused to sell the house, knowing that she would need a place to raise her children. With all the tension in the home, she had sent the girls to her sister’s house. She had done well not to send her sons, too. A few days later, the fighting got so bad that her husband took out a hockey stick and beat her with it. She fell unconscious to the floor when her sons came running in, themselves only ten and eleven years old. They shouted at their father not to hurt their mother. Seeing Meena lying there unconscious probably triggered fear in the man and he ran away. The boys got help, a neighbor who informed her relatives and they brought her to the hospital. She had to stay for two weeks, had to get stitched and was, obviously, not only physically hurt.
This happened three years ago. Since then, Meena has not heard a word of her husband anymore, neither have her children. They have the house – but their survival depends on the help of Meena’s family. Meena tried to work, sewing clothes for the deities of the temples in Vrindavan but her health deteriorated, one of her kidneys failed and when her hands and feet started swelling, she could not do the fine sewing work anymore. Her body does not allow her to find work anymore.
Her eldest daughter, now 17 years old, helps in the house and her eldest son adds a little bit to the income by working small random jobs after school. Radhika comes to our school and while she was understandably serious and lost in thought while her mother told us about those grim days, her face lit up when we asked her about her school time. She has made good friends, she loves coming and she has a good time there. One thing that the girls know already at their young age is that they need education so that they can find a job and work for a living on their own should they ever be in a similar situation as their mother!