ByÂ Saumya Sahni:
After the morning and afternoon clamour, the atmosphere around West Patel Nagar Sabji market calms down as most vendors and hawkers start calling a day at around 8 PM in the evening. The only exception to this bandwagon is 58-year old vegetable seller, Darshana whose toil is an inspiration for people like you and me sitting in the comfort of our houses or offices. Darshana stares out for the last set of customers before she decides to shut the business for the day. Nearly two decades of hard work has caused her joints to develop frequent aches and her fingers and face to droop.
Darshana starts her day at the crack of dawn at 3 am to set up her vegetable stall at 4 am; she manages to purchase vegetables for her stall from the wholesaler of Azadpur Mandi who visits the market at West Patel Nagar everyday at around 7 am. She happens to be the first seller to arrive and the last to leave because of which she is fondly addressed as “Beebi” by other sellers in the vicinity.
Ironically, selling vegetables was never in her agenda. In the crowded, shady marketplace, Darshana nearing her sixties has previously worked in a brick kin for nearly two decades which was sufficient for her family of four consisting of her husband and two daughters. Troubles started for her when the brick kin shifted its base to Gurgaon. The pension which the kin provides her family till today was not enough to suffice her family because of which she had to join her hands with her husband to sustain her family in selling vegetables. Although with the passage of time, Darshana has now acquired a sound knowledge of how vegetables are grown, which of them are unripe and which ones need constant care.
If you are thinking that she has two sources of income including the pension and she has nothing to worry, let me tell you, she is earning only marginal profits because of which she also at times has to resort to selling vegetables for more than the justified price. Tomatoes if are priced at Rs. 30 per kg, she will sell it at Rs. 35-40 per kg in order to suffice her livelihood. Guilty as she feels, helpless she is! She also has the responsibility of paying the rent of her stall and the electricity bills since her husband is ailing. Darshana is also an imaginary philanthropist as she is greatly inspired by the ideals of Mother Teresa. She might not be aware of her contributions to philanthropy but is heavily fond of helping street children and the destitute. Whenever her savings exceed a limit of more than what she had planned, she gifts a pencil and an eraser to little children in need in her colony. She might not have achieved ladders of prizes and hoards of educational qualifications, but she definitely understands the value of education. Kudos to that!
Belonging to a village in Rajasthan, it was not easy for her to accommodate herself to the lifestyle demands here. Extreme inflation and rising expenses do tend to break her back. Bemoaning Sheila Dikshit’s government, she passionately shares her fantasy of matching footsteps with Arvind Kejriwal by contributing to the Aam Aadmi Party in whatever way she can. According to her, Arvind speaks the aam aadmi’s voice because of which he is a suitable candidate to eradicate corruption from our diseased country. Impressive this!
Darshana leads a life devoid of luxuries. Quiz her about her future plans, prompt comes the reply, “I try to enjoy what I do. I like people asking me if I can reduce the prices of the vegetables. I am the queen here. At the end of the day, all I want is a decent future for my kids and health for my family”.
The most striking thing about her personality is her simplicity and honesty. Her kids also are proud of their mother. One thing which I have leant from her is that no matter how high you reach in life, it is imperative to stay grounded to your roots.
The morale which keeps her going in life is, “Struggles make you rich. Principles are your real wealth. You came on your own into this world and you will go also on your own but your principles will never leave your side. God will eventually reward your karma and be it in life or death; he will never levy atrocities on you more than your capacity”.
Truly, Darshana is a beauty. During my brief conversation with her at the marketplace, I realized that you are a puppet of your karma. No work is petty or great. Your attitude makes it or can even break it. A strong will power is all that you require while trudging a path full of atrocities, with a smile.