Kudumbasree employee M R Vidya spotted a frail old woman at the Thiruvananthapuram Central Railway Station on Sunday morning. She was alone and seemed to be in need of help. Vidya offered to buy her food but she readily rejected. When the question was changed to whether she was hungry, the no was less emphatic. Later, between mouthfuls, the emaciated woman told Vidya that she retired as a teacher of maths from a school in Malappuram.
To cut a long story short, Valsa teacher is now lodged in an old age home run by the Thiruvananthapuram Corporation. Thiruvananthapuram Sub Collector Divya S Iyer personally oversaw her transfer to the care home. Details about how she ended up on the street is yet to emerge, but the initially skeptical Valsa teacher is warming upto the sub collector who took the time out to have a long and reassuring chat.
On finding out that the starving woman in tattered clothes is a retired school teacher, Vidya posted her pictures on Facebook with a note. One of Valsa tecaher’s old colleagues at Islahiya Public School in Malappuram thought the face looked familiar. Maimuna, a teacher at the MSP Higher Secondary School, Malappuram, asked another colleague Neena Sabarish to take a look. The duo confirmed their suspicion and posted on Facebook – “This is Valsa Teacher. Our colleague at Islahiya school. Children, this is your Teacher in the picture”.
“I have seen ‘Amma’ before; while visiting aged people as part of an initiative by some college students”, says Divya Iyer. “She was at the railway station then, but refused to move to a care home. She told us then that she would go home. And the next I see her is in this Facebook post that was doing the rounds on Whatsapp.”
Divya was on her way to office in the morning when the Whatsapp message caught her attention. She asked the police to look for the woman at the railway station. Police took the help of Women’s Cell and brought her over to police station. By evening, the sub collector reached the station. After convincing Valsa to move to a care home, the sub collector accompanied her to ‘Sayahnam’, an old age home functioning under the Corporation at Ambalathara.
Says Divya, “she was not happy about moving to an old age home. But once we were at Sayahnam, she seemed pleased with the tranquil ambiance. She said ‘it’s nice here, I have company’. When it was time for me to leave, she seemed a little sad. She asked, ‘Will you come and check on me every day’. I assured her that I will keep coming now and then. It’s shuddering to think how lonely our elders are. This is a very critical issue that is staring us in the face.”
Divya remembers Valsa mentioning that she had a son during their first meeting. “She had confidently told us that her son would come and take her home. Maybe she eventually realized that will not happen which is probably why she agreed to move to the care home now.”
Valsa still says her son lives in Pettah in Thiruvananthapuram. Her colleagues say that she used to talk about her son. They knew she was from Thiruvananthapuram, but little else.
“I asked her about filing a police complaint against her son,” says Divya. “She said by no means will she allow that. Like all mothers, she cannot bear to accept that her child did not do right by her.”
Divya says a case has been registered with the Senior Citizens’ Tribunal. The sub-collector presides over the Tribunal in the respective sub-division which will make it easier for her to follow up the case, she says. “We will enquire about her son. She was employed and must have had a pension. Those details are being probed.”
We have heard countless stories about aged parents rejected by their adult children. Cut off from the lives of the children they raised, they walk into a dark world of dejection and loneliness. Divya says she is hoping that Valsa’s story is different.
“We don’t yet know what happened to her or her son. We also don’t know if she left home on her own. Aged people could sometimes be in a delirious state, although she seems to have retained a sound mind. Even if we find her son, we will not let the family take her home without a proper enquiry. Let’s hope the details that emerge are not disappointing,” she says.
Old colleagues and students from Malappuram are all set to pay a visit to Valsa Teacher. Kudumbasree worker Vidya’s Facebook page is flooded with messages congratulating her for initiating the rescue mission. Happy that Valsa has returned to a life of dignity, Vidya says in her Facebook post that it is the loving care of a teacher finding its way back.