The villagers of Kanimangalam, Thrissur, were awe-struck when Ajitha Vijayan, their very own milk-woman and local kindergarten teacher, became the Mayor of Thrissur Municipal Corporation. Ajitha, 48, has been delivering milk in around 200 houses in Kanimangalam village for 18 years now.
But none of her customers sought another source for their daily milk because she has never failed to keep milk pouches in front of their houses even when she served as the local councillor during 2010-15 and as the chairman of Corporation standing committee later. She performs the roles of the mayor, councillor of Kanimangalam division, local milk-woman as well that of an anganwadi teacher and a dancer with elan.
"I had been a milk-woman long before I became the mayor. Every job has its own honour," says a proud Ajitha as she kick-starts her two-wheeler at 4:30 am on Thursday as she went about distributing milk a day after she was sworn in as the Mayor.
Initiation into public life
Ajitha, born into a middle-class family at Palissery, Thrissur, came to Kanimangalam 23 years ago after marrying Vijayan, a local CPI worker and Milma agent. She commenced social work after joining the local anganwadi (childcare centre) as a teacher.
"I got opportunities to socialise and learn the real issues of my villagers after I became the anganwadi teacher. Though I hail from a family of CPI activists, I had never imagined a political career until I became an anganwadi teacher," Ajitha confides.
Vijayan, who also runs a tyre repairing workshop at Thrissur, had took over the local retail agency of the milk cooperative Milma back in 1995. Ever since, Ajitha has been supplying milk to all their daily customers on her two-wheeler. Later in 2000, as their customers grew in number, Ajitha limited her area of door delivery to a 3 km stretch which includes around 200 houses. She also attends to her job as an anganwadi teacher amid her busy work life.
Fortunately, the natives of Kanimangalam don't have to queue up in front of Corporation office to get a sight of their mayor and submit their petitions. They just have to wake up early and wait in front of their gates to meet her.
"I don't need informers to learn about the issues in my division. There is hardly any road I don't travel on a daily basis in this village. I'm familiar with the problems in most of the households through my anganwadi job. Ask me about the number of faulty street lights, names of potholed village roads or the rallies scheduled on each day, I'll tell you without looking into any public register," Ajitha speaks on her advantages.
Achievements and aims
Ajitha performs each of her different roles responsibly even though she multitasks. A testimony to her commitment to her duties is the improvement in the water distribution network in Kanimangalam area which had been regularly facing severe drought and water scarcity in summer. As civic councillor, she re-envisaged the old water distribution system and replaced the pipes with those of larger diameters.
"Drinking water scarcity in our division was solved by that initiative. As a native, any issue in my division is very well an issue faced by my family also. It is a home-maker's determination that helped me take that brave decision," Ajitha says.
In her new term as the Mayor of the Thrissur civic body, Ajitha plans to complete the various infrastructural projects that are stuck halfway. "Giving a new face to Diwanjimoola, development of 'Pattalam market,' and the revival of MG Road are some of the development projects I plan to take up soon," Ajitha reveals.
The role of a Thiruvathirakkali dancer is one of the many roles Ajitha dons. Her local dance troupe performs at temple festivals and cultural fests. Ajitha had taken part in the mega Thiruvathirakali (a popular group dance) that was organised on the grounds of Christ College, Irinjalakuda, in 2014. The event made it to the Guinness Book of Records.
"I spend an hour everyday to practise Thiruvathirakkali with my troupe members. We have a performance at Vadakkumnathan temple later this month," she says.
Ajitha likes to travel without relying on others and never makes use of the public vehicle and its driver allotted to her. She reaches the destination on her two-wheeler even if it is for a serious professional engagement.
"I have different professional commitments to fulfil. I can't make the public vehicle and its driver wait for me at all the places I go. I feel free and self-reliant when I ride my two-wheeler," she reasons.
Ajitha returns home around 9 pm everyday. Though busy with public affairs, Ajitha is a responsible homemaker and a caring mother. Her only daughter Athira got married to Sreekumar, another Thrissur native, last month.
"I don't find any difference between my office and the public sphere. Both are my workplaces one way or the other. I listen to people's problems on my way to deliver milk and enquire about the children in the anganwadi when their parents visit me at my office. I also remind people about the monthly payment of milk when they turn up at the anganwadi," she says.
For this busy woman, 24 hours is way too short to complete all her activities and call it a day!