Story of a friendship in an isolated village

By Annu Kaushik |

Thiruvallur: In Bhimavaram village, Tamil Nadu, every abandoned household tells the same story. Located on deserted roads, only nine houses in this isolated village remain occupied with merely elderly people. Each is a reflection of its past when more than 50 families used to live here.

For 65-year-old Munasawami Krishnaveni, the story has always remained the same. She’s been living alone since her husband, an embroidery worker, passed away 18 years ago. Krishnaveni had two children, a son and a daughter, who died in early infancy.

Her house was one of the only two occupied brick houses in the village. But that’s not the only thing that made it noticeable. 25-year-old specially abled Valli could be seen relaxing in her frontyard. For a village a where all the youngsters have migrated to the cities, Valli remains the only exception. She lives with her parents who are daily wage labourers. She has an elder sister who was married and lives in another district.

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Krishnaveni (right) with Valli in her frontyard. Credits- Annu Kaushik

A jolly but quiet Valli spends most of her time with Krishnaveni as her parents are mostly out for work. Over the years, the two women have formed a special bond. And in Krishnaveni’s own words, Valli often leaves her own mother to be with her.

On a Wednesday afternoon, Krishnaveni was cooking on a traditional wood fired stove while Valli was waiting for lunch.

Krishnaveni survives on Rs 1000 a month provided to her as part of an old age pension scheme by the government. Krishnaveni said, “The money is not enough but I could buy rice and pulses with my ration card.”

Her brother who was in the army gave her Rs 50,000 to build a ‘pucca’ house six years ago. She also has a power connection and a bank account.

According to Krishnaveni, Valli was never provided with any special care or treatment because of the lack of awareness and money.

Valli’s father, 55-year-old Parasivam said that the Krishanaveni took care of Valli like a mother. He admitted her to a high school in Pannur but she soon left it because of an inhospitable environment. Facilities for a special needs’ like Valli was very difficult to find in a place where the nearest market was minimum 3 km away. He received little help from his siblings who migrated to Chennai.

But Valli is not the only friend of Krishnaveni’s. Her neighbor Panjali, about 70-year- old, sleeps at her home during the night.Panjali, a native of Bhimavram, was given a shelter in the village TV room after her husband passed away. Denied a ration card as she was the sole member of her family, Panjali depends on Krishnaveni for food.

Krishnaveni’s brother passed away a few years back. She wants to leave the village but does not have the money to do so.

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