Friday, 19 October 2012

Short Change

If you have ever met my mother, one of the first things that is likely to pop up in ANY conversation is.. "Oh ya I get heart surgeries done for underprivileged children free of cost" somehow it always seems to slip into any conversation edge-wise.

See my mother has been a social worker for as long as I can remember, which is like half my life. Since I'm 23 she's been galavanting around 'Saving Lives' - in some cases literally for about 12 years now. She is associated to more organizations than I can remember at any given moment, but the story in question pertains to one in particular. My crazy, strong, ill tempered, hell-of-a-women mother has been associated with Rotary International for almost the entirety of the 12 years that she has been a social worker. The experience in question stems from a rather great project that her Rotary Club has been running for the past couple of years - 'Gift Of Life'. The project essentially funds valve replacement surgeries (as far as I understand, I'm sure they probably do some other nifty thing as well, like maybe reverse the effects of Global Warming.. Just Saying) for underprivileged children below the age of 18 from third world countries.

As a result I have probably met, laughed with and shed tears with/over more children with heart diseases that most people do in a lifetime. So pardon me if after a while I can't tell one apart form the other. However, in all my time one of the most striking stories I remember is the story of one Ms. Evelyn Lisseth Argueta Rodrigues. Evelyn or Evi as I used to call her was from El Salvador a small nation somewhere in South America and the then 6 year old undertook a 14 hour journey with her mother, to come down to India to get her heart fixed.

Evi is the youngest of 4 siblings and was born into a family poor enough, that at times there wasn't enough food to go around for everyone. The daughter of a Sugar Mill Worker and a Housewife who had never been  out of her small hometown back home, let alone halfway across the world, Evi had been born with the congenital heart condition. To add insult to injury, Irma (Evi's mum) only spoke Spanish, and even simple questions like is she allergic to any pain meds? turned into whole sessions what felt like excruciatingly long dumb charades.

Putting all that aside, the next part is super important so read closely. The round trip for both of them had been sponsored by a Rotary Club in El Salvador and they were expected to return home in about a weeks time. After the operation my mum dragged me to another one of her painfully long rounds to make sure everything was well and that both the mother and daughter were cared for.

While at the hospital, I discovered to my horror that Irma had not eaten anything for the past 2 days. This because she could not speak English and between the operation and post operative care no one thought thought to ask her if she had gotten the food that was meant for attendants. What followed was something I wont forget as long as I live. My mum asked her how much money she had on her in hopes of explaining that in emergencies she could buy food at the canteen.  She pulled out the sum total of money she had on her and carefully handed it over to my mother to count, as if it were a treasure befitting a king. My mother passed on the crumpled notes to me and I could not believe what was happening as I counted and re-counted 7 US DOLLARS.

This amazing woman had traveled halfway across the world in hopes of a better and longer life for her daughter armed with 7 Dollars. I could not believe being stranded in a country with only a return ticket and 7 Dollars at my disposal. I could cry, blame my circumstances or be bitter to everyone around, but all I saw, all I would ever see, on Irma's face was gratitude. Gratitude for giving her daughter the life she deserved.

I saw my mother shed tears of anger and hopelessness that day. What kind of people travel halfway across the world without enough money to even survive a couple of days in a foreign country should the need arise?  This poor housewife form a improvised family in El Salvador taught me more about courage than any book, any story, any course anywhere.

Life has a funny way of working out. Eventually Irma and Evi stayed in India for three weeks before Evi was cleared for air travel. For the entirety of that time they stayed in our house and when they when back, my mother ensured that they went back with clothes and toys for all four of Irma's children and more importantly with more-much-more than 7 US Dollars.

Today Evi is a healthy 10 year old, who for the first time in her life has a life to look forward too. This photo was taken on Evi's 7th birthday and sent to us by one of her cousins on Irma's insistence  who still remembers us very fondly and thanks us for all our help I'm told. 


  1. This is about your mom Deepti? What is your mom? Superwoman? Take me to luncheon with her!

    1. In my eyes she kind of is. :) lol you are always welcome sweets, you need only to ask. ;)

  2. This feels so good. Well done! (for your mom) and for you for sharing this.