Tears rolled down her eyes as she saw the banner of KVS foundation go up during an exhibition for budding woman entrepreneurs. I saw it as just another exhibition, but I could sense that it meant a lot to her. She is my neighbour Mrs. Vijayakumari. Vijaya aunty as people called her with love, is a person to whom woman in our neighbourhood looked up to for any assistance or moral support. Something about her has always attracted me. This exhibition was one among the many where I had helped her in setting up things.
As we were getting things ready, I just struck a conversation on her path towards working for a social cause; little did I know that it was sheer grit and determination along with her love for people that made young Vijaya, people’s Vijaya Aunty. Born in a small village Kavittam in West Godavari district, Andhra Pradesh, she was the youngest among three brothers and two sisters. The first seed of working for the less privileged was sown into her by her father who was the village karnam (Accountant).
The doors of her house had been knocked by people with various issues be it monetary, family issues etc. and every issue found a solution. After the sudden demise of her father at the mere age of six, the family saw the cruel face of the world. Left with no option to support the family, her brothers joined small jobs, but her interest towards education made her walk miles to attend school. She started concentrating on her studies but the thought of giving back to the society was always at the back of her mind.
During her school days she won in different sports events and got selected to play at district level, but unfortunately her mother did not approve as she feared people might object a girl playing in front of men. As Vijaya expressed her desire to participate, her education too was forcefully discontinued. Her continuous pleas fell on deaf years. She was disheartened and worried at the plight of women and their backward thinking which stopped budding talents from pursuing their dreams. As the continuous thought of achieving something was there in her mind she started teaching small kids in a nearby NGO, this gave her immense self-satisfaction. Unfortunately, the NGO shifted and she had to discontinue. Around the same time the village was hit by severe floods and she came forward to help the needy not caring about herself she volunteered and walked hand in hand with the govt. volunteers. Caring for the people and helping them gave her happiness.
As luck would have it Vijaya was fortunate enough to be married to a person who supported her thoughts and wishes. Though she shifted to North after her marriage she continued to help people in need in her surroundings in the best possible way she could. Providing basic education to the local women nearby, spreading awareness about cleanliness and hygiene motivating them to do something for themselves were some of the ways by which she thought she could bring about a change in their lives. As her work continued and spread, she faced monetary difficulties many times, she remained helpless and that hit her hard. These circumstances led to the birth of KVS Foundation an NGO through which she thought she could help more and more people.
While working towards people’s cause she had the privilege of working with Mrs. Rama Devi (Director ALEAP- Association of lady entrepreneurs Andhra Pradesh). Here Mrs. Vijaya was exposed to different arenas of self-skills for women. She put these to use and through her foundation and started training people and motivating them to prepare their own dresses, jewelleries, handicrafts etc. She would provide a platform to the women for selling their talent, thus making women independent. Vijaya aunty as people lovingly call her has brought a positive change in the lives of many.
I was lost in her words when someone called “Madam” I came back to this world. Women must be self-sufficient and daring was her advice to many. She is the torchbearer in our locality. “Coming bhaiya” she answered as she got up to look after the rest of the set up for the exhibition.
I was dumbstruck at her confidence and selfless attitude coming from a humble background. As she walked past dressed up in a light pink cotton sari she was an epitome of grit and determination.
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