They have battled adversity and emerged triumphant. K. Jeshi meets three physically challenged women who have learnt to smile again

Visitors at the State Bank of India Singanallur branch are often greeted by a cheerful G. Deepalakshmi, who sits at the ‘May I help You?’ counter. She listens to queries, guides customers to the respective counters, issues challans and familiarises them with banking products, loans, fixed deposits and ATM cards. “I feel good when customers go back happy,” she says. Deepalakshmi is visually-impaired.

Teenager S. Karthikayani tried doing a number of odd jobs at pastry shops and Internet centres before enrolling for a two-year DTP course. Now, she is employed as a DTP operator with Sivasalathipathi Printers. She is hearing-and-speech impaired.

S. Kavitha was forced to drop out school. She earns a living as a maid and makes up for her lost education through a distance education course. She has a condition called dwarfism.

All three women have battled the odds to emerge victorious. They shared their stories at the Women’s Day event organised by Elgi Sakhis, a forum for women at Elgi. “I searched for a job for five years after completing my graduation in commerce,” recalls Deepalakshmi. Now, she wants to take up bank exams and reach a better position at work. “We have immense potential and scope for growth. It is inspiring that across Tamil Nadu, my bank has as many as 20 visually-impaired people in various positions, such as training officers and deputy managers,” she says.

She says the screen reader software for the blind that can be installed on computers and mobile phones is a boon. “It gives me every information orally. So, my lack of vision never comes in the way of performing office duties.” At home too, she is pretty much on her own. Deepalakshmi does all the mopping and cleaning, and also cooks. “Only for travel do I dependant on my husband,” she says with pride.

“Very easy,” gestures Karthikayani when asked about her work. She has made a lot of friends at her workplace. She takes a bus from Neelikonampalayam to Gandhipuram, works, does shopping and handles life on her own terms.

Kavitha used to feel shy about her size. Not any more. “It’s not under my control. So, I don’t complain or feel sad about it,” she says. She has many bank-going friends who guide her on education and finance. “I maintain a savings bank account but, at times, I indulge in some shopping,” she smiles. “My focus now is to learn more job-oriented courses and enrich my knowledge.”

That’s what Deeplakshmi wants to do too. She has done courses in medical transcription and computers. “Barring monetary transactions, visually-impaired people can be employed in all departments. I want to become efficient at work,” she says.

What makes them happiest? — when people treat us like one among them, they say.