Kin didn’t come to our aid during bad times, says the mother
A pushcart has been “home” to a family of three, including an aged woman, for three years now.
Shantabai Gouli and her two sons, Sadashiv and Vithal, have been living on the pavement outside the historic Gagan Mahal garden here, opposite the official residence of the Deputy Commissioner of Bijapur, for the last one year.
The pushcart doubles as Mr. Sadashiv’s tea stall during the day. In the night, Ms. Shantabai and one of her sons sleeps on the pushcart and her other son sleeps on the pavement. Vithal earns his livelihood by running errands for people.
Until a few years ago, the family, which is now in penury, owned a small house in Shapeti Galli area in Bijapur apart from a couple of cows.
“But the wedding of two of my sisters put us in deep debt. We borrowed over Rs. 1 lakh from moneylenders to marry off my sisters. With limited source of income, we found it hard to repay the loan and subsequently sold our house and the cows. For some days, we stayed in a rented house, but the situation became so bad that we could not even manage to pay the rent. Since then, this small pushcart has been our home,” said Mr. Sadashiv. In spite of living in extreme penury and battling the vagaries of nature every day, the family recently sheltered a boy from Hubli who was lost and with the help of some joggers who come to the garden sent him back home.
Ms. Shantabai said she lost her husband several years ago and relatives did not come to her help.
The family has been evicted from public places in the past. “Some people who don’t want us to park the pushcart near their shops drive us away,” Mr. Sadashiv said. He said the family lost the ration card and other documents while vacating the house.
Ms. Shantabai, though eligible for old-age pension, cannot apply for it as she does not have documents to prove her address or identity. The family hopes that the government will come to their rescue and help them lead a dignified life.