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Spinning a saga of survival

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TOUGH TASK: Vijaya Rani operating the charkha at her house in Chinnappampatti near Salem. Photo: P.Goutham
TOUGH TASK: Vijaya Rani operating the charkha at her house in Chinnappampatti near Salem. Photo: P.Goutham

R. Ilangovan

SALEM: Vijaya Rani was barely eight months old when she was afflicted with polio. The viral disease left her paralysed from the waist down and weakened her right hand.

But the spirited 25-year-old has not let her disability stand in the way of contributing to the family income. She earns a weekly wage of Rs. 165, spinning chittams (hank or skein of yarn) for the local Gandhian Charkha Centre in her village of Chinnappampatti, about 15 km from here. Vijaya Rani loved going to school. For 10 years, her mother Maheshwari carried her to the village school everyday. But when Maheshwari fell sick, Vijaya had to discontinue school. After her father died suddenly, the future looked grim for her and her three sisters.

Turning point

On hearing of their plight, the Gandhian Charkha Centre offered them charkhas and spindles and gave them wages for spinning. The centre is run by the Tiruchengode Gandhi Ashramam, which was set up by C. Rajagopalachari in 1925.

While her sisters go to the centre to operate the charkhas, Vijaya works her eight-spindle charkha from home. As her right hand is weak, she uses the left to rotate the handle of the charkha 1,000 times to spin one chittam.

She spins 15 chittams a day that means rotating her left hand a minimum of 15,000 times. Isn't it tiring to operate it with one hand? "Yes. I do feel tired. But I have a stomach to fill," she says.

How long will she be able to rotate the charkha with one hand? "Till the energy ebbs out of my left hand and, perhaps, till the Government provides me a suitable job." She has not been able to meet the Collector and seek his assistance.

The Gandhian Centre though has appreciated her efforts and given her a special incentive of a 25 per cent hike in wages.

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