The life of Manu Shetty has been compiled from stories that we have heard at our annual Medical Camp in Pune, where we provide much needed care to the poor and underserved. It depicts the real life hardships and difficulties of women who come to the medical clinic.
Namaste! My name is Manu Shetty. I live in a village near the city of Pune, India. I live in a one-room cement house that is 18’x24′. My husband’s name is Rajesh and we have five beautiful children. Their ages are 12, 10, 4 and 2 years old, and my baby is 7 months old.
We own a small piece of land and my husband spends all day working in the fields. We grow wheat and spinach. We do not have any extra to sell. We need all that we can grow to feed our family and sometimes we don’t really have enough and it hurts my heart when my children go hungry.
When he gets enough some time, when our fields allow, Rajesh may work in the rice fields so we can have some money. This may be for 2-4 weeks per year. He makes 200 rupees (less than $4) per day for 12 hours of work during harvest time. Last year he made approximately $100 for his work. With this we must buy what we need for the year.
All my kids are growing and need clothes, two have no shoes at all, not one of them has ever had new clothes. In Pune there sometimes is a truck that sells used clothes. It is hard to find ones that fit but my 12 year old son’s shirt cost me 20 cents. All of my children have one pair of pants and underwear and when I wash them, they wear nothing.
We hope to buy 5 chickens and one goat for our family so we can have some meat during the next year. We buy wood to cook on everyday, and I need a new pot as mine is cracked from 19 years of daily use. I don’t think $100 can do all these things. My personal dream is for shoes but it will not be this year. I get up at 4:45 and grind wheat for one hour to make chapatti (bread) for my family. I sweep with a broom I made, and then I start a fire. I make chapatti for breakfast and must work every minute today as tomorrow I am going to town to the medical camp.
A long walk to get help
To get to the medical camp on time I have to leave at 5 am. So I am up at 3:45 to start the fire and make many chapatti for my family. My oldest daughter, who is 10 years old, cooks the lentils and cares for the kitchen. At 5 am I start to walk. It is hard to see but it is getting light. I know the path well so sharp rocks are not a problem but I saw a snake not long ago so I must be careful. It will take me 2 1/2 hours to get to Pune. My cousin has told me there is an American medical group there and I want them to see my baby. I have only Rs 25 left to get us through to wheat season again. I will bring Rs 12 with me.
I am hot and tired and have wrapped my baby in my sari. As I walk through town where the rich people live, I always feel like I should walk with my head down. I really do not belong here, yet it is my town, too, and the town of my grandfather and grandmother. The smooth pavement is easier on my bare feet but it is also hotter. I smell morning scents that are a sweet fragrance. It has been 3 hours since my chapatti and these sweet smells make my tummy grumble. My baby is awake. I take her and hold her in my arms to nurse.
I see the gathering up ahead. Oh, what a crowd! My natural instinct is to go home. I am afraid to be here in many ways, and feel unworthy. I am ashamed of my bare feet—it so clearly displays that I am poor. Poor people can’t give their kids as much so I would just like to go home. I look at my baby and decide to stay. I stand near the group and have no idea where to go. Eventually I am pointed to the right line and go to the end of what seems like an overwhelming length. I think of whether I should stay or go home and do my work. Again, I decide to stay for my baby. She is why I came. Her name is Krutika. So we wait. I talk to no one and only see the back of the green sari in front of me and I feel the breath of the person behind me. The line feels tighter and tighter and this crowd is making me nervous. Some people have papers that I do not have and I wonder if that means I can’t get inside. People are being pulled and tugged as their positions are being rearranged. Some don’t understand why, as I can hear them say that yesterday we were taken in the order that we were in line and now today there is a different system with these papers. I decide to go to the front and stand for a piece of paper as clearly it must be important, but I am told that I have to wait for them, and that I must go to the end of the line I was in. It is now longer and I have lost my place.
I stand, not moving, in one place for one hour. I am used to walking but standing for this long with my baby on my back is painful. I nurse her when she cries. I don’t want her to cry as they will surely think I am a bad mother. I am hungry and I eat a chapatti that I brought. I have nothing to drink. A lady is selling coffee across the street but I do not feel I can leave the line again. These medical people from America have so much and I am hopeful they can help my daughter.
As the Americans come and go, many look down and say nothing. Maybe the line is overwhelming. Most of them walk in with their eyes facing forward. They should be happy and proud. We are glad they are here! Some people have come twice as far as me just to see them. What will I say to these people? What will they think of me? I must remember every problem so they do not think I am wasting their time. Finally, I am given a small piece of paper and then I hear the word, “tomorrow.” Now I really want to cry. I spend Rs5 to buy a package of 6 cookies and I walk for 2 hours home. I work for 3 hours more before I get to bed.
Surely these people will have medicine for my baby
In the morning, it is clearer and the sun will make it a warm day. At 3:45, I begin my day like the day before and I leave in the dark. I am slightly slower than the day before as I am tired from doing this walk to town two days in a row. I miss my family as I am hardly ever away from them. I see my children every day as we cannot afford to send them to school. I will walk again for my baby daughter.
There are already many people in line and, as the day before, I just go to the end. I clutch my colored paper tightly and I wonder what the black writing on it means. I pray that I can get inside today. I cannot walk again tomorrow. I am taken by the arm and put into another position in the line. Fortunately, it is closer to the door. My ankles are really aching and I would love to sit down. As people keep looking at my paper and saying “number,” I realize what it is. Slowly I am getting closer to getting my daughter inside. Finally, I reach the door.
Ten of us are let in. I take a large white card and I am taken back to where there are a lot of foreigners and much activity. I am very nervous. My heart is warmed by a nice lady who, I believe, said “sit here” in Hindi but she had a nice smile. Another lady asks me questions and I tell her everything I can as fast as I can. Someone translates for her and she writes on my card. Finally, I am here and will get help for my daughter. After she finishes writing, she looks at my baby and smiles. I feel better than I have for two days. She will help me. I am taken inside to meet another lady who does not speak Hindi. A nice young man helps us communicate. The lady smiles and again I feel better. I tell them everything I can as fast as I can. My daughter was born with an unusual hand and everyone here in India has told me it can’t be fixed. She will not be able to prepare food for her family and work in a house. No one will marry her. She will never have a family. Surely these people will have a medicine for her problem.
The Unexpected Warmth Of Love
The nice doctor looks at the hand and says there is no medicine for this. She holds my daughter’s hand as she tells me, but so quickly my hopes have been darkened. I know now they can do nothing. Maybe I knew that before, but hope and motherhood is a powerful combination.
As I rise to leave, this lady calls me back in English. She tells me to sit again. We talk of operations that we both know will never happen. I try to leave again. She calls me back. She points to my feet and I pull them back under the chair in shame. She touches the crack that has a scab on it that has hurt me so much the past two days. She tells me she can fix this. I never expected this! She talks of vitamins for my family that I did not ask for.
She asks me if I want shoes. I have trouble answering her, for surely I must buy them. How will I be able to tell them that I have only Rs7 as she leads me down the hall? It has been seven years since I have had shoes. I am touched. They are free. They also give me clothes for my baby. Why? This is not what I came for. I am given vitamins for my family and cream for my foot. I have shoes on! I feel disappointment about my daughter’s hand, though. I had such hope, and yet, I have received so much. I have been touched. I have been given what I have not asked or deserved. It is wonderful, “THE UNEXPECTED WARMTH OF LOVE.”
This story represents the hardships of the poor and needy all over India and throughout the world, even right here in our backyards. It’s a picture of one woman, one family, one of the many who are treated at the clinic every year. Thank you for your support! It is your donations that support the clinic and help women like Manu Shetty.
Please pray for the team as they prepare to travel to India in early January for our 2019 Medical Missions Camp.