By Shanta Kalyanasundaram
In this three part series you will meet Srilekha Sarkar, Alaka Das Rajbongshi, Shalini Rajkumar, and Julie. These four women have either children or a relative with Hemophilia. They come from different parts of India, but their struggles are the same. Their economic circumstances range from dire poverty to barely making ends meet. With problems literally piled high on their plates, these women have channeled their emotional, mental and spiritual strengths into the task of surviving with dignity.
Srilekha Sarkar literally lives in one room with her husband and son. The emotional and mental strain of living with poverty, and Hemophilia every day, is something that Srilekha Sarkar knows very well. Her son Abhijit who is now 34 years old, is a person with severe Hemophilia with a <1% Factor VIII level. Basically this means that during the course of his life, he has had severe and life threatening bleeding episodes. Between the age of 10 and 15, Abhijit had two severe central nervous system bleeds and was unable to complete school due to memory impairment. He also contracted abdominal tuberculosis and underwent prolonged treatment.
Srilekha’s husband works as an usher in a local cinema theater and earns $25 a month. This family was struggling under the weight of poverty, illness and despair. Two years ago, when SABHA heard about Srilekha and her son Abhijit, the family was barely able to make ends meet. However, Srilekha has a head for business. Instead of being defeated by her circumstances, she appealed for start up funds to start a small scale readymade clothing business from her tiny one room home in Kolkata (formerly Calcutta). We felt that she had the potential to change her family’s financial future.
As for Abhijit, his life changed when several years ago, he joined a local gym in a shed down the road from where he lived. The equipment was rudimentary, but for the first time in his life, he was happy and positive. His mother was terrified that weight lifting would cause severe bleeding episodes. However, Abhijit proved everyone wrong. He felt that if he could develop strong muscles they would, in turn, protect his joints from bleeding. Weight lifting became a passion and his bleeding episodes lessened as he became stronger.
Please Note: Weight lifting may not be ideal for all persons with Hemophilia]
When he was invited to join a better equipped gym, Abhijit began winning trophies and certificates both at the District and State level competitions in the handicapped category.
Abhijit now helps his mother, and with the profits from her sales, she buys more supplies. She too has taken on the challenge of changing her life, by running a very small but successful business.
Abhijit will always have challenges with his health, but is determined to face them with courage and a positive mind set.
Srilekha is now facing a new challenge, a competitor in her area. She is working through the logistics of movement management. Knowing her tenacity, we are confident she will overcome this hurdle.