The Girl in the Yellow Dress
As I journey through the city, I often come across people in tattered clothes begging for money at various traffic lights. Sometimes, I drive past them, my mind occupied with the rush of life. Other times, I roll down my car windows to give them whatever I can. But we seldom consider these individuals and the challenges in their not-so-rosy lives.
However, amidst the countless stories, one stands out—a true story about an impoverished woman named Sushila. Her tale reminds us of the power of love and determination, highlighting the essence of a life well-lived.
Fifteen years ago, when my family and I moved into a new apartment, Sushila approached us, seeking work. She was a clean, semi-literate, hardworking woman who was a “substitute servant” in a nearby apartment complex. Sadly, the residents saw her as a ‘temporary replacement,’ failing to recognize her worth.
Tragically, Sushila’s husband, lost in the grip of alcoholism, had abandoned her and their four-year-old daughter, leaving them in dire straits. Despite her tireless efforts to work and even beg for survival, she could not afford to buy a simple dress for her daughter. Witnessing her struggles, we made a promise—to reward her sincere work, elevate her job to a permanent position, and most importantly, address her not as a “servant” but as a “housemaid” or a “house helper.” The joy that illuminated her face was priceless as she embraced this opportunity.
One day, Sushila confided in us that she had contemplated ending her life on many occasions before she started working with us. The despair of returning home empty-handed had consumed her. However, as she saw her daughter fall asleep in her arms, a flicker of hope emerged within her—a realization that life held something worth living for.
With her first salary, she rushed to us, her daughter adorned in a bright yellow dress—a garment she had longed to purchase for two arduous years. Her voice trembling with emotion, she recounted the agonizing experience of being refused entry to a shop by a disdainful shopkeeper who declared that beggars were not welcome. Tears streamed down her daughter’s face as she expressed her disinterest in the dress. At that moment, Sushila wiped away her child’s tears, mustered her strength, and hurled a wad of currency notes at the shopkeeper. She sternly warned him of legal consequences should he persist denying her the dress.
Sushila paused, her eyes welling up with tears as she relived her humiliation. She confessed, “Yes, there was a time when I resorted to begging. I could never have imagined living in such circumstances ten years ago, even in my darkest nightmares. Then, one fateful day, an opportunity arose for me to work as a ‘substitute servant.’ I excelled in my tasks, slowly earning the trust of those around me. Soon, more work poured in. Each day, I dedicated an hour to cleaning a humble apartment. From 7 am to 5 pm, I diligently worked as a cleaning woman in 5-6 apartments, earning a decent living.”
“Now, after two years, my daughter wears a new dress. That’s why I brought her here today—to seek your blessings. Even if I earn nothing today, I want to stroll with my little girl in her new yellow dress. Today, I want to make it special for her.”
Sushila’s ecstasy was palpable as I captured a few photographs on my mobile phone and displayed an image of her daughter adorned in the new skirt. That expression of pure joy etched itself into the depths of my memory.
The following day, Sushila arrived at work, radiating happiness. “I have borrowed a mobile phone and will take many pictures of my child to adorn my walls. I want to preserve these precious memories.”
For five years, Sushila worked alongside us. Regrettably, one fateful day, the civic authorities razed the slums where she lived, relocating the dwellers to a distant suburb. Following that incident, we lost contact with her. Nevertheless, the indomitable spirit of Sushila’s resilience and determination continued to resonate within our hearts.
Years passed, and Sushila’s memory faded when an unexpected visitor arrived one day. A young lady, elegantly dressed in a business suit, exuded confidence and self-assurance. She introduced herself as Sushila’s daughter and expressed gratitude for our support for her mother. She revealed that her mother had passed away a few years earlier, but her legacy lived on within her heart.
She shared how her mother’s perseverance and tireless efforts inspired her to pursue her dreams. Her mother’s love had instilled in her the strength to overcome any obstacle that came her way. She had absorbed her mother’s values of hard work, perseverance, and self-worth, laying the foundation for her accomplishments. Through hard work and determination, she became a successful marketing executive for a multinational corporation.
Just as she was about to leave, she turned back and said, “My mother used to tell me that the greatest gift she could give me was not material possessions but the gift of self-esteem and self-worth. She wanted me to believe in myself, to be confident and bold, and never to allow anyone to diminish me. And she succeeded. I stand tall here today because of her. I am grateful to her and all those who supported her for granting me the gift of self-worth.”
As we watched her depart, a profound sense of pride and joy enveloped us. Sushila’s legacy lived on, and her daughter had become a shining testament to what a mother’s love and determination could achieve.
We knew Sushila would be proud of her daughter, and her spirit would forever endure.