Can we ever forget you?

My name is Durga. I have a sister named Devamma. We both come from the Scheduled Tribe community. We live in the forest of Andhra Pradesh. Our parents go for coolie work (daily wages) and we were kept as bonded laborers in the house of the land lords. Our parents borrow money in advance from the landlords to run our family. But they were not able to pay it back, so, we, their children, were forced to be bonded laborers to them till our parents pay their money.

We were working in two different houses. Our main work is grazing the Buffaloes. We were accommodated in a Buffalos shed to spend our nights. We got two meals a day. We had to get up at 5am to work: clean the Buffaloes‟ shed; wash the utensils, clothes of the family members; and do other household works. At 9am, we had to go for our routine chorus of grazing the Buffaloes and we should be back at 7pm. The remaining meals from these families were our daily bread.

Whenever we come across children who go to the school, playing, and walking together with their companions, our hearts were longing to follow these children. We used to question ourselves on why we were not sent to school. After a long period, the Holy Family Sisters from Ramnakkapeta met us. They spent time with us to trace our history. They met our parents and Land lords. But their efforts were in vain. Our parents and the land lords did not allow us to go to school and they rejected the Sisters‟ request. With much difficulty and pain, Sisters motivated us and our parents to send us to school. Even after going to school, we boycotted school and went back to the forest. Our Sisters never gave up their goal to see that we continue our studies. They took the trouble to change the area and put us in a hostel far away. We need to raise our hands to God for all His blessings in our life. Now, I have completed my 10th std and my sister is continuing her studies – 7th std.

We thank the Sisters from the bottom of our hearts who gave life to us. It is our joy and privilege to be ever grateful to our sisters for fighting for our rights with the landlords and other structures. Thank you,Sisters,for saving our lives. It is because of you we are able to continue our studies and able to sense the meaning of equality and justice.

I am always inspired by the words of our former President,APJ Abdul Kalam,“Every pain gives a lesson and every lesson changes a person”

Durga Ramanakkapeta