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April 17, 2012

Chennai Woman Fights for Her Rights at 85 (INDIA)

Married at 15, literate at 48, Chennai woman fights for her rights at 85
Karthika Gopalakrishnan,
TNN
Apr 8, 2012

CHENNAI: Unschooled and married at 15, A T Pankajam taught herself to read at 48 after her husband died. Laboriously, she traced words from a 'Spoken English' book to decipher the sale agreement for a house he bought on Munusamy Achari Street in Sembium for 2.5 lakh in 1989.

Since a third person managed to lay claim to the house in 1990, Pankajam - now 85 - has been trudging to the Madras high court every other week. Her only hope is that the house will be returned to her, which will save her from a life on the streets - she is struggling to pay her dues at 'Home Happy Home', a shelter for the elderly in Kolathur.

The three girls and a boy from her husband's first marriage as well as her two sons abandoned her after her husband died. "I stayed with my youngest son but after he got married, his wife didn't like me even serving him coffee. She said either she would stay in the house or me; so I offered to leave."
Pankajam moved to a hostel and her son paid the monthly rent of 6,500 for six years. "After that, money stopped coming as they had many loans to repay. My son brought me here as the rent is 3,500, but I haven't paid for the last few months. They have let me stay for now, but how long can it go on? If they ask me to leave, where will I sleep?" she asked.

She has been living in old-age homes for the last 12 years.
I am old but I am also a woman. My house fetches a rent of 20,000 a month. Why do I have to fight so hard for something that is rightfully mine?" she said, choking on the words.

"I have attended free tailoring classes at the church in Perambur. I can stitch blouses, underskirts and saree falls as well as curtains. I used to request churchgoers to give me clothes to stitch as it would help pay for my stay at the home. I was paid 50-100. Now, I have grown older and my stitches don't come out in a straight line. I can use only white thread which is the only thing I can see. But youngsters today want colour of the stitches to match their clothes. Nobody comes to me anymore," she said.

Her case before principal district and sessions judge P Kalaiyarasan as well as her representation to registrar-general G Chockalingam is set to come up next week. "I take a share auto and a bus and the walk to the HC for each hearing. It is terribly hot and I am constantly asked to shuttle from one section to another for my case. My case has come up before several judges, but all of them change and move up to the HC. Judges have appreciated my petitions, saying they are well-written for someone who has never gone to school. But nothing changes. I am still here," she said, pointing to a bag below her bed, a small pull-out calendar, a plastic bucket and mug and a few discarded plastic bottles - her only possessions.

SOURCE:      Times of India

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