Kempamma is an outstanding example of woman power. While everyone was viewing us with suspicion, she trusted us. She was very clear about wanting a house. She was honest, frank, outspoken and fearless. Initially she made it very clear that none of them were interested in making their own bricks and that they wanted convention bricks or cement blocks. Once she saw the quality of bricks churned out for the community centre, she was ready to do a volte-face on the resistance. She became an expert at brick making.
When Kempamma visited the astrologer for a date for starting construction, he said her “time” was not good, and that it has to be postponed for another two months. She communicated this to us and we comforted her by saying that if she works hard for two months with our support she would get a house. If we are there to support her, what ‘bad’ could happen? We told her to leave it on God. She said she would go to the temple, ask God and tell us. There was a panic that we had not started demolition or construction despite reassurances from our end that we would start in a week’s time as things take that long to sort out. This is a primal fear which we cannot address by rationalising. There was a huge fight between Kempamma and her mother-in-law. The latter saying Kempamma had made a huge mistake trusting us because she is prone to trust easily. The village too were against her. She had to stand up to the collective distrust to be able to come forward to have her house built first. This was no mean task. We salute women like her.
There is a deep seated distrust and fear in them. She is the gutsiest of the people. But everyone around her filled her mind with the fear that we may cheat her. They decided that they wouldn’t spend their money until we built up to the foundation!
Prema (the community worker appointed by YogaKshema) got upset with the villagers’ attitude. She said there are so many who are desperate for our services, so we must leave the village because they don’t deserve us. She almost quit. We couldn’t have done much without her presence in the village. Dr. Usha encouraged her to plod on at such difficult moments.
We marked out two design options on the ground so that she and her family would better understand the size of the house and the position of the rooms. The kolam powder was already kept ready. This was a wonderful activity, as the entire family were all involved in marking out the plan. They agreed to go ahead with one of the options. Everybody left happy and Kempamma apologised to me for any pain she might have caused. It was heart-warming to see Kempamma so emotional and we realised how important this step must be to them. Later on, under pressure from her mother-in-law, Kempamma changed her mind about the design option, throwing us into jitters! But that’s another story. The entire construction process was fraught with fights with the mason whom, incidentally, they had helped in selecting from the options given to them. Building a home by a village “pioneer” was not easy on her.