A student of the Don Bosco High School in Vepery, Durga had been a pavement dweller since her birth. Her parents were living on Sydenhams Road before being shifted to the shelter 15 years ago. It has been there home since. Around eight years ago, her father, who worked as an undertaker, died of tuberculosis, pushing the family to the brink.
Her mother, Devi, works as a domestic help and earns just enough to take care of Durga and her two younger brothers, who are in Classes V and VII. “I earn around Rs 2,500 by working three houses and another Rs 1,000 as widow pension,” said Devi.
But living among other homeless people can be an arduous task for a student aspiring to succeed in board examinations. “I cannot study in the shelter. There are more than 100 families living here so it is always noisy. I used to stay back in the school till 9pm attending special coaching classes and leave for school by 8am to go and study,” she said.
Devi admits financial constraints may restrict her daughter’s dreams. “She (Durga) tells me she wants to study further. But I am struggling to make ends meet,” said Devi. Durga wants to be a doctor. Though she is not oblivious to the difficulties that she may have to face, she trusts her mother to support her come what may. “I will help her study for as long as I am alive,” Devi added.