On learning the harsh realities of life at a young age, she decided to contribute to society by making eco-friendly Ganesha idols and selling them in the form of a package.
This is the story of Swathi, a 45-year-old woman, who kicked Polio in the face, the disease that got her disabled since birth.
Swathi, a woman from Warangal, Andhra Pradesh, has been suffering from Polio since birth. Born in a middle-class family, she graduated in Commerce and post-graduated in Carnatic Vocal from Telugu University.
Speaking with YourStory, Swathi tells how she hustled her way through when she was a child:
“Coming from a modest family, I had the freedom to do what I wanted to. My family and my two brothers, who carried me on their backs to school, had been immensely supportive. My struggle because of Polio was a little lessened after my first surgery. I was able to manage myself after that.”
Contrary to her own kin who grew up in a concrete jungle in Hyderabad, Swathi lived a life surrounded by nature and serenity. As she got introduced to the beauty of nature, she also learnt the harsh realities of life a young age. A desire to do her bit for the society and environment came up at this point but could not materialise owing to her family's financial condition.
“Back in the day, only people with better fortune and financial background had the opportunity to donate and contribute to charity and social welfare. Yet the idea of helping physically challenged people amplified in my mind as time passed.”
Swathi, with the help of her children, now runs an eco-friendly small business of making homemade Ganesha idols with clay and selling them in the form of a package, before Ganesh Chaturthi. This package is priced at Rs 750 and it comes with all the raw material, preparation material, and food offering (prasad) needed to worship the deity. Hyderabad is famous for celebrating Ganesh Chaturthi in all its grandeur, similar to the celebrations in Mumbai. The famous idol immersion happens in the lake Hussain Sagar of the city.
“I would come across reports about the cleaning up of Hussain Sagar lake after the idol immersion and I wanted to contribute to it by making and selling clay idols to people. The idols we make contain Tulasi seeds inside them. So, when the customers immerse the idols even in pots, Tulasi plants grow out of them.”
Swathi started this initiative last year itself when she distributed clay idols and packages to her friends and relatives. Thanks to the positive response, she decided to turn it into a mainstream business. As part of a CSR initiative, HSBC campus in Hyderabad and few other gated communities in the city allowed Swathi and company to showcase the idols for which the humble group got a good feedback.
Swathi had been preparing for the mega festival one month before. She says she was confident about her idea and her product but had little support in the form of volunteers to facilitate sales and distribution. Usually in households, people end up forgetting something or the other required for the pooja; her idea was to make it simpler for the families with the entire package coming to them at one go.
“Whoever bought it was happy and that alone gave me a lot of satisfaction and made me want to push further. The sales were not as much as I anticipated. But the whole thought of contributing to the environment and seeing the happy faces of my customers makes me feel content."
Talking about her future plans, Swathi said,
"In the next five years, I want to provide employment to 50 people. I am 45 years old now and disabled people like me lose stamina and energy as age catches up. I want them to be self-sustainable and have at least a few lakhs of rupees as their bank balance when they are in their forties.
I am a very optimistic person. I don't breathe any negative air. Hope and a strong willpower to help people is what keeps me going."