On January 3rd, 2022, when we were preparing for the Campus inaugural, frantically trying to get the place clean and to decorate it before our guests arrived, Maragadamma walked in from the house next door and asked if she could do any work. We were surprised, delighted and desperate! We asked if she could start that very instant and without any hesitation, she said YES! Within a few minutes she was scrubbing, cleaning, doing rangolis, washing the verandas and doing all that needed to be done quietly, diligently and cheerfully! After that there was no looking back. Maragadamma continues to help with cleaning, cutting vegetables, washing dishes and doing a dozen other invisible chores around the campus.
Maragadamma is not really sure how old she is, but has clear memories of her childhood in Yanegaldoddi village near Krishnagiri. She also remembers that within one year of sending her to school her parents decided that she needed to help look after the cows and to help with the farm. She spent her childhood in the fields tending to the ragi, paddy and mulberry.
When she was almost 18, she was married off to Shankar who was working as a car driver in Bangalore. Maragadamma had to move to Jakkasandra where she began a new life, working in a garment factory to help make ends meet. She missed being on a farm!
To her good luck, her brother- in-law found a job for Maragadamma and her husband to look after a small estate. That is how Maragadamma came to Banjarapalya where she began working on the land where Samvada campus is now located. The plot then had lots of mango, lime and coconut trees. Maragadamma began to cultivate ragi and vegetables in a small patch.
It has been 26 years since she settled in Banjarapalya – looking after the trees, rearing goats, farming vegetables. Her two children, now in their twenties were born and raised in Banjarapalya. When the estate was sold by the owners, Maragadamma was given a small site and a house to live in and that is how she became our neighbour in 2020- a neighbour who walked over and asked for work in January 2022!
Her dream now is to repay the loan she took to build a house and to get her daughter married. For someone who never went to school, who has been to Bangalore only 4 or 5 times, her wisdom and sharp calculations always amaze us.