Story 11. The Gritty Lady.

“All of us are going around with an entire story of our lives, completely different from the story of our lives that anybody else would tell. So much of our lives never breaks the surface.” ~ Claire Messud in The Guardian.

“Heroes are never perfect, but they’re brave, they’re authentic, they’re courageous, determined, discreet, and they’ve got grit.”
~ Wade Davis

I have a special fondness for Pondicherry as it was the nearest place to Chennai where alcohol was freely available during the days of prohibition in Tamil Nadu. I used to visit Pondicherry often during those days over weekends.

This and the next story will revolve around two people who I have positioned as being from Pondicherry. They are not in Pondicherry, but the stories are about two real people who are vastly different from each other but have grit in common.

Tanya James lives now in Pondicherry in the South Of India. She deserves a better life and this is her story. To protect her identity, I have changed names and places. But exist she does.

Tanya comes from an old Pondicherry family, well known for having produced many respected professionals. Tanya was born in France to Dr and Mrs. James who were living there a few decades ago as Dr James was employed as a Medical Practitioner with the French Government there. Tanya is the younger of two sisters and the elder sister too lives in Pondicherry.

While in France, Tanya’s mother took ill and wanted to return to India as she was unable to cope with the climate there, being as she was used to warmer climes of South India. Dr. James resigned from his position and returned to India to set up practice which did not do very well as he was more focused in providing care for his ailing wife.

Tanya was a brilliant student and eventually became a highly respected and successful designer with her own studio in partnership with some other male designer friends. Since Pondicherry does not offer much scope for a designer’s career, Tanya shifted to Chennai which is a much larger metropolis teeming with commercial activity and offering great scope for her.

As time passed, Dr. James’s health deteriorated and Tanya had to keep shuttling between Chennai and Pondicherry. This led to the unsavoury spectacle of her partners ripping her off and she ended up losing a great deal of money and reputation. It became difficult for her to manage both establishments and she bid Chennai goodbye and moved permanently to Pondicherry. In the process, plans for romance, marriage etc also were postponed.

When she moved to Pondicherry, her life became one of a full time care giver to both her parents. She discovered that her father’s finances were in a mess and besides providing almost round the clock care to her parents, she was able to locate some documents that helped her to approach the French government and after much effort and regular follow up, secure a pension for her invalid father. That helped because she was by this time at the end of her own financial tethers.

Further investigations when her father eventually died revealed another shocking truth to this indomitable spirit. While she was busy with her career in Chennai, her elder sister’s husband had got a comprehensive power of attorney from her father, with which he had ensured that the elder sister got all the family properties leaving nothing to our heroine. Strangely enough, the sister is indifferent to Tanya’s plight and is of no help whatsoever in resolving the inheritance issue. Tanya has lined up additional income by working from home via the internet and has decided to take on her brother in law by taking him to court to seek justice, which in India is a time consuming and expensive proposition.

As I write this story, Tanya is busy caring for her bed ridden mother, toiling to make some money whenever she can, following up on the court case and coping with her own fairly debilitating illnesses. If you meet her in person however, you will see nothing of the problems reflected in her very cheerful personality.

I have known other women and men in somewhat similar situations collapse into sniveling pathetic specimens. Not my friend Tanya, who finds reservoirs of strength from deep within to tackle all the problems with amazing resolve and determination. In my book, that is Character spelt with a capital C.

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