Eunuch to society, parent to abandoned infants (Feature with Image)

June 7th, 2009 - 2:13 pm ICT by IANS  

By Nityanand Shukla
Bokaro (Jharkhand), June 7 (IANS) For 25 years, Raj Kumari has brought home abandoned children and showered them with love, care and education. Never mind that the eunuch community, to which she belongs, finds itself at the receiving end of Indian society’s prejudices.

The 49-year-old has picked up female and male infants from the roadside over the years and given them shelter in her house in a neighbourhood for eunuchs in the Ritudih area on the outskirts of the steel city of Bokaro.

“These children are my family. People call them abandoned and I call them my children. I have picked up infants left in the bushes or garbage boxes and have been looking after them,” Raj Kumari told IANS.

Originally a resident of Siwan district in Bihar, she arrived in Bokaro in 1984 for the work traditionally performed by eunuchs in India - singing and dancing at social celebrations.

That’s when she found a blind couple begging and brought them home. Soon after, she found a female infant, who had been abandoned next to some roadside bushes. She took the baby in and that was when she began giving shelter to abandoned children.

Three of the girls brought up by Raj Kumari are now married. Of course, she ensured that these girls were educated up to secondary school level before being married. Raj Kumari even chose the grooms herself and helped them monetarily to set up home.

“I do not know who gave birth to us. We know that Raj Kumari is everything to us. She not only provided shelter but also ensured a life of dignity for us. She is like god for discarded children like us,” said Rinku Devi.

Rinku Devi was the first baby girl whom Raj Kumari brought home. The two other girls who are married are Kaushallya Devi and Sarshwati Devi.

Seven boys stay with Raj Kumari today and all of them go to school. She wants Shubham, the youngest boy residing with her, to become an engineer. She also offers help to leprosy-affected people and distributes blankets and clothes to them.

On how she earns a living, Raj Kumari said: “I am still involved in my traditional profession. I earn enough to take care of the children.”

Raj Kumari dances at celebrations for weddings or the birth of a child, but she does not want any of her children to join her profession.

“It’s the children’s plight that inspires and compels me to work even at this age,” she said. Raj Kumari wants to adopt more abandoned or orphaned children, but financial constraints prevent her from doing so.

Committed to women’s empowerment and rooting out corruption from society, Raj Kumari has also set up a Self-Help Group with housewives in her neighbourhood and named it “New Jan Kalyan Mahila Samiti”. On a few occasions, she has cremated the unclaimed bodies of children.

And, of course, the blind couple still stays with her.

“Apna liye to sabhi jeeta hai, lekin doosron ke liye jeene me kuchh alag hi mazza hai, (All live for themselves, but there is a unique pleasure in living for others),” Raj Kumari said.

(Nityanand Shukla can be contacted at nityanand.s@ians.in)

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