When people hear about the tough personal lives of some of our women, I am often asked about "abusive Indian men". I find these questions disturbing. Yes, some of our women live with drunken, nasty husbands, but this is true in any country.
To assist such women, our trust has support networks in place that can guide through the legal system. Some women file police complaints; others are afraid of family repercussions and keep quiet. Awareness about women's rights is promoted in the villages, although much more can be done.
I have come to admire many wonderful Indian men and will write about several in the next few months. Suruli is one of them. He tends our cows and manages our fields. Whenever a fallen coconut breaks a Blue Mango roof tile, or the water pump is broken, Blue Mango calls on Suruli to help. He is like our on-call handyman.
Suruli never made it past third grade. He walked out of class one day after a fist fight with a classmate and never went back. His father was a farmer and put Suruli to work in the fields. After helping with his father's cows for a number of years, when he was twelve, he was sent to Kerala as a child laborer where he worked in the rubber plantations. Suruli was so clever and industrious that his boss tried to woo him to stay permanently by arranging a marriage with a pretty Kerala girl. Suruli freaked out and ran home and refused go back, in spite of pleas from the land owner. Suruli then worked as a laborer digging wells, building homes, and irrigating fields until he came to work for us.
Our granddaughter Keiyona adores Suruli, and calls him "maama" or uncle. He takes her in his arms and brings her to visit the "moos" together. Suruli has two granddaughters of his own, and shows us photos of their antics.
We just celebrated Pongal a week ago, the Tamil harvest festival. Suruli decorated the cows with dots of colored paint, fed them sweet rice, sugar cane, and bananas and tied a scarf around their necks. Lucky cows. We sold one of our milk cows last month, and Suruli was in grief for a few days, as he had raised her from birth.
Tender-hearted, smart and hard-working, a family man who lives a value-centered life, Suruli is a man I am honored to know.