‘Give a fish to a person, you feed her for a day, teach her to catch a fish, you feed her for life.’ An inspirational story of a one-woman army who has taken on herself to help underprivileged women by skilling them and enabling them economically. Rupashi story teaches us that donating money is not necessarily the only way to help; teaching the skills you have to underprivileged can empower them by creating employment opportunities for them.
We all work for securing a better future for ourselves and for our children. We are driven by our self-interest and make efforts to secure them creating prosperity and wealth. Nothing wrong with this way of thinking, in fact, it is very practical and worldly. But there are a handful of uncommon people among billions of common people who cannot sleep when they know an underprivileged is going to bed without having their days meal. They are driven not only by their self-interest, but they go beyond it and help the needy find employment and a firm footing for themselves. And they do so without any publicity or marketing, silently with no expectations of being recognized or appreciated for their humane initiatives. Their satisfaction stems from the relief and smile they see on the face of those whom they have helped. Rupashi Bhattacharya is one such uncommon ‘common’ person who has been working tirelessly, silently and singularly, without any help or support from anyone, for the empowerment of underprivileged women by skilling them and helping them create employment opportunities for themselves.
Economic enablement goes a long way in empowering young girls and women who come from very poor sections of the society by providing them financial freedom and a promise for a better future.
HAPPINESS IS MORE THAN SUCCESS
Rupashi who is herself an entrepreneur and owns Grace Boutique. She herself is a very talented designer and is an expert in creating original designs, embroidery and fabric painting, crafting beautiful dresses and sarees for women. Today Grace Boutique is a name to reckon with in the historic Indian city of Kolkata and its reputation has purely been built on the talent and hard work of Rupashi. However, her own success has not made lose sight of hundreds and thousands of young girls and women who come from very poor strata, mostly who have migrated from interior remote places of the state into this big city in search of their dream of improving their quality of living conditions.
Most of us who want to help others, many times wonder how we can contribute and make a difference. But not Rupashi. She knew her biggest strength were her skills and she found a noble way of training underprivileged and needy girls and women for free and making them ready to either get employed or create self-employment opportunity for themselves. Rupashi even helps them to get certified in tailoring, stitching, art and craft skills in garment designing like fabric painting, embroidery and dressmaking. Realizing that such women also need some life skills since they come from strata of the society where their education is given the least priority. She trains them on simple counting skills that helps them learn measurements. She also teaches them basic mathematics so that they can learn to manage their own finances. With an objective to make them self-sufficient, Rupashi also started the concept of portfolio file for her under-trainees that contains miniature samples of all dresses that they learn to make and stitch, with notes on measurement and styling. This helps them in two ways – one it helps them recall their learnings even years later and secondly, it helps them showcase their work to prospective customers and employers.
STORIES OF COMPASSION
Take the case of her house help who has been working for Rupashi for decades together. She used to bring her daughter Arati (name changed to protect identity) along with her when she came for work to her house. When her mother worked, Arati played around in their house. When Arati grew a bit older, Rupashi taught her some embroidery skills. Married off at a young age, Arati became the mother of two daughters. A few years later when Arati lost her younger daughter to illness, distraught and in a state of disturbed mental condition, she was once again brought to Rupashi by Arati’s mother. Rupashi started training her once again and to her surprise she found Arati remembering her childhood lessons. The training not only helped Arati come out of her depression but also helped her create a self-employment opportunity and financial freedom.
Or take the case of Geeta (name changed to protect identity) who used to work as a cook in various households. After she learnt stitching and embroidery work from Rupashi, she has become so adept at her work that she has been able to switch her profession that is much more rewarding. This has helped her raise her income substantially as well her stature in the society.
Same is the case with anyone whom Rupashi has trained. Their economic and social condition has improved after she has trained them. Even those who could not gather enough expertise to work independently, Rupashi supports them later by helping them get stitching assignments through her boutqiue that helps them to make a living.
Dina’s (name changed to protect identity) case is slightly different. Dina who also comes from an underprivileged background has been known to Rupashi. Dina suffered from Cancer and lost all her income in her treatment. She finally recovered from the disease but became financially bankrupt that posed second threat to her survival. At such a juncture Rupashi came to her rescue, giving Dina beautiful hand-crafted Sarees at cost price. Dina could sell these Sarees easily and was allowed to keep the entire profit. This is another way Rupashi helps such women, making zero profit in such cases despite having invested her own money and more importantly her creativity. These women when they start as saleswomen, take the merchandise on credit, as initially they do not even have money to pay the cost price. Later when they are able to sell the stuff, they pay just the cost price of the material.
A LESSON FOR ALL
There are hundreds of such stories, of those countless women whom Rupashi has helped in the last six years when she first started this, without any desire for money, fame, or recognition. It may be worthwhile to mention that it was not easy to convince Rupashi for this interview as she shuns any kind of publicity. It was only after we could convince her that the objective of the story was to inspire millions of underprivileged women on one hand, and those who want to help such women but are not sure how to do so, on the other, that we could bring her to the interview table.
People like Rupashi are very rare, but we need many more like her to support the economic and social empowerment of women. The historic words of John F. Kennedy ring in my ears – ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.’ So, for once let’s stop complaining or expecting that government alone or someone else would do something and start to do whatever we can do to help such people, selflessly and be the change ourselves that we aspire to bring. We need many more Rupashis in this world.