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LILY BUDS AND SWEET-BLOSSOMS
Nalini, the Entrepreneur
Nalini, a diabetic at 3 years of age, is 41 years old today. Virtually a destitute, Nalini has always had to fight for survival. Compared to several children who have been supported by the Diabetes Department of the VHS from the time they are diagnosed, she is a late entrant. That was probably because she spent her early childhood in the outskirts of Chennai.
Nalini came to know about the services offered by the VHS, to challenged people like herself, only in 1986. She immediately found her way to the Diabetes Department at the VHS and registered herself. Any uneducated, destitute, teenager, a newcomer to the city at that, would have been daunted by the prospect. One would think, for Nalini, with her challenged state of health, it should have been a nightmare. But such thoughts did not even cross her mind. Her single track mind only concentrated on the path to survival!
Luckily for Nalini, apart from diabetes, she did not suffer from any complications or health complaints and had maintained good health. Now that VHS Diabetes Department was taking care of her medical condition and was supporting her, Nalini decided to get on with life. She met up with a couple of similarly challenged girls at the VHS and discussed the possibility of sharing a room and also earning a living.
The young enterprising girl took the initiative of getting her new friends to attend tailoring classes along with her. The VHS Diabetes Department funded their training. Having mastered tailoring skills, she felt confident that they could eke out a living.
The triumvirate soon moved into rented premises. They stitched and sewed for the established tailors and took on odd sewing jobs from others. During festive seasons like Ramzan, Deepavali and Pongal they stitched clothes for children and supplied them to the small roadside shops in the bazaar. It was hard work, no doubt, but more work meant more money and the girls did not mind.
Encouraged by their success, Nalini approached the VHS Diabetes Department for a loan of Twenty Thousand rupees, in 1988. She wanted to invest in a sewing machine and also purchase cloth for mass-producing ready-made garments. The uneducated budding entrepreneur could easily have passed off as a Cost Accountant, it seemed. Her proposal outlined costs, repayment schedules and the works!
The doctors were impressed with Nalini’s scheme but there was no provision under the VHS Juvenile Diabetes Programme guidelines for loans and advances. Commercial Banks were not willing to advance the money without a surety or security.
One of the doctors stepped into the shoes of a ‘Grameen Bank’ and gave her an interest free loan of Rupees Twenty Five Thousand as feed- money. Unlike bankers, who would have no hold over her, this doctor was sure Nalini would continue to come periodically to the Department for her medical check-ups and for collecting her insulin supplies.
Nalini and her friends took turns at the in-house sewing machine. They could now take on more work, both in terms of quantity and variety.
True to her word, Nalini paid up the loan in monthly instalments of Rs. 750/- each. Once the loan was fully repaid, she would take a fresh loan to enhance her earnings through prudent investment in raw material.
“So prompt and meticulous, she is!” gushed the lady who maintains accounts. “Not once has she delayed or fallen short of her repayment schedule.”
Apart from loan repayment, the entrepreneurs ploughed back a part of their profits into the business. After a few years, Nalini decided that the fast-expanding business could do with another sewing machine. The doctor, who had given her the loan earlier, this time, gifted her one that was lying idle at home. Nalini was thrilled with the hand-me-down!
“Diabetes Management is probably one of the minor facets of the VHS Juvenile Diabetes Programme.” Nalini observed. “Healthy destitute ‘patients’ like me are more worried about life than death. The all- round support provided under the Programme which includes economic empowerment of people and the doctors attached to the Centre make a world of difference to our lives.”
One amongst the trio has since passed away. But with the unstinted holistic support given to her by her doctors, Nalini, the brave soldier, confidently marches on…
 
 
 
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