"Hello, my name is Sheela. I had a very difficult childhood. My seven siblings, my parents and I lived in a single room in Delhi. Since we were very insecure financially, we could not go...
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"Hello, my name is Sheela. I had a very difficult childhood. My seven siblings, my parents and I lived in a single room in Delhi. Since we were very insecure financially, we could not go to school. My mother use to weave dhurries, so I'd go with her to her work. My mom's boss saw me and one day asked me why I didn't go to school. I told her we had no money to pay the fees. So she sponsored my school fees and I got the opportunity to study until the 5th standard.
"I was barely 14 years and 3 months old when I got married. As tradition dictates, I moved to my husband's house in Madhya Pradesh. My husband's family was very friendly and unpretentious. I was fortunate to marry into this family. My husband had a tailoring shop which was enough for us to lead a comfortable and decent lifestyle. We were blessed with two sons and two daughters. They grew up and studied in good schools and colleges. And by God's grace, they are all comfortably settled in their respective careers. My eldest son is an IAS officer, the second daughter is a bank manager while my third son has an MBA and now works as a software engineer in a reputed company. My youngest daughter studied at the NIFT (National Institute of Fashion Technology). She is now working with an export house as an accessory designer.
"My rendezvous with my craft started about ten years ago. I had gone into a deep depression because I was alone. My daughter took me to Delhi for treatment, which lasted for five years. During these years, I used to visit my doctor quite often. During one such visit, my doctor noticed my bag, which I had designed myself. When he learned this, he really appreciated my work and told my daughter that she should get me into some activity to keep me busy and this would help take away my depression. This is how I got into my artwork.
"During those days, my daughter was working on a project in beaded accessories in a village. She gave me some leftover beads and taught me how to craft with them. I was so engrossed in my work that it took me just three months to be fully trained. I was so in love with the creation of my craftwork that I wanted to teach others. I invited women from my neighborhood and taught them.
"I started with three girls and slowly more girls joined us. One day, a friend of mine bought a set of jewelry from me to wear for her house warming party. It seemed that everyone liked the jewelry and more came to my place to see and purchase it. Everyone liked and appreciated my work. Someone advised me that I should put out an advertisement, since many people come and leave without finding the house. A Handicraft Office noticed the advert and saw my work. They liked it and sponsored an exhibition for me. We had a brilliant response. A reputed socialite in Delhi purchased all my jewelry.
"Today, I collaborate with a group of 35 women. It feels great to be associated with this art. With this work, I am able to make a small difference for the womenfolk in our village. It gives them a daily income that otherwise would not have been possible.
"I really give all the credit for my success to my daughter. She has been my source of inspiration. She taught me how to come out of my depression. I would say, she has been the medicine for my depression. My husband and all my children are all very supportive. Today, I am a very contented person."