Mrs. Meena lives in a village in the mountains of Northern India where she grows her own garden. With the flowers from her garden and the surrounding forrest, she hand-presses the petals to sturdy cards and sells them to help support her family. I got to sit down with Mrs. Meena (while on assignment for Ashraya Mission) in her home and speak with her a bit about her life. Our mutual friend Alice was our translator.
With a shy smile Mrs. Meena greeted Alice and me as she swung open the screen door to her home. She motioned for us to come inside and have a seat in the main room. I sat down and absorbed my surroundings. The room that triples as the living space, dinning area, and bedroom was filled with trinkets and photographs of family. Framed verses in Hindi, evidence of the family’s Christian faith, hung lopsided on the walls. Taking up nearly half of the room was a large bed where a young girl of about 4 years old lie fast asleep. A dim lantern hung from the surprisingly high and vaulted ceiling, adding little to the light streaming in from the screen door.
After a few moments of clinking and clanking in the kitchen, Mrs. Meena shuffled into the main room with cups of chai and a tray full of biscuits. The three of us got comfortable and Mrs. Meena showed me the cards she had in stock.
As I flipped through a bright selection of cards, Mrs. Meena began to tell the story of how she created her small business. . . Mrs. Meena comes from humble beginnings. Both of her parents died when she was only 2 years old; she was left to be taken care of by an abusive uncle. Her uncle would beat her often and sometimes even denied her food. Meena never went to school and remains illiterate today.
At the inculpable age of 15 she was married to a young man from a nearby village. Her husband’s parents had also died when he was young, so together they started their own family. She speaks of her relationship with her husband with nothing but love and loyalty. One year into their marriage their first child, a girl, Rajni was born; two years after that, their son Amit was born.
The family struggled to make ends meet for many years, going back and forth from unsteady jobs to being unemployed. Meena developed a health issue that caused her to be unable to leave the home to work. She felt helpless while she scrambled to figure out a way to make money.
One day she was gazing into the jungle, and thought to herself, “Why don’t I create something from the beautiful wild flowers?” So, she began collecting flowers and practiced pasting them to her children’s school notebooks.
It took 16 years for Mrs. Meena to perfect her craft. With trial and error, she discovered which flowers were too brittle to dry and press and which flowers held their truest color. Over time she gained confidence in her skills and now has a fairly steady customer base. Mrs. Meena is a great example of how small business can help change people's lives. She continues to create those beautiful cards and uses the income to support her family.