Meet Subhangi Chavan: Tough security guard, single mother… and poet “Reading and writing give me strength,” says the inspirational young woman from Pune

25, Oct 2021 | Mamta Pared

30-year-old Subhangi Chavan is often spotted reading a book, or writing in a diary in her free time. She seldom has free time though and her work is tough, requiring her to be tougher. Shubhangi works as a security guard and is stationed at the gates of Rashtra Seva Dal-Pune. She is sporty and fit, and likes to wear her hair short, and usually wears black T-shirts and trousers. I always wanted to talk to her and finally found an opportunity.

She was warm and shared her life story openly. It is a remarkable journey she has had so far. Shubhangi Chavan grew up in a small village named Kati in Osmanabad. Her father taught her good values, always treated her with respect and showed how one should look at life. She was just 15-years-old when she was married off in 2003. “I was studying in Class 10, but had to drop out of school because of marriage even though I wanted to study further,” she said, adding that she “was even an NCC captain” and “I wanted to compete in all the sports competitions.”

CJP’s Grassroots Fellowship Program is a unique initiative aiming to give voice and agency to the young, from among the communities with whom we work closely. These presently include migrant workers, Dalits, Adivasis and forest workers. CJP Fellows report on issues closest to their hearts and home, and are making impactful change every day. We hope to expand this to include far reaching ethnicities, diverse genders, Muslim artisans, sanitation workers and manual scavengers. Our raison d’etre is to dot India’s vast landscape with the committed human rights workers who carry in their hearts Constitutional values, to transform India into what our nation’s founders dreamt it to be. Please Donate Now to increase the band of CJP Grassroot Fellows.

Once her marriage was fixed, she only asked her family, “Is the boy educated? What is his education qualification?” Her family told her that he had studied till Class 10 and he is “very intelligent and he is not addicted to any substance.” However, Shubhangi later found out that in reality, the situation was different and her parents had been kept in the dark about their son-in-law.

She moved to Pune after marriage, and everything was new for her, “But I had to adapt and adjust to this new life,” she says, adding that her in-laws were “very good” and didn’t make her want for anything. However, her husband was a disappointment. “I wanted a thoughtful, sensible husband who would understand me, but my husband was very narrow-minded, he only needed me as his wife,” she says.

One day while arranging some documents at home Shubhangi found a school progress report that belonged to her husband. She found out that her husband had only studied till class 6 and had failed to clear the final exam that year. Shubhangi realized that her family had been lied to that the groom had studied till class 10. She also found out that he was addicted to drugs since he was 10 years old. “Not only that, he never accepted the responsibility of the family and he also abused me and even tried to kill me,” she recalls the miserable days.

“My husband used to ask for Rs. 50 every day to drop our children till the school bus. I was tired of giving him money and so decided to learn to ride the motorbike so that I will not have to be dependent on him,” she says, recalling an important turning point in her life. She learnt how to ride the bike on the sly. “Every day, after he went to sleep, I would go and learn to ride a bike. The day I decided to drop the children at the school bus, I left home one hour early and slowly drove to the bus stop. I felt good and confident that day,” she recalls her first of many incredible personal triumphs.

According to Shubhangi, her husband never cared or even thought about their children; rearing them well was left to her entirely. “I believe children should have good manners and they should grow in a good environment. So, when I went out, I took the kids along with me,” she says. “I also believe that children should not only acquire book knowledge but should also learn to be good and responsible citizens and have knowledge of what is going on in the world.” So, she taught them by example.

She says that her husband didn’t like her studying further, “He would not let me write or read anything. I used to hide everything from him but when he found any of my books, he would tear them up or throw them away.” Shubhangi had maintained a notebook where she used to write things important to her, but one day her husband soaked it in a bucket of rain water. “I found this out the next day and when I opened the book the ink was spread all over the pages and I couldn’t read a single word… I couldn’t hold back my tears,” her pain evident even as she recalled the old incident.

However, Shubhangi was sure that she would live her life her way, irrespective of how her husband behaved, “I didn’t want to be left behind, I wanted to learn new things. So, I involved myself in one work or the other. I learned to drive a rickshaw and a tempo. I did different jobs to run my household. I also worked at NGOs and did social work,” she recalled. She even sold vegetables door to door, “I wanted to take care of my children alone, so I was doing what I could.”

Eventually, in 2017, Shubhangi’s husband fell ill and she took him to the hospital on the bike, taking a loan for his treatment, but unfortunately, he succumbed. Now Shubhangi was officially ‘alone’. “In reality I didn’t have any support from him at all, nor did he care for our children. However, according to society a woman must have her husband and father for her children,” she added.

“I am alone now, I have three children and their full responsibility was on me,” said Shubhangi, who left her marital home after her husband passed away. However, she now had to face unwanted comments from people. “It is difficult for single women to live alone in our society,” she realised but didn’t let the negative comments bother her and began working at different jobs to support her family.

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Shubhangi worked at a petrol pump, sold decorative items during festivals, worked as a security guard at functions and is currently working as a permanent security guard at the organisation. “Today my children are getting a good education, I am also getting support from social workers to fulfil my dreams. In 2019, I passed my class 10 exam and now in 2021 I will complete my class 12 exam. I also have a dream to learn shooting which I will soon fulfil,” she smiled.

She then showed me her diary, in which all her thoughts and plans are written. She also read out a few poems and other writings she authored. This is her passion, “Reading and writing are two of the most important things in my life; they give me strength.” Her words gave me some energy and I couldn’t stop thinking about her journey long after I had met her.

 This report is part of CJP’s Grassroots Fellowship Program, and has been written by Mamta Pared who hails from the Warli tribe and lives with her family in Nimbavali village in Palghar district. Here she showcases how life-long poverty and deprivation affect people’s approach to life and livelihood.

 Meet Mamta Pared

Mamta Pared is a young Adivasi woman hailing from the Warli community. She lives with her family in Nimbavali village in Palghar district. Her mother is unlettered, while her father was educated up to the fourth standard. After they got married, her parents started working together at a brick kiln. Every year, their family used to migrate for employment and live near brick kilns, six out of twelve months. There are five siblings, the youngest was born when Mamta was five years old. As the eldest daughter in the family, she was responsible for caring for her siblings, and also helped with household chores. She had to skip school frequently and stay home to take care of her brothers. But she studied hard, passed scholarship exams, stayed in a government hostel, even borrowed money to pay college fees. Mamta eventually earned a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Media.


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