When all is lost, there is still hope, and when you lose hope too, sometimes, something much stronger takes birth–something that sets the wheels of fate in motion and inspires you to not only do well in life but also to go well for others.
The life of Yasminee Bashir, from the islands of Andaman and Nicobar, is one such heart-warming story that shows how deep a mark personal experiences can leave and how they can inspire people to do great things in life.
Yasminee belongs to a middle-class family in Port Blair. She would never have thought that the year of 2004 would wash away everything that she grew up with.
Yasminee’s father did not have a good relationship with the family. Addicted to alcohol and unhappy with his family life, he decided to leave them in 2004. There was no way Yasminee’s mother could have tracked him down since her family had cut ties with her after marriage.
What Yasminee thought was the worst that could have happened to her family, unfortunately, was only the beginning.
A few months after her father estranged the family, the brutal Tsunami hit the Andaman islands. It took away everything from them–furniture, money, their home. Life as they knew it had come to a standstill.
“I was in 10th std, and my board exams were in three months,” recalls Yasminee. “We almost came on the road and starved day and night on the streets. Slowly, as time flew, we started repairing the old house and stayed there in darkness… I worked part-time here and there and managed to complete my 12th class. I was never good in school but wanted my brothers to study well,” she told The Better India.
After her 12th board exams, Yasminee decided to shift to Mumbai– the city of dreams to earn for her family.
At the young age of 17, she wanted to shoulder the financial responsibility of her family and help her mother, who worked in a government office at a low salary.
But the city of dreams does not offer them to you without a heavy price. Yasminee managed to get a job in a small firm which would pay her Rs 6,500. Most of the money would be spent in her PG accommodation and whatever remained, Yasminee sent back to her family. She had to live with no money for urgent expenses, she starved for days together, and she was lonely through it all.
But through these years of ordeal and loneliness, Yasminee came to understand one very important thing- that she was not alone. She looked around herself, and there she was there they were–on the streets, near temples and at traffic signals- hundreds of homeless people who might not be sure if they would sleep with a full stomach- who might not have anyone to go home to. “I started celebrating my birthday with the poor people on streets,” Yasminee told TBI, adding that,
“I always made it a point to visit orphanages and slums and play with the kids all day long. I used to go to stations and serve food to the poor on weekends.”
Gradually, Yasminee’s days of poverty and struggle were left behind. She got a job in a real estate firm and started earning a regular salary plus commissions. She reconnected with a school friend on Facebook, fell in love and got married to him. Today, they jointly own a business in Chennai, catering to island adventures realty sales, and events. From the onset of the business, they made it a point to continue their services to the needy.
The business made Yasminee and her husband shift their base from Mumbai to Chennai, but their goodwill was never lost. “As I love cooking, I cook interesting dishes after my work or buy it from hotels, and with the help of my husband, carry the food in my car and distribute it to the needy. I travel 27-30 kms daily since I know there are people waiting for me to come. We not only distribute food but clothes, footwear, bags, toys, chocolates etc.
The children there now recognise my car and come running behind me, screaming ‘Didi is here!’ I sometimes even give them makeovers too!” Yasminee said.
Apart from children, transgender people have also carved a place in Yasminee’s heart. “They are all so well educated and come from good families. But just because they are transgender, they are thrown out of their houses. They all come smiling at me when I visit them. Often, they show off the sarees I have distributed to them, showing their appreciation.”
Yasminee plans to continue this service for a long time. She has been keeping aside about 50% of her income for the underprivileged and working tirelessly in their service. She plans to build a home for the needy where they will be given free food and education- securing their future by making them independent.
“I just want my mom and my people from the Andaman to feel proud. No individual or company has sponsored my work till date- I am doing it from my expenses. I just wish more people come and join hands with me. A little help can change many lives,” she concludes.
If you wish to help Yasminee in her noble cause, you can write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)