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Milaap – Give And Let Live

Parameswaran had to carry his disabled daughter to the fields everyday so that she could relieve herself, till he could get a loan to build a toilet in his house. Murugayee and her family of nine had to depend on the public water supply in her village, where they had to stand in long queues and brave fights till she could get a loan to build a water system in her home. These are just two of the many people Milaap has helped through their innovative micro-finance program for addressing daily needs.

“People usually lend a loan against something of value – a guarantee of sorts. This is so much better,” says Murugayee Raju about Milaap, an online micro-lending platform that turned her life around after a gruesome fight for drinking water

Clad in her tattered cottons, Murugayee Raju looks up at the camera – resplendent, her smile and poised stature reiterating that she doesn’t intend to pose. That despite being fifty-four, working at construction sites and running a house of nine, she is genuinely happy. Ask for her secret and she gradually unravels the nightmare that was her life a few months ago and how it all changed.

Murugayee was helped with a loan to build a water pipe in her home
Murugayee was helped with a loan to build a water pipe in her home

Drop by drop

In a small house in Musiri, a village near Trichy, Murugayee has been living with her husband, three sons, their two wives (one died) and three grandchildren. Apart from doing odd jobs in construction, Murugayee makes mats, and is a cleaner at a school nearby. Life had always meant hardships. “Eleven days after giving birth, I was back at a farm, chopping firewood,” says Murugayee with a smile, which soon fades as she narrates her story. “For a long time, we relied on public water supply and the local bore well to run the house,” she recalls and explains how the bore well water was very salty and required a lot of pumping. Hence her husband and she queued up at public water supplies every time. But the supply lasted exactly for an hour, as a result of which they would have to drop whatever they were doing at the time to go fill water. If they were working or tending to cattle, they would end up missing the supply.

Murugayee no longer has to drop all work to stand in long queues or be part of fights to get water
Murugayee no longer has to drop all work to stand in long queues or be part of fights to get water

However, landing up on time to fetch water wasn’t always an advantage. Sometimes, horrible fights broke out and depending on the local policemen every time was not working, she tells us. One day, a fight got quite out of hand and a heavy blow landed Murugayee in the hospital with a deep gash in her head and her husband with an injured nose and broken teeth. The couple ended up spending over Rs 10,000 on medical expenses.

Murugayee decided not to endure more and with the help of Gramalaya Urban And Rural Development Initiatives And Network (GUARDIAN), a microfinance institution, she got in touch with Milaap, a social enterprise and online micro-lending platform that enables people to provide loans to others for basic necessities like sanitation, education etc. With Milaap’s assistance and a loan, Murugayee’s family was able to install a piped water connection at home. Now she fills up 30 water-pots at a time and sometimes when she has filled her share, she lends water to her neighbours.

You wonder why a woman as benevolent as Murugayee would suffer so much before asking for help. This is exactly the dilemma that plagues many. For some, pride comes in the way and for others it’s a kind of complacency, a defeatist habit of yielding to their own situation, a fear that they are inherently incapable of returning a favour, of repaying a loan. Here’s another heart-wrenching story of a man in need. Though not physical, his ordeal was also a long and arduous one.

Load off his chest

Parameswaran was given a loan to build a toilet in his home
Parameswaran was given a loan to build a toilet in his home

Parameswaran lives in Trichy with his wife, an 11-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter. He works in the field of construction and earns approximately Rs. 4500 per month. This family of small means had no toilets in their house. Hence the women in the house had to rush to the fields to relieve themselves. If that was not possible then they would actually wait for it to get dark, in order to get some kind of privacy. And that’s not all. While Parameswaran’s wife Ramalakshmi didn’t have to depend on another for a need as fundamental as this, his daughter, who suffers from a physical disability, had to be carried to the fields each time she wanted to relieve herself.

Naturally, it was getting increasingly strenuous for Parameswaran to do this task every single time, more so as his daughter began growing older. Moreover, both for the father as well as the daughter it was socially embarrassing, especially for a girl stepping into adolescence. Sure enough, the practice also started taking a toll on basic hygiene at home. Parameswaran’s son suffered a debilitating bout of diarrhoea and that proved to be the turning point for Parameswaran; his wife and he decided it was high time they built a toilet at home. Here is a video of Parameswaran telling the story of how the loan helped change his life for the better. (If you cannot view the video below, you can also watch it on Youtube.)

Acquiring a loan for this purpose was easy with the help of Milaap, as repaying it in monthly installments was not difficult. Also, an added advantage was that the loan interest rates at Milaap were low. Parameswaran’s example has inevitably inspired many of his neighbours to take the help of Milaap for building toilets in their homes. Parameswaran, as is evident in the photograph, is a happy man today and more importantly, a father finally rid of an immense sense of guilt for not having provided for his daughter.

For the upcoming Independence Day, Milaap has launched their ‘Adopt an entrepreneur’ campaign, seeking to get 30 micro-entrepreneurs fully funded by August 15th. Each of the entrepreneurs require Rs 35,000 (625 USD) to set up or expand small businesses. You can know more at this link.