Know The Story Of This Well-Educated Beggar Woman & How She Got A New Lease Of Life

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19 May 2019


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Puri: Laxmipriya Debi is one of the many beggars who sit in front Puri Jagannath Temple in Singhadwara. Living in the Railway Station, she drags herself to the temple every morning. She fills her stomach by begging for alms and money. With dysfunction of legs and no help of wheelchair, she was left victim to her downtrodden and unprivileged life. All this was daily routine until additional Collector Jyotsana Patra met Laxmi and infused her with a fresh lease of life.

The meeting happened a few days back when Jyotsana was on her way to Circuit House to have lunch and was crossing the Singhadwara road. She spotted Laxmi with torn clothes and her half-dressed weak body was struggling on the ground. As soon as Jyotsana talked to the old lady, she was taken aback. The beggarwoman fluently answered in English, “I want to go to the Station. What is your good name?” Jyotsana immediately introduced herself and sat down with Laxmi to hear her story.

A native of Kanjia village in Puri’s Sakhigopal area, Laxmi was employed as a teacher of Science, Maths and English in Badasankha Girls High School, four decades back. As she was highly qualified, she had also visited Ethiopia after the Embassy had recruited her. She was married to one Gopinath Mishra of Bolangir and had a son named Amit out of the wedlock. However when Amit was 8 months old, Gopinath passed away.

Along with her son, Laxmi travelled to Punjab, Bihar and Gujarat to pursue her teaching passion. In the meantime, she also raised her son and provided him with good education and a comfortable lifestyle. Seven years back, the mother-son duo came to Puri for Jagannath Darshan when suddenly, 30-year-old Amit went missing near Swargdwara.

Dejected Laxmi searched every nook and corner of the heritage town to find her son. After several days of futile hunting, she went back to her home in Kanjia. Adding to her woes, her family members refused to keep her. They gave her Rs 5000 and asked her to leave.

Laxmi headed back to Puri and devoted herself to Lord Jagannath. She sat in front of the temple hoping for a miracle that would return her son. When her money was stolen by muggers, she started to beg for a living. Several years passed and Laxmi’s condition deteriorated. However, her spirits had not been crushed.

Jyotsana was moved by hearing this story. As tears trickled down her eyes, she decided to do whatever was in her capacity to help the old lady. On enquiring what she wanted, Laxmi promply said, “I want a homely atmosphere. I want to teach small children. I don’t want to be left in hospital or ashram.”

After speaking to her seniors, Jyotsana took Laxmi to the District headquarters Hospital (DHH) to give her a bath and treat her wounds. Laxmi was also given new clothes, food, an umbrella and some money. She will also been given Red Cross aid soon. Jyotsana hopes that Laxmi is welcomed back by her family members. “I also want her to get back the rightful ownership of the piece of land that she had purchased during her younger days,” Jyotsana said.

Meanwhile Laxmi said, “There is one devil and one divine. Jyotsana is divine. She is like my daughter. She is my savior and has given me inspiration to live again.”

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Jyotsana Patra, Deputy Collector, Puri