Trained karateka, marathoner, domestic help: meet Seema Verma
Marathon pacer Pooja Shah used to be lazy and lacked the inspiration to exercise. It was the presence of a certain person in her life that spurred her on – and that person was her one-time domestic helper, Seema Verma.
Seema, only 33 years old, was married off at 17 to a man who would go on to become an alcoholic who was physically abusive to her throughout the course of their marriage.
With her husband eventually passing away, Seema took on extra jobs to help supplement the education of her son; juggling multiple jobs, one of them saw her at the home of Shah’s mother.
Helping her mother with the chores on a daily basis, Shah met Seema, who was training at the time to run her first full marathon. “No job was below my ‘dignity’“she told us via Shah.
Not wanting her son to have the sort of experiences she had been through in her life, Seema took on extra work. She would commute across the humid, traffic-choked streets of Mumbai – until Vasai – to be able to take on work to support herself and her son.
She would spend time cleaning dishes and sweeping, but Seema’s heart lay with running and karate. The keen sportswoman would speak repeatedly to her employers about her love for the sport, and constantly encouraged her to join in.
It was through Seema that Shah found the inspiration to run.
Moving to karate training, Seema would return home to relate her stories of class and her daily prowess. She would also, in this time, go on daily runs and implore Shah to join her daily.
A regimented worker, Seema also tried to teach others her self-defense moves over time. She had always wanted to teach others, and did so tacitly during her employment with Shah, who trained with her for three months.
Over time, Seema managed to amass a tally of 20 marathons. She has won nine, but cobbling together the funds was not an easy task. “She would never take money from me even though she was struggling,” says Shah. “She has always been far too proud. She’d even avoid taking loans from us even when we offered, saying it would be a problem if she wasn’t able to pay it back.”
The headstrong Seema nevertheless went on to, after much convincing, accept money from Shah. “Even then, she’d constantly give me timelines on paying me back. She was paranoid about returning the money – she was too proud to take money outright; she was willing to take on absolutely any job needed to support herself and her family, and she did it.”
From having to be a domestic helper, Seema has come a long way. And in doing so, she has also realised her dreams of teaching other people sport. Seema is now a professional karate trainer, a profession that she devoted time to in earnest following a paralytic attack that left her with impaired movements in her limbs for a time.
Not only did she fight that issue, Seema also managed to pursue another sporting interest – kabbadi – in the meantime.
Now with a steady source of income from training both youngsters and adults in karate, Seema no longer has to work as a domestic helper. “But she still drops in at home every once in a while,” Shah says.
And she doesn’t shy away from the work that once helped support her and her son. “She came in to meet me much after she’d left work with us and was running her academy,” Shah says. “She met my mother, and told her that as long as she was there to meet me, she’d help finish up the housework."
Seema continues to run marathons, practice kabbadi and with a regular source of income no longer has to struggle to make ends meet. But even when she did, she never gave up on her true passion – sport.