I Sold My Hair For $2 To Feed My Children


I Sold My Hair For $2 To Feed My Children

The day Prema Selvam sold her hair for 150 rupees ($2; £1.50) in order to feed her young children was the worst of her life.

The mother-of-three had already lost her husband after he had killed himself in a fit of desperation amid mounting debts and a failed dream.

Even then, she still had hope.

But after selling her hair, she was faced with the prospect of having nothing more of value, no way to pay the creditors demanding their money, and no food in the cupboard.

What happened next has inspired people across India.

Drowning in debt

Before his death, Prema and her husband had worked in a brick kiln in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, making just enough to scrape a living together for their young family. But they had hoped for more. Her husband took out a loan to start his own brick kiln, but the plans failed to take off. In a moment of desperation last year, he killed himself.

The pressure fell solely on Prema to not only earn enough to feed, clothe and house herself and her three children, but also to pay back the money they owed for the failed business venture. And for a while she managed, taking her two youngest to work with her.

“When I go to work I get 200 rupees ($2.80) per day, which is enough to run our family,” Prema explains to the BBC.

But she became ill, which meant she couldn’t earn as much.

“I couldn’t carry a heavy load of bricks. I stayed home for most of the time due to a fever.”

She was sick for three months – by the end of which the bills had mounted, and the cupboards had run bare.

“My seven-year-old son Kaliyappan came back from school and asked for food,” she recalls. “Then he started crying due to hunger.”

Prema had no property, jewellery, valuables or kitchen utensils that could be exchanged for cash.

“I didn’t even have a 10 rupee note [$0.14; £0.11] with me. I just had a few plastic buckets.”

Then she realised she did have something she could sell after all.

“I remembered a shop which used to buy hair,” Prema says, thinking immediately of her own hair. India is one of the world’s top exporters of human hair, which is sold around the globe to make extensions. Some Hindu devotees offer up their hair in temples when their prayers are answered.

“I went there and sold my entire head of hair for 150 rupees ($2; £1.50).”

It might not sound like a lot – the money she got might only have been able to buy a lunch at a restaurant in a large city – but in her village, Prema was able to buy much more.

“I got three packs of cooked rice, each costing 20 rupees, for my three children,” she says.


But the respite was only temporary: Prema knew she was out of options, and her thoughts began to turn towards more drastic measures.

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She went to a shop where she hoped to find something to end her life. But, seeing her state of distress and realising her plan, the shopkeeper refused to sell her anything. Prema went home and decided to find another way of taking her own life. She was saved by her sister, who lives in the neighbourhood and happened to come by in time to stop her.

And then, just a few days later, the help she so desperately needed appeared out of the blue.

I Sold My Hair For $2 To Feed My Children


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