I pull off the highway into a large motorway services complex similar to what you would see alongside motorways in the west and now increasingly common in India.
This one has a large petrol station, coffee shop, a South Indian vegetarian restaurant and quite probably the worst McDonalds in the world.
It’s 8 am and we are heading from Bangalore to Pondicherry for a few days break.
The South Indian restaurant serves lovely Masala Dosas for breakfast but one of the main reasons we stop here is because it has possibly the cleanest public toilets in the country, a rarity in a nation where entering a public toilet usually requires the wearing of a hazmat suit and gas mask.
Having broken our journey here many times over the years we have always been impressed at how well the toilets are maintained by a young Tamilian lady. Meticulously scrubbing and mopping both the men’s and ladies toilets she ensures that whatever time of day you visit they are always clean and smelling fresh. She lights up our day with a beautiful smile and over time we have become nodding and greeting acquaintances despite not sharing a common language.
It’s been 9 months since we last came through this way and we were shocked to see her limping as she worked. A piece of leather encasing the stump where her foot should be.
With hand signals and the few English words that creep into every language she explained that she had been heading home from work one night and while crossing the highway to reach her village was hit by a speeding lorry. Badly injured she spent 2 months in hospital but in the end the doctors were unable to save her foot.
Life in India for the working masses is tough, seldom affording the luxury of a long convalescence.
She is back at work, scrubbing, mopping, ensuring the toilets continue to be spotless.
And despite the missing foot…………….. still smiling like an angel.