Drawing spaces her way

Deepika Nayyar
Posted October 22, 2011 from India

A sewing machine resounds from 9 in the morning to 7 at night. Colours change under the hands. The hands hardly ever seem to tire. Eyes closely watch the stitch that meticulously gives shape to a piece of cloth and magically, the outcome is a piece of finesse waiting to be flaunted…

“I was sixteen and married. fourteen years ago this was ‘too old’ for marriage. I had never been to school, knew nothing except for the household chores and keeping my house clean. I had always been scrupulous and fastidious about my work though. And this has been the reason why and how I managed things,” describes Santosh as her hands work around stitching labels onto garments.

Her journey has been synonymous with upheavals. Santosh lost her husband to cancer after 3 years of marriage and her only daughter was a month old. For a woman, timid and shy, her world had suddenly come to a standstill. She knew no future and her past was unsupportive. She went to stay with her in-laws and maternal home. Realising that there was hardly any one that could foster her and her little girl. Both, her father-in-law and mother were old and ailing. She did not want add to the burden of her brothers and their meager living. She decided she would take control of her and her child’s life.

She sheltered with the organization where her husband worked as a cook. She took after him working in the mess earning a mere salary of 1000 rupees a decade ago. She worked there for 6 years. She was happy. She managed to take home gifts. Her daughter started school and life was moving on.

Then the people at the organization asked her to quit the mess services. Her health like that of her husband had become weak. This struck an alarm. And the organization pushed her to train and hone her skill in sewing.

“I was angry and upset. I felt betrayed when I was asked to move from the mess services to sewing on my own. I thought I was being fired from the job and that the sewing bit was only compensation. This was only an initial reaction. As I bettered at sewing and stitching, I realized how this was a blessing in disguise. I earned better as I was paid per piece and this meant that it was upto me to do as good as I could,” she says recounting her journey. “This confidence was my learning at the shivir (a residentional educational camp that helped bridge those school dropouts and those who had no opportunity to school, with primary education). I watched so many girls younger than me trying their best to learn and study. I always wanted to study but did not have the opportunity to and shivir gave me just that. Today, I manage my expenses and my savings. I earn close to a ten thousand a month, it helps me provide better for my daughter’s needs. Had I still been at the mess I could not have been able to afford all that I do now.”

Santosh realizes the importance of education. She is happy with what she has been able to do with her life but often is saddened that she could not continue with her education. “Had I been better educated I could have done better for my daughter,” says she. Her daughter studies at an English medium school. Promod, her daughter, wants to grow up to be an engineer. “ She has just taken an admission test to a boarding school. I am worried about her going away. No, not because I think a girl should stay home but because I don’t know how I’ll manage without her… But anything for her future,” she says with mixed emotions.

Incidentally, Promod who is now eleven started her education at the shivir too. She would accompany her cousin to the shivir. She was only two. Loved the songs, the books and everything about it. Surprisingly, she even has memories of the time spent there. She began reading and writing by age of four. Her favourite subject she says is Mathematics. Promod says she is inspired by the strength she sees in her mother. “Everything she does is centered around me. Everyone tells me of how afraid my mother use to be of going even to the village market! It is unbelievable to me I see her doing everything all by herself from going to bank to supporting my grandparents, both maternal and paternal, to taking care of me, everything.”

The mother-daughter personifies courage and confidence defining space for them in a male-dominant and feudalistic society. Making their stand and living by it. Today, Santosh is doing very well for herself. She manages to save close to seven thousand rupees per month and all this after supporting her daughter’s education and her maternal and marital homes. She is doing everything she possibly can to support Promod. There is no television at home even when they can afford it only because Santosh does not wish for any distractions for Promod. Promod understands her mother’s struggle and supports her through.

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