My name is Balbir Kaur. My paternal village is Daghaat near BhadsoN. It was my aunt who taught me this craft. I can do embroidery and knit sweaters. I have done all kinds of work – cotton picking, chilli picking, yarning the cotton. I know how to knit cotton shawls too. It is tough work; I learnt it but never did it.
Embroidery design requires mental work. You can not do it just by following oral instructions. I charge 600 Rupees per dari. It takes me up to a month to finish one dari, but if I sit regularly I can finish it in ten days. If I get an additional woman to help me, we finish is sooner. I also face hurdles on certain occasions.
I also work as a cook in a Government school for children. I made pooris for them a couple of days ago. They pay me 500 Rupees a month. But they pay it after a year or more. I work there three times a week. Another worker cooks for the rest of the weekdays. Earlier, I used to cook for the whole week but the government has reduced the days now.
People come to me for dari work. I don’t go to deliver or take it to someone. If more yarn is needed, I ask them to send it to me. I just sit and work; I do not have to go elsewhere. I do not have to stand idle in the streets.
I was married when I turned eighteen. Earlier my parents supported with the rations. We did not own farmland. It is recently that my father-in-law gave us one and a half acre. I supported my children’s education with my work. One daughter studied till eighth, younger daughter studied till tenth. My son finished high school too, he is a bus driver.
I started making rotis when I was a young girl. My mother was ailing, so my father used to cook vegetables, and I used to make rotis of all shapes. My father and I used to clean the dishes together. I could not study as there was no school in our village. My siblings had all finished primary school. It is just me who could not study. Two of my brothers are farmers, one died a while back. My sister is married in Dakaala, she is living a happy life.
I am hard of hearing. When I was younger, I caught an ear ailment. A doctor cleaned them, the ailment got worse. We are devotees of Ashutosh Maharaaj of Noormehal. My younger son-in-law is up to no good. I also used to be sick. I was healed at the Ashutosh Maahraaj’s place. I have partaken Gian, just like Sikhs partake Amrit. You do not show it off to everybody. We are of Baba Nanak’s ilk too. It was all started by Baba Nanak.
Story by: Satdeep Gill & Gurdeep Dhaliwal
Assist: Sukhan Saar
Text: Jasdeep Singh
Edits: Sangeet Toor