I’ve been doing this for 25 years now. When I began, I bought two goats from the village Togawal. One costed me 1100 rupees and other one was for 900 rupees. When the work picked up, I bought some sheep too. Slowly the number went from 17 to 45. Then it just went uphill from there. When I had enough money, I sold the animals and bought me some land but I couldn’t stand being at home all day. That month I drank the most, it cost me nearly 7000 rupees. Everyone was upset with me. Even I felt like, it was of no use staying home, all I’ll do is backbite others and bring trouble on to myself. Bored out of my wits I took to shepherding again. I bought a herd worth 44,000 rupees, 7 goats and 6 lambs. It was all merry again. It’s the walking about in random places that I love the most in this profession. I’m 65 years old now and I’ve spent most of my life walking. All my limbs are in perfect condition, I haven’t got any old age pains. I’ve kept my mouth in check. I have never taken bhukki (poppy husk) or a medical drug. I drink alcohol occasionally though.
Work brings respect. Staying idle at home will eat you up. My mother used to be a midwife. She used to operate millstone while feeding the children. My father was also a shepherd. First he used to take Sohan Singh’s flock for graze. After 3-4 years he bought his own sheep. Before that he used to work as a farm labourer. When he realised he couldn’t do that anymore, he started shepherding. When he died, he had 70 sheep. Then we all got into it. There’s no expenditure in this profession except the medicine. Even that is also not very expensive, medicine for 30 goats cost just 170 rupees. The other issue is if our flock enters the land of farmers, they hurl abuses at us if that happens. We just accept it as our mistake and get on with our work. If we confront them, it’ll just fuel the argument and police doesn’t listen to people like us. Even if a vehicle hits one of animals on the road, it’s the same. It’s better to let it pass and get on silently. This is how it is for poor folks around here.
I started doing farm labour at the age of 17. I did that for 18-19 years. Then, the wage was barely 1000 rupees a month, once I borrowed 600 extra and Only I know what I had to go through to return that amount. I started doing daily wage labour, ranging from two and half rupee a day to ten rupees a day. Sometimes they gave a pile of hay instead of money in exchange for the work we did. They gave some liquor too, to keep us bounded for the next day.
Now I can’t do that, nor does anyone ask me to. My brothers are also shepherds, in between they work at brick kilns too but no one is a farm labourer, we have our own work now. Why bear someone’s arrogance, we like what we do. I get up at 4 in the morning, feed the lambs. Usually we sell the lambs which is a big part of the income from this business other than selling the milk. But in exchange of milk I prefer hay and wheat instead of money.
I have a daughter and two sons, two of them are married. They did very little herding, and I never asked the youngest one to do this. He was more into sports and I let him be. No one of them was interested in studies, even I didn’t force them. They kept going on the way they wished. I don’t like moulding them too much. Little one is into Kabbadi. Every year I make him eat two goats. But he hasn’t been able to achieve much because of the discrimination the SC people face. He has won awards in 65kg category but no one selected him further. Money is the new qualification.