My childhood was like every other child. We were four brothers and three sisters. My elder brother is a police officer and the youngest is a farm labourer. The middle one passed away. All three sisters are elder to me. My father was very good at farm work. We did not have our own land, so he was a share-cropper earning one sixth of the produce.
I studied till eighth grade. I do not feel as bad about being handicapped as I feel about being less educated. My parents were illiterate so they sought somebody’s advice about my future. There was a tailor who told my parents to teach me a vocation. He himself needed a helping hand. However, my parents were thoughtful. They talked to a doctor and my teachers before asking me to quit school. Had those people told my parents otherwise, that continuing studies would fetch me a job, I would have a different life today. My elder brother studied and he wears a star studded uniform.
Anyways, I became an apprentice to the tailor for two and a half years. Since he was a village tailor he was not very good at stitching trousers. I went to Lehra town for six months to learn trouser stitching. Then I started working on my own. I worked in Daska for six years. My sister was married in that village. Work thrived there and I hired four apprentices. Eventually, I had to leave my sister’s place although she did not want me to leave. Then I started tailoring in my own village. I rented a shop for ten years. After getting married, I got my own place and started working from there. I have been a tailor for twenty five years now. I do not have any other source of income apart from the disability pension my wife and I get from the government. We get 750 rupees per month.
Our children can get the allowance too. We filled the forms and did all the formalities, but the officers said we were too late to do that. To make things worse, they have started charging tuition fee for college education from the Scheduled Castes too. My daughter is going to study in college next year and the fee scares me. I do not want anything else but free education for my children. I enrolled them in private schools till the tenth standard. My daughter is in twelfth grade now. She scored 80 percent marks in tenth. My son is also good in studies. He got an award for calligraphy.
I commentate in the village sports tournaments too. I was invited in the Doordarshan TV program “Zindagi Anmol” a couple of times. They have segments on different themes. I was invited for a segment on differently abled people who make their own living. On the side, I like writing satirical poetry. I used to get published in Punjabi Tribune but their new editor has stopped publishing my works. I am being published in newspapers since ‘97. I write about the lives of the people who live on the margins of society. When they don’t publish it, I have to post the writings on Facebook.
If I get to live my life again I would like to study and get a PhD. I read a lot of books. I loved Narinder Kapoor’s book ‘Antar Jhaat’. I got hooked to reading and writing by reading Jagdish Parkash Kaushik’s satirical writings. That inspired me to write.
I have toiled all my life but it does not earn me much these days. The young boys in the village do not want to work. Nobody does tailoring anymore, even those who have learnt it do not pursue it as a profession. I cannot quit and start doing something else now. It is all about children, It is my dream that they get the best education and do what they like to do in life.
Text: Jasdeep Singh, Gurdeep Dhaliwal