I have been a cleaner and sweeper of cattle dung in almost all the houses of Surastigarh. After 6 months, some households would give me 2 quintal rice, some would give 3 quintal wheat. I had to fight for it if someone didn’t give the meant amount. Sometimes I did extra cleaning jobs if needed and got additional money for that. Earlier there were kutcha houses and people used to replenish it by plastering it with the mud and cow dung mixture every year. So, I did that and it fetched our family some extra cash and cereals.
We used to live in a house given to us by a landlord from Surastigarh. Then one day he asked us to leave. We had some land to our name in Sundar Singh Wala, we shifted there then. Due to my age, I can’t work much nowadays. My daughter supports the family by cleaning and mopping the village houses. I have two boys, one of them is a carpenter and the other one works the combine harvester. My husband is a roadside vendor. We all work and contribute to our family funds. I was a village leader 15 years ago because there was a reservation for the Scheduled Castes. I was asked to run for the elections and won. I was uneducated and used to put my thumb impression wherever the panchayat asked and carried on with my domestic life. My brother-in-law’s daughter lives with us. She got a scholarship of 1500 rupees which can’t be received without a valid Adhaar card. When we went to get one, they told us that somebody else withdrew it in her name. So, they cancelled our request.
My knees have weakened with the age, but you can’t sit still if you want to run a family. We have two buffaloes, they also need a proper attention. We don’t own any land, so even their food comes at a price. The living cost has escalated so much in recent times. All of us work to meet the needs of our family but it’s still hard and we are unable to live a content life.
Photo and story (Punjabi): Satdeep Gill
Write up (English): Gurdeep Dhaliwal
Edited by Jasdeep Singh