Beero (Sheela’s Bhabi)
Nirmala (Sheela’s Sister)
I (Sheela) was born in Jind, Haryana. My parents moved to Chandigarh forty years ago when I was just two or three. They were farm labourers in Jind but in Chandigarh they learned how to stitch quilts. I learnt it from them and started working along. But when I grew up they married me to a man back in Jind. There was nothing to do there, so I asked him to move to Chandigarh and he agreed. I was in Chandigarh once again but the marriage became a struggle. Like all the husbands in the neighbourhood, mine too, got drunk and had a spat with me. We fought almost every night, whatever I earned in the day he used it to drink alcohol. He died few years ago due to the liver failure.
We have worked here by the road in sector 22 from the beginning. First we had to run from Municipal Corporation, they didn’t allow us to sit here but recently the rules have changed and nobody disturbs us. Each of us earn 250-300 everyday, sometimes we get a bigger orders. There’s this uncle from around here, who gets nearly 60 pieces of Jaipuri baby quilts stitched from us and sells them in a boutique in London. He sells a piece for nearly 5000, it just costs him a thousand rupees here. We also get the thread and equipment from Sadar Bazaar in Delhi to cut the cost. I make enough to run the house, and also get 1000 rupee widow pension from the government but I can’t save much to send my kids to college. They study till the higher secondary and then they are on their own.
I believe all the women, let they be educated or not, should be independent. Nirmala’s husband left her 15 years ago and went back to haryana. She’s just like me, all alone, carrying her family life by herself. I think women should be able to earn their own bread and butter. We don’t have to look to anybody for anything.
I (Beero) work so hard all day, and when I go back home in the evening, I get into the same mess all over. I have to face my drunk husband, bear physical violence he lashes upon me. It’s depressing. All I earn is a waste at the end of the day, I get no respect for it. It’s very rare and special if a women finds a sensible and reliable husband.
Photos by: Kanu Priya
Story by: Navjeet Kaur