I have been working for 50 years. I started helping out my elders early on. I worked in Gobindgarh for a year and a half, but I had to return to Saraud due to some family concerns and settled here permanently from then on. I am 67 years old now. I am eligible for the old-age pension from the Government but I am yet to receive any. I have applied several times, but they say there is some discrepancy and keep turning me away. My teeth fell off 15 years ago, I have not been able to get a pair of new ones since. I have been making do somehow.
Although we make lockers. If there is an order we make a closet or a chest too. Chests are not very popular these days. They have been replaced by the double beds with the storage space underneath. All my life, we haven’t been able to sort out this business. For a start, the space we owned was too small for the size of our clan. We are three brothers so the shop was partitioned into three. One of our uncles was childless, he sold his part of the shop. This is my portion. The shop is in Malerkotla but we still live in Saraud. If it rains a lot, the shop gets flooded. Now we have made this brick blockade but the water still got inside yesterday. The roof also fell down a while back.
I have three sons. One has a shop of traditional medicines. He studied till eleventh and left the twelfth-grade midway. Second lives at home, and almost does nothing. The third works as a mason. My brother studied till tenth. So, when my mother saw that he didn’t get any job and his education was of no use, she took me out of the school when I was in the fifth standard. I didn’t have many options other than joining the family chores. I grazed buffaloes for some years. My father didn’t let me join him at the workshop right away because he thought I might end up with a hunched back. I have been working all my life. Yet I feel I’ve failed to turn my life around. It is hard to make ends meet. There’s nothing behind we can look up to for support. Whatever little we own, it’s all here.
Photographs: Gurdeep Dhaliwal
Text: Jasdeep Singh