My mother left me in Bangalore under the care of my uncle. He worked in a Government office. Later, he asked my family to move to Bangalore as there are more employment opportunities in the city. He managed to get us a hut to stay. My family shifted here but we didn’t have any money to buy food, to eat one has to earn. I was 7 or 8 years old then and I was the eldest amongst all my siblings. We picked vegetables from river side and sold it for Rs.7 or 8 and with that I purchased dal (pulses) and rice.
I started work as an incense stick maker. I was able to buy 2 kilos of flour by rolling 4000 “battis” or incense sticks. Paid INR 20 daily, that was the only money which my family was getting.
One day a man approached me, and told me that instead of working so hard, for nothing, join my plastic factory. Initially I was skeptical as I did not know sorting and the types of materials. He challenged me by saying that I can do it. And thinking of my family, I decided to take it up… I was quick at work, and the money was decent. Things improved.
Soon after my mother contracted TB and fell very sick. We had to admit her for 3 months in the hospital. My father at that time was not working. I went to the owner and agreed to do the work of three people. He paid for my mother’s treatment. I earned 600 /- and my siblings too dropped out of school. They began helping in the plastic factory and that way we supported the family.
Two to three times, our hut was burned down by the government officials, because we were living there illegally on government land. When we first came here, the hut we lived in was built of mud and leaves it was easy for it to catch fire.
Water was scarce and we had to walk two miles for it. There was no electricity and the toilet was common and out in the open. We had to go find logs to flame for cooking. I was just 8 years old and working harder. The water we used for drinking was toxic. Dead people were thrown in the place where we used to go for fetching water. A lot of people were murdered there. Earlier, people were scared of coming to Nayandahalli because of the reputation.
I was married when my mother fell sick, as that was her wish. My husband was drunkard and not at all nice to me. He made me abort four of my children and looked at women in a very wrong way. I had no say in all of this.
I have 2 children, of 12 and 8 years of age, and I want them to succeed in life. I am happy now. I have admitted them into an English medium school for that very reason. My brother and sister are married and they are leading good lives. Now, my only wish is to see my children get out of this squalor we are living in, and lead a respectable life. People speak to me with respect, seeing the amount I worked for my age.
The post here is a part of the Notes from Nayandahalli series and is a reflection of an ongoing study supported by Indian Institute for Human Settlements and WIPRO Cares. You can find the previous posts here… Post 1, Post 2, Post 3, Post 4, Post 5 and Post 6.
You can listen to the audio of the interview. It is in Dakhani.
Transcribed by Pinky Chandran & Ashwini Raj
Audio interview edited by Usha