Ram Naresh was taken aback when he was told that this year he owed six thousand or more to Prakash Agrawal Mahajan. His small shop dealt with oil, sugar, tea, toffees and biscuits, and Rangoli bangles managed by his daughter Gudia. We were trying to build additional income sources for every household in the ten villages in the neighborhoods. Gudiya was our local resource person as she was good at explaining to people about the what why how and when aspect of every intervention we proposed.
For Ran Naresh, we suggested converting his backyard space into a kitchen garden. It would become a full-fledged vegetable producing field though with about an acre of land at his disposal. He did not .buy any of our proposition though. The hesitation was due to the required investment of Rs 4000/- in installing a drip irrigation system available at 90% subsidy, which meant that the entire equipment was worth Rs, 40,000/- at market value. Known to be a headstrong person, he did not budge until I declared about his debt. Catching the clue immediately, Gudia explained as to how it would bring another Rs. 5000/- every month to them with vegetable cultivation and sale.
In six month’s time, the result as there for everybody to see. It was more than the margins he earned from his variety store. Gudia’s mother sold the Rangoli bangles in the nearby villages, which also helped her sell the vegetables. In summer, when most of the villagers ate some forest leaves with rice, Ram Naresh’s family did a flourishing business of tomatoes, bottle gourds, pumpkins, chill, and country beans. They got bulk orders from villagers during the marriage season.
Family fortunes started reviving. Those are the times when the family thinks of the daughter’s marriage.
Gudiya passed her tenth exam this year, and this was considered to be a great achievement for a girl in the village. Many proposals for marriage started coming in. She was also good looking at the age of 16. She was the eldest of 4 children with 3 girls. She was engaged to Ramesh, the only son of a wealthy family bout 15 km away from her village. As the tradition, she was given in marriage a year later.
We lost a good hand. But it was more pain when Gudia found out three months after her marriage that Ramesh was a drug addict and was in an extramarital affair with a widow with three children. She was also pregnant. Ramesh mostly lived at his uncle’s place before marriage where the alleged affair was going on. He wanted Gudia to be with his parents taking care of them and the household so that he could roam around freely. Gudia resisted that and wanted to be with him. He hit her several times, so she had to escape from his torture return to her father’s village.
She gave birth to a son. Leaving a marriage is still not easy in the villages, keeping the social stigmatization in view. Besides, why should she leave the resources at her in-law’s place which needed attention and were rightfully hers? So she started with an initiative for vegetable trading at her in-law’s place. She went to them, in Ramesh’s absence and took charge. She created a stopover space for vegetables that came from her father’s place, to sell to vegetable merchants. She took the help of her well-wishers to create working capital which she soon paid back.
Her in-laws initially were a bit skeptic but accepted her as she made the house the center stage of activities which now proliferated into the processing of daal and making of eateries. She used her experience of her earlier days and did a good job of bookkeeping. This helped her business grow with which she created an income source too. She turned out to be a real Laxmi to her home now.
For us, she was an extremely satisfying case of a dignified person who kept the traditions of a nourished household by a brave decision to be independent.
Her husband, after three years of estrangement, started visiting her, initially, with the excuse of taking account of the properties. Gudia was nonchalant during those visits. But he offered to be of help in expanding her business. There was no reason why Gudia would have refused.
When we last heard of Gudia, she had now an associate in Ratna too, the widow with three children with whom Ramesh had an affair, who has proven to be an able partner with her culinary skills of making sweatmeats.
Human relationships are fragile, so we did not search for further details. We expected the world to be at the best with supplements and complements.