[Reader-list] interview with migrant domestic worker

rohini patkar rohinipatkar123 at rediffmail.com
Mon Jul 5 18:18:19 IST 2004

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Beervati, 40 years

Where have you come to Delhi from?

Move to the city:

1. Why did you leave your village?
We left the village in distress bhaiya

2. What distress?
There was nothing to earn, no work, no zameen- jayzaad. If there were no problems in the village, why would we ever come here to Delhi? I had children to take care of. Socha ki kama- kha lenge, bacchon ko paal lenge. We thought that we would get some work here, some labour work by which we could feed our children. That is why I came here to Delhi.

3. Do you have land
No, we work on others

4. When you were leaving your village, what were you thinking?
The only thing that I had in my mind is that ‘hum kama- kha lenge’

5. Do you remember anything about the first journey that brought you here?
What to remember, we had taken loan and come to here
..nothing else

6. How did you pay for the ticket?
>From the loan that I had taken from some one in the village

7. How much loan did you take?
When I came here, I had taken a loan of 5000 Rs. I had thought since we I am coming here in a new city, what would I feed the children if I have no money. So I took the loan.

8. How many people are there in your family?
I have four sons, four daughters.

9. How old are they?
My daughter is 18 years old


10. Is she the eldest?
Yes, and the other two daughters are also old enough. 

11. How many years ago did you come to Delhi?
6 yrs

12. What all did you bring with you when you came here?
I did not bring anything with me. We bought everything, even the utensils that we are using, after we came here. We did not even bring clothes; we did not have any clothes back in the village. So we did not bring anything. What could we bring?

13. From your village, there did you come straight to Delhi, or you went to some place near Delhi in the beginning?
No we came to Delhi straight. 

14. Why did you choose to come to Delhi? 
They say that one can earn more in Delhi, that is why we came here.

15. Who told you that you could earn here?
People say, people in our village say that if you go to Delhi, you cam earn there, we also have people from our village whom we know who were staying in Delhi. That is why we decided to come here to Delhi. 

16. How old were you when you came here/ After how many years of your marriage did you come here?
20 years

17. Who all are there in the village from your family now?
saas, sasur, devar, devrani

18. They are all staying there and what do they do?
They are all working there, earning on their own, doing labour work and surviving.

19. Do you talk to them sometimes?
When some one goes, we send the message through that person

20. Do you call sometimes?
No we never have the money, so how can we call in the village?

21. Had you come to Delhi before, 
No I had never come here before

22. Were you feeling scared about how would it be like when you reach here?
Pata nahi kaisa hoga? That is what I used to think. I had never seen the roads. I had never gone anywhere. I used to listen to anyone who used to tell me that I would get work there, used to go there. 
Once I got lost badly. My friend left me at a place near Batra where I worked, and I had to come alone from that place. I lost my way and repeatedly was reaching another lane every time I tried to find my way. Finally when I reached home that day, I cried a lot. I kept thinking that I have daughters and I have to marry them off, and that is why we have come to Delhi. If I keep loosing my way, how will I manage?

23. Did you use to loose your way in the nearby areas also?
No not in the nearby areas. That was a far away place- near Batra.

24. How long before was this incident?
This, was nearly three years back

Settling down in the city

1. Who helped you to settle down and live in this city?
No one helped us. We had taken loan from the village in the beginning and we used that money for the rent

2. But you had your relatives here, did they help you?
Yes, I have my chachia sasur here, who helped us a lot.

3. Where did you stay when you came here in the beginning?
We stayed at Munshiram Dairy in the beginning. 

Where did you live then? Did you rent a place of your own?
No, in the first three months, we stayed with our chachia sasur. 

What did you do during those three months?
I started selling stuff on a rehdi (a little shop on a push cart)

Was that immediately after you came here?
Yes, dilli aate hi. 

What rehdi did you set up?
I used to sell golgappas

Did you know how to make them?
I got to learn. I the beginning they used to make some and I helped. Gradually I learned

Who made in the beginning?
My chachia saas, she used to make, she knew, she taught me how to make golgappas

You used to make the golgappas at home, and what about your husband?
He used to take them for selling on the rehdi

Did you have any other relatives here besides your chachia sasur?
No but these are my real relatives

When you came here in the beginning what did you know about the city?
Everyone used to tell me that you can put up your rehdi there, sell vegetables etc, you can work in homes as domestic workers etc, then you can earn some money and marry off your daughters, that is why we came here

What was your first impression of the city?
I did not like it at all.

Why was that?
I did not like it because the water is not good, the food here is not good. We are staying here because of our need

You prefer your village, when you left you must have felt bad?
Yes, I was very sad when I left

What about your children?
When their parents will leave, what will they do here alone?
The environment here is different than the village

The place that you were mentioning, you stayed in the very beginning, what kind of a place is that?
It is slum kind of area

How many people used to stay in one room there
They have four children, husband wife one daughter in law. I used to stay upstairs with my children in one room

9 of us and 6-7 of them, about fifteen people in two rooms, that means?

Who helped you in finding a house, when you decided to live separately?
No one helped us, we found the house ourselves. No one helps anyone in Delhi these days.

Is it easy to find a house?
No we had many problems


Where all did you have to go to look for a room
I had to go to various places many times, it is not easy to look for a house

How many times did you have to change your room?
Three times

Every time time, you looked for it yourself
Yes, every time

Did you have to take loan from anyone for the house?
Yes, I had to

How much?
10 000

Why did you need so much money?
I had to repair my rehdi, I had to work or them and pay the debt off. Next time we had gone for a wedding, so we had to take loan. The loan from the village is still remaining and that is why we are not going to the village, that people are asking for their money back. 

Did you have to take money from some one in delhi, were you able to pay it of and how
Yes, I had to take loan, and I returned it back also. I had to work, domestic workers, I had to work it off. Kothi 10000 rupees I had off within 6 years.

Do you remember any particular thing during the journey- police harassment or were you scared or any of your kid irritating you? Do you remember any of those things?
No one 

Do you go to the village

How often
We go in an interval of one to two years

What did you do in the village?
Work on others fields

What did you do with the money that you earned?
We used to buy food with that money. What else? Buy grains, vegetables

How many of you in the family earn?
5 of us in the family do labour work


Did you think that you will have to work when you cam to Delhi?
Yes, I had already thought of it

What did you think about the work?
I had thought I would work in homes. But if I could survive buy putting up a rehdi, then may be I need not work in the homes. But I worked in the kothi because the earning from the rehdi was not enough for me

Have you thought of working in the factory ever?
No I have not

Why only kothi work? You could have done something else?
No I did start a rehdi as I told you, but that was not enough to sustain us. That is why 
.I did not get work in the factory

You started working immediately after coming here?
6 months rehdi and then work in the homes

Did you like working in the homes?
No I did not like it much I was doing it because of my ‘pet’ (stomach)

How many homes did you get to work in?
Three homes. 

Who helped you in getting work?
I have a bua (aunt) from village who helped me sometimes, we used to tell each other about work. 

Are there people who take commissions and then tell you where work is available?
None. I am not aware of any

The people you work for, how do they behave with you?
They are the ones who trouble us most. When we are late because of illness or something else, then they scream at us

Do they take extra work from you?
Yes, even if they give us tea, we will have to pay for it through extra work, if they give me water, we have to pay for it

Do you get leave?
Not at all

Any thing else, clothes etc?
Waste clothes only, nothing else

Do they have a something like a testing period?
Yes, they say “do char din hum dekhenge” we need to see what kind of work you do, then we will decide. If they like they keep us

Do they threaten you of finding some one else?
Yes, if you do not come on time

Any other reason?
No, that is the only thing

What makes you late?
I have to do everythng at home- cook, take care of children, they have to eat, take bath etc, sometime when ill, it is cold, they do not get up early

How difficult is it to find work in the homes? God forbid if you loose one of the homes, then how long will it take for you to find another place of work?
It is very difficult. Sometimes it may even take a month

How much do you get from one house?
300- 450 etc. that much you will loose

Do you keep well?
No I do not. The whole body keeps paining and I keep having frequent fevers because of the work

Is money short for medicines?
There is no money

Will you describe your daily schedule for me?
6 o’ clock in the morning I get up, then I go out to work at around 9 in the morning. Just have tea in the morning, sometimes I get something to eat in the factory, come back only around 2 in the afternoon. I am at home till 5, and leave for work, come back at around 6. Then I have to wash clothes. I sleep normally by 9.

Who takes care of your home and children?
There is no one to take care of them. I prepare the food when I leave, they keep eating it throughout the day

Do you finish all the household chores when you leave?
Some of it I do and if I am not able to finish everything, then I finish it when I come back in the afternoon or evening

Does your daughter help?
She helps in cooking sometimes, taking care of the house etc

Is the payment regular?
They pay on time. No one has ever not paid me. 

Any other issues at work?
No one generally fights with me. No one misbehaves with me. When I am late, they misbehave and threaten 
I keep feeling that I want to go back to my village

How much do you earn as a family?
Five people are earning in my family. I get 1000, my son also 1000, daughter around 1500, another one at 600

Are you able to save anything?
We want to, but it is very difficult to save

What is the reaction of your family to your working?
My husband feels very bad that I have to work in the kothis, he tried to help his best. He set up a rehdi, then also a shop. But he was not able to do well in that. He feels bad that his wife has to go out in other people’s homes and work

Any other issues?
I keep thinking of my daughter’s marriage

Do you feel scared when they go out to work; they are young and they are all girls?
Yes, I take one of them with me and bring her back. She is young 

Dreams and aspirations

What are your dreams
I am thinking that I will earn and marry off my daughters, buy some land for my sons

What is your idea of growth, what are your aspirations from life?
When god wants me to improve my situation, he will help. I want to save. When I earn four rupees, I try to save one out of that. 

What do you want to do with that money?
What will I do, want to marry my children, educate them, take care of them

Do you want to do some business?
If I get the opportunity I will definitely do that. If I am able to earn well in the business then I will earn some money and go back to my village and then we will not have to suffer anymore. 

Do you want to educate your children?
Yes, of course. Four of my children are studying now in schools. 

Do you want to say something more
What else?

Do you want to go back now?
Yes, I want to go back to the village. We are staying here for our children

Has anyone tried to harass you in the homes?
They are otherwise nice people. It is only when I am late to work, that they scream at me.

Do you think they are better off, or you are living in better conditions than them?
They are also eating daal roti, we are also eating the same thing. We are living in similar conditions

My dream is that my children should get education, they should get married, live well and I also want to buy a house. But where to buy a big house from when I have no money. 

Well, I wish that you achieve all your dreams

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