Every widow has a tale to tell in Vidarbha. Even though each tale has the similar themes of debt and suicide, each life is a tale of trauma, miseries, suffering and the bravery to lead the life that has been gifted by their deceased husband, is so-so different from one another. My second trip to village Salod yesterday evening took me to deceased farmer Jivan Ramji Barade’s house.
Sheetal, the 13 year-young eldest daughter welcomed me and offered me a chair to sit and some drinking water to quench my thirst after pedalling for 30 minutes in hot sun. Her innocence and bright inquisitive eyes were questioning me silently as I enquired about her mother… ‘she will be here any minute now,’ she told me. Aruna Jivan Barade, widow of the farmer arrived shortly while I was trying to have little conversation with the kids (Roshni the youngest of the family is 10 years young)…
The first thing she asked was whether I was given drinking water or not… I nodded and in my broken Marathi told her why I had come to her house. The village Salod has an estimated population of about 6916 and since 2003, there has been only four suicide cases. 32 years young Jivan committed suicide on the 14th of May 2007 leaving behind Aruna with three little children, all below 10 years… Sheetal is 13, Akash is 12 and Roshni is 10 now and they are studying in Standard 7th, 6th and 4th respectively.
Widow Aruna with youngest daughter Roshni & eldest Sheetal
The Barades have just 2 acres of land and are considered to be the smallest farmer in the whole village. Debt is but obvious the only way out to some how make the two-ends meet in the poverty driven life and Jivan took loans from moneylenders to grow crops… the drought took its toll and with no money to return it… he thought the easy way out was ‘SUICIDE’. So gory and pathetic it is for any farmer to chose the easy route to escape the clutches of the loan sharks… How cruel can destiny be of the person who feed us all, to end his life, life that we don’t even bother to shed any tears or else feel any remorse. Every farmer’s death to suicide is the National Loss and Loss in the yearly food grains cultivated for the 1.2 billion Indians.
When I showed Aruna the sample of paper envelop and told her about the small unit that we plan to start in Vidarbha, she showed great interest. The simple reason being she has leased her two acres (45 minutes long walk from her house) for Rs. 3000 /- a month and is currently working as a labourer in her own fields. Now imagine how nature plays a cruel joke on the poor… who has to work in her own fields to earn few extra bucks, so she can feed her children and send them to school. Aruna got Rs. 1 Lakh as compensation from the government and she was brave to refuse to pay the loan amount because she says, ‘I don’t know how much my husband took and I don’t have money, so tell me from where I will pay? I don’t have enough to feed my children so how can I pay their loan? I refused point blank and some how am managing to see my children grow.’ Hats off to Aruna for being so brave to face the situation to see her children get the best from life!
Aruna trying her hand at making an envelop
Aruna is barely 30 years and she has a long way to go to see her children grow into fine earning citizen, so she can enjoy the rest of her life in peace and little comfort. Sheetal knows her responsibilities and promised that she would study well to become something important in life. I assured her that after her 12th grades, the movement will support her for her higher education. While tea was being prepared by Sheetal, I showed Aruna how the envelop is being made… she tried her hand and deep within I was so happy to see her trying with so much passion and eagerness. Sheetal too would chip in to make the envelops to help her mother. As is the village custom, after tea, Sheetal brought a small box, in which there was saunf and ajwain…
Sheetal offers me saunf & ajwain in a customary way
I was touched and took some to chew them to find relief from my long ride and once again become fresh to head to another farmer’s house. More in details about the next deceased family in my next post…