In Search of a Square Meal
Following the well-worn route from Bajhang to Bangalore, Jamuna, barely out of her teens, left grinding poverty and unemployment to work as a domestic help in Bellandur, a fast-developing suburb in one of India’s biggest metropolises.
I am Jamuna BC from Byansi village in Bajhang. In Nepal we don’t get food to eat. Nothing grows on the land. There is nothing in the house. There is no work in the village so we have to come here; I have been here for five years. I studied till class nine in the village school, but learning did not happen. There is nothing also for education of children — that is another reason why I came here to Bangalore.
I was fifteen years old when I got married. My husband was sixteen years old. One year older than me. We got married young. He is also from my village. After the marriage we stayed for one year in the village. We have very little land. Some rice and wheat grows. At present my jethani (husband’s elder brother’s wife) is there.
Everyone comes here to Bangalore as you get work here. Earlier, people from Bajhang did not going to Kathmandu for work. Now some people have gone to work, and some have gone to study. My in-laws were here in Bangalore for many years, almost twenty years. My father-in-law has passed away. My mother-in-law is old now. Earlier she used to do the work sweeping and swabbing work houses here in Bellandur.
There isn’t food back home in Nepal. There is food for us here. In our own country there is no food for us. We don’t get everyday necessities there. What to do?
From my village we came to Delhi by bus. Then by train in Bangalore. When we first came, we stayed with my mother and father-in-law here in Bellandur. Now we stay separately. After coming here we will have to work put food in stomach. My husband works as a security guard.
I have three children. Amrita is five years old and has gone to school. Reshmi is three-and-a-half years old. And the baby Sarjan is now in his fifth month running. Two of the children were born at home. My mother-in-law helped me during my delivery. This one [infant] was born in hospital. The other ones was born at night. We didn’t get any vehicle at 2 or 3 o’clock at night – that is why they were born at home. This one was born in the morning so went to government hospital in Rajajinagar.
Subsistence and survival
After coming here, we will have to work to put food in stomach. On arriving in Bangalore five years ago I immediately started working. I didn’t understand the language – I didn’t understand Hindi either. I came and kept working and working. Now I know a little Hindi. I don’t know Kannada. I work in five houses. I, myself searched for work at the houses. I went around asking, ‘Do you have work; do you have work?’. That’s how I got the work. In two houses they give 3000 rupees each and in three houses they give 2000 rupees each. This is for sweeping and swabbing the house and washing the utensils. If you do something above that then give 3000. They give more for cooking food. I know how to cook food, but the people this side eat things like idli, dosa- which I don’t know how to cook. If somebody eats roti-subzi like in Nepal – then I can cook. It is a difficult life. Like a dog (kutte ke jaise) I keep on working just to earn a little bit.
I get out of home at 7 o’clock in the morning and then come back in the afternoon at 3 o’ clock. In between I come once to feed him. My Papa stays in the house and helps me with the children. My mother is in the village. My Papa is not well, that is why he has come here to Bangalore, for treatment. I come back once from work and send the children to school. My husband also goes in the morning at about 8 o’clock. He works as a security guard in the Reliance shop – he sells things and stands near the gate. He works in the evening till 10 o’clock.
We have come here for money. We will earn a bit of money, and then go back to the village. We don’t have agricultural land. There are lot of people in the house, and the land is too little, so we don’t get enough to eat. We can’t earn in the village either. There are no jobs. That is why we came here. After earning some money here, we’ll go and make a house and stay. Then later we can earn there as well. If we get work. Otherwise we will come here again.
I don’t like Bangalore! But what can be done – will have to stay here. Compared to our village in Nepal, I do not like it here. The air and water is not good. Even how it looks is not good (laughing). In Nepal it’s very beautiful. There’s sweet water there. Here you have to buy water to drink. We don’t get water to bathe here. In our village there is so much water. It keeps flowing just like that. It’s so good in Nepal. There is a lot of forest – it’s so good in Nepal. What is good here? In five years I have never gone back to Bajhang. Yes, my heart wants to go back but we don’t have money to go.
There are people from other districts, but we know more people from Bajhang. We celebrate Nepali festivals like Dasain and Holi together. When festivals come, we take leave and then we together celebrate. Otherwise we have to go to work every day. Those who cook get Sunday off. We do sweeping and swabbing. Everyday people eat – so vessels will have to be washed, everyday it will be dirty – will have to do sweeping and swabbing. We don’t get a single day off. Sometimes when we ask them, we get holiday. If everyone says we should get a weekly off then those who are inclined will give a day off. The good people, from good families think about these things and understand. Those who are well educated think ‘Yes, yes we get a weekly off, you should also get one’. But others refuse to give us holidays and say ‘If you want to do work here then do it. Otherwise leave’. People have different ways of behaving. All don’t behave in the same way.
But in general, the behaviour towards Nepalis is okay – everyone behaves well. Yes, everyone behaves okay, including the people I work for. Especially the elderly couples – their sons and daughters-in-law go to office and the elders treat me like their daughter.
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