Leaving to survive
This interview was conducted in Mahendranagar, where we met a bunch of women, from the same village, several of whom were working in India. There was lot of laughter, amidst the commotion. 40-year old Parvati Damai, here, has been working as a house-help in Ahmedabad, India for over six years – this is her seventh year. Her husband works in a society—washing cars, and is also a security guard, and her 14-year old daughter, Neelam also works as a house-help along with the mother. At the time of the interview, she was just visiting her hometown and was planning to return to India, in the following weeks.
Working in the neighbourhood
Damai works in a housing complex, which has about hundred and fifty apartments. She first went there with her neighbours. They took her along, and let her know when they had a job for her. She says that one can’t just ask the neighbours to find a job all of a sudden … one has to go along with them. As they were there before her, she had to consult them before working.
The first time, I worked – following other Nepalis there. They would ask me to come along and I would go with them. I didn’t know anyone, how could I just start working? The others would talk about how much they were getting paid. I was naïve. I would go regardless of how much they were paying me. I worked to feed myself. There aren’t any jobs here. How would we feed ourselves here? We won’t find any job here, so we went to India—the mother and daughter. We are going again soon.
What would I do—I do cleaning, I wash dishes. I work with my daughter. Mother-and-daughter duo does the work. I do five, six houses. I can’t do many. They give us three-hundred rupees for washing dishes, three-hundred for washing clothes, and three-hundred for cleaning. That way, we make around three, four thousand. I hardly speaks or understands the local language; so take her (her daughter) along to work. If I broom the floor, she wipes it. If I soap the clothes, she would wash it. So like this, we manage five, six houses.
“What would I do—I do cleaning, I wash dishes. I work with my daughter. Mother-and-daughter duo does the work.”
I start working at eight am and work till ten am, sometimes twelve pm. I work at four-five houses, so sometimes it gets late. We have to wash a lot of clothes, so it takes a lot of time. So sometimes, we are working till twelve. In the evening, we just have to wash the dishes. We don’t wash clothes in the evening. Clothes are washed in the morning. And sometimes it takes all day to wash the clothes. On those days, we finish at eight, nine in the evening. We start at eight in the morning, we work all day, and we don’t even have time to eat
All this hard work would be fine if they paid us on time. They’ll keep the first month’s pay, then the second month they say they’ll pay for the ration. And when I left, they didn’t pay for that month. They told me to wait for few days. But they won’t give it. They’ll take our one month’s pay. Then we lose pay from one place, and another… and so on. That’s how it’s like working in India.
“When you are working the doors are closed, when you are eating the doors are closed, the doors are closed twenty-four hours. So there is no point of having neighbors.”
Living in India
Damai says that neighbours in India are not as friendly as in Nepal, groceries are available easily but buying them on credit is not advised. She, of course, misses Nepal but feels that there is no source of income in Nepal.
There are a couple of Nepalis in the neighbourhood that she lives and works in but the neighbors don’t interact like they do here. They keep the doors locked all the time. When you are working the doors are closed, when you are eating the doors are closed, the doors are closed twenty-four hours. So there is no point of having neighbors. And the houses in my neighborhood are not close to each other—some are here, while some are there, and some are as far as that temple. There are two Nepali women, that’s it. And there are Assamese.
“My daughter likes it there. She lived there for eight years.”
In India, the shops do provide plenty of groceries, but if you don’t pay up at the end of the month they’ll come to your house on a motorcycle. It’s fine if you pay up, but if you don’t, they might call the police or you’ll get beaten up. Here, in Nepal, if you say you’ll pay later, it is fine. The transactions are small here. We do small jobs here. The amounts are small here. In India, there was an incident where two policemen showed up at this guy’s place. Eighteen thousand worth of rations – He didn’t pay up so they came on a motorcycle. He said he can’t pay now and will pay in fifteen days. And when he wasn’t able to pay in fifteen days, they came with the police on a motorcycle.
When I am in India, I miss everything. What wouldn’t I miss? I miss my neighbors, and spending time with them. My daughter likes it there. She lived there for eight years. I brought her here now, after growing up, for the first time. She likes the cleaning job there. What’s there in Nepal? There (in India) you can work money and earn. It’s hard to feed ourselves here.
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