The Brass Factory
Pavitra Bika, 43, worked in Aligarh, Uttar Pradesh for almost a decade. Born in Dailekh, a district far from Gulariya, she first lived in Surkhet, then moved to Gulariya. Unlike nearly all the other women interviewed, she mostly worked in a brass factory. She has also worked in Saudi Arabia, and would like to return to India to work. However, her husband isn’t very keen that she returns to India.
Working in India
Bika’s husband has worked in India for over sixteen years, and she worked there for six-seven years. She says that the brass factory still wants her back but her husband isn’t keen that she returns to live and work alone.
I have stayed in India for sixteen, seventeen years. Instead of working in a kothi (household), I mostly worked in a brass factory. I used to make metal cupboards—the ones with springs, and locks and chairs. Aligarh, it’s in Uttar Pradesh, India—in the west. I worked there for seven, eight years. I wasn’t paid much, only nine hundred Indian rupees. If I worked over time, I made around twelve, thirteen hundred rupees in a month.
My husband worked as a security guard in a similar metal factory, which produced even bigger products. But it wasn’t good, and the employer wasn’t good as well. He made even lesser than what I did. My husband is here now; he has left work. I worked in a similar company outside his factory. I made more money working in the brass factory. I also worked in my husband’s employer’s house for three years. But there also, I wasn’t paid much. It was very difficult—I could not even afford sufficient food and clothing. By then, I had already had my children—two sons and a daughter.
“I worked in a similar company outside his factory. I made more money working in the brass factory.”
I worked in Aligarh for six, seven years. My husband worked there for sixteen, seventeen years. I learned many different kinds of work there. At first, I did not know anything. I could only do cleaning (in the brass factory). I had to use chemical to clean the different metal parts and test if the products functioned properly. But one day, I showed my supervisor few damaged goods. He thought it was better if I checked these products before sending them, instead of risking having them returned. So, I was kept to check finished products and see if they worked properly.
All of us women, both Indian and Nepali, worked together in a big hall. Some of us put stamps, some put stickers, some did the packing and closing boxes, and some of us did cleaning. The work was good but one person turned out bad. There was a senior checker named Bijay. One day, he was looking at other girls while working. He passed damaged products, and I saw him. So I told Raja bhaisab (my supervisor) that the products were not properly done. He asked me who did it, and I told him. And Bijay got upset with me, so I left the job. I had worked there for many years.
There are many Nepalis working in India. They are mostly in the police and the government sector. There are some widows. There are people from Rolpa, Palpa, Surkhet, Dang, Salyan… There are many. During festivals, it seemed like a Nepali place. We used to celebrate – during Teej, we would gather, and dance and sing. During Dasain and Tihar, all the Nepalis come together, celebrate, eat good food and put Tika. While going to work, we would go in groups with few other Nepalis. I have also helped many Nepalis find work there. I got along well with Indian sisters as well. We talked, shared, lent and borrowed among each other.
“There are people from Rolpa, Palpa, Surkhet, Dang, Salyan… There are many. During festivals, it seemed like a Nepali place.”
To Saudi – via Mumbai
After returning from Aligarh, Bika also worked in Saudi Arabia. She still wants to work outside Nepal, whether it is in India or elsewhere, like Saudi Arabia.
“In Saudi – we were paid seven hundred in their currency, which is twelve, thirteen thousand a month.”
When I came back home from India, I did not have enough money, so I went to Saudi Arabia to make some money. I went from Bombay. I did not stay for long in Mumbai; I stayed there for sixteen, seventeen days. I received my visa quite quickly, and they also did not find any ailment in me. So I was able to go quickly. Most of them got held there for a few months. I stayed in Saudi for two years and three months.
In Saudi – we were paid seven hundred in their currency, which is twelve, thirteen thousand a month. No, I got all of it. I did not give it to them. My employer told me that they had already paid them and that I wasn’t supposed to pay them. My employer was a kind, simple man, and he told me to send money directly to my family. With that money we were able to build an additional shelter, a toilet, and also buy ten kattha land. Now, I think I should go again. What can I do, our earning is not enough. It’s difficult. Now we have many members in the family. I have grandchildren, too.
“After coming back from India, I went abroad again (to Saudi), for two years and three months, but I still miss the old place—maybe it’s because I stayed there longer.”
Longing to leave Nepal
India, Saudi and then Nepal. Bika has returned to Nepal, but she still wants to go abroad to work.
I worked in India for a long time. My children were small when I left. Now they are already married. I still miss the place. I feel like going back, thinking about the friends, and what we did together and how we worked. After coming back from India, I went abroad again (to Saudi), for two years and three months, but I still miss the old place—maybe it’s because I stayed there longer. After that, for two years, I grew corn that fetched me seven, eight thousand (Nepali Rupees)—working from home. I have worked hard, but we still haven’t been able to secure our lives, so I still want to go abroad.
“I was content there (in India). We were healthy. In these hills, working in fields, we get cuts all over our hands and feet.”
I want to go to India as well. I also got paid more. But I had to come back for my children. When I had gone to India, my sons were still small. Now they are married and I have grand children. They (my children) asked me not to go. The people I worked with, at the factory, are calling me. They said they would give me a raise if I went back. But my husband has already come back after leaving his work. He asks me where I will stay if I went back. He doesn’t like that I have to stay there with other men. I was good at every work I did. I never said I cannot do something. I always did my work well.
I was content there (in India). We were healthy. In these hills, working in fields, we get cuts all over our hands and feet. There we could eat properly before going to work, and wash ourselves properly. We could work in a safe environment. It was clean. We had all the information. Foreigners would come and commend our work. I received recognition for working well. That’s why Raja bhaisab (the supervisor she worked under) still asks me to come back and has offered me a raise. He says all I have to do is check; I don’t have to do anything else. His grandfather would not allow (pointing to her grandchild), so I left and came back.
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