DIPAK KUMAR PATNI
Parsee - no - Bungalow,
Lal Bharti School,
year old Sitaben was a typical Indian girl in a typical village
of India. As is often the case she belonged to a large, poor family.
The immediate family alone had 11 adult members. Her father was
a daily wage earner, making between Rs.25-30/- per day.
mother was a simple housewife. Among the four married brothers that
she had, two along with their families lived with Sitaben's parents.
At thirty Rameshbhai, the elder brother, having the I.T.I. certification,
was employed as a diamond cutter at a salary of Rs.20/-. Being an
Arts graduate Ganpatbhai (24), the younger one, worked as a contract
labourer earning between Rs.25-30/- per day. The two sisters-in-law
too supplemented the family income by doing odd jobs as and when
1996, Sitaben came to Ahmedabad as a shy bride of eighteen. Her
groom, Dipakbhai, having studied only upto class X, was unemployed.
major bread-winner of the family was her father-in-law, who earned
Rs. 2000/- per month as a peon in the Indian Railways. The family
income was augmented by the mother-in-law who earned between Rs.60
& 70/- a day by selling firewood. As in her mother's house, the
family here too was a large, joint one. Two brothers-in-law, Prakashbhai
(12) and Aazadbhai (8) were both unemployed. Of her four sisters-in-law,
the two were married and resided with their respective in-laws.
was married when she was studying in class XII. An academically
oriented girl she had been hopeful of clearing the board exam. This
was not to be as her in-laws refused to let her continue her study.
So, on the day of the exam Sitaben's sister-in-law beat her very
hard and did not let her reach the examination hall. And the dreams
of a bright future bit the dust !
life was full of mental and physical torture right from the day
one of her married life. Daily taunts and constant verbal abuse
of Sitaben's parents, regarding dowry, was a way of life for her
mother-in-law. She was rebuked for speaking Kathiawadi language
instead of the Vaghri tongue! As if all this insult was not been
enough, Sitaben was regularly beaten up like cattle. Yet; she never
complained and endured all the ill-treatment meted out to her.
Sitaben got curious about SEWA Bank's savings account as a neighbour,
Krishnaben talked about it constantly. So one day she accompanied
Krishnaben to SEWA's office with the intention of opening an account
herself. There she was introduced to Nirajbhai and Champaben who
were discussing SHARDA Trust's Garment Operator's Training Programme.
As she showed eagerness, Nirajbhai gave her all the relevant information
about the programme.
had particularly mentioned that this training was meant for the
unemployed women slum dwellers, as learning how to sew would give
them an employment-generating skill. Moreover SHARDA Trust also
took responsibility of finding employment after the trainees successfully
completed the course.
seemed like a Godsend opportunity to Sitaben as she had been interested
in sewing and tailoring since she was a child. When she was still
a youngster, her parents had even enrolled her in a sewing class
in her village. The subject was close to her heart and dreams of
becoming a skilled seamstress began to take shape. The thought of
owning a sewing machine, adding to the family income and collecting
a nest egg for the future was a most tantalising one. So then and
there Sitaben made up her mind that she would enroll herself for
Sitaben's thoughts could be put into action, there remained the
onerous task of convincing and getting permission from her in-laws.
As she was so keen, she did gather the strength and confidence to
risk her mother-in-law's anger and beatings! The poor girl's efforts
were wasted as she received a straight unequivocal "NO" for an answer.
protests had been, "Do you expect your mother-in-law to do the housework
while you attend training ?" And, "We don't have the three thousand
rupees for your training fees?"
used as she had been to the negative behaviour and insults, she
replied that she would ask her brother to pay the fees. She was
also prepared to complete all her housework before she left for
class each day. All her pleas were useless for, her in-laws continued
to be like Cinderella's stepmother and stepsisters. Anything she
wanted was not to be hers.
a last resort Sitaben approached Nirajbhai of SHARDA Trust and described
her difficulties in joining the course. Nirajbhai, ever ready to
help, then brought Dr. V. L .Mote to her house to convince the old
couple. Sitaben asked her parents-in-law to accord due respect to
Dr. Mote and Nirajbhai. Obviously it went unheeded and the two gentlemen
were thoroughly abused. Tenacity is a compulsory trait in this field
and the experienced officers of SHARDA Trust kept on trying till
they succeeded in getting permission for the unfortunate lady.
joy knew no bounds as she completed the formalities and underwent
training for a month at a centre near Gandhinagar . The financial
aspect had been taken care of by her brother.
positive environment of the centre coupled with her previous knowledge
of the subject made her a keen and bright student. Under proper
guidance Sitaben flowered into an accomplished seamstress.
were tough and physically exhausting days. Waking up at four in
the morning to complete the housework including the cooking, attending
training the whole day, returning home to more housework and the
night's cooking-all this was surely strenuous.
expect any kind of help from her in-laws would have been like asking
for the moon! No wonder then even today Sitaben is proud and satisfied
about having single handedly managed it all.
still a trainee Sitaben had, through SHARDA Trust, applied for many
jobs. She was interviewed and selected by garment factories in Bapunagar,
Kalupur and Shahpur. An obviously delighted Sitaben came home that
day to ask for permission to take up any of the jobs offered. On
top of the permission being denied the entire family got together
and beat her mercilessly. Sitaben tried a good many times to reason
out with her mother-in-law, agreeing even to hand over her entire
pay packet, but this cajoling only harmed her instead of being of
Sitaben's mother-in-law then started poisoning Sitaben's husband's
ears against her saying, " If she takes up a job, she will rise
higher than you. Then you will have no prestige in society." As
a result of this constant pressure even her husband refused to let
her take up the job. Moreover, whenever Sitaben tried to complain
about the beatings, he would tell her that she either obeyed them
or got beaten up.
the end she rang up Nirajbhai of SHARDA Trust and apprised him of
the situation. Nirajbhai offered to intervene but recalling the
insults heaped upon him and Dr. Mote on the first occasion, Sitaben
asked them not to come to her house.
aftermath of this scene was worse. Day in and day out Sitaben was
beaten senselessly, was completely starved for a week and finally
dragged by her hair and dumped outside the house. Yet, she waited
for the door to open and to be let in again. Ultimately neighbours
and friends advised her to return to her parents' place in Unjha.
Since that fateful day Sitaben is once again dependent on her parents
for a living.
Even to this day Sitaben regrets being unable to pay the last installment
of her fees to SHARDA Trust. She still has hopes of repaying this
loan as soon as she gets herself a job. As she is a conscientious
person she is even ready to
stay in a hostel at Ahmedabad if she is employed by a garment factory
in this city. At the time of reporting, no such positive scene was