Her voice chokes mid way through the story, the memories still fresh. Zubeida’s* (name changed to protect identity) calm demeanor belies the hardship that she has gone through. A talented seamstress, she speaks softly and only when required. Her work is her voice.
“I come from a very poor family in Mangalore. We are 9 sisters and 1 brother. We rarely had anything to eat growing up. My father was a fisherman, and was out from morning till late, sustained only by a cup of tea. Making ends meet was impossible. We never had a proper meal. Today, he lies wasted and completely bedridden, the result of his toil for his family.
My mother’s brothers are wealthy. We worked for them for a little bit of money. When I was ten, I worked as help in my mamu’s* house, doing odd jobs, dropping my little cousins off to school. I could see and smell all the delicious food being cooked. Not once were they offered to me, or my sisters, who worked in their house for a pittance.
I always went to school hungry. So did my sisters. On a good day we had some rice gruel. On most days, just a cup of tea. We were hungry, desperate for a few morsels. I can never forget that hunger. I can taste that hunger even today…”
Zubeida was married off at 15. She lives in Mumbai now with her husband, a mechanic, much older than her. He keeps her happy. She is a contented soul, stitching and embroidering and looking after her 11 year old daughter, her only child.