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Sunday, November 21, 2010

Childhoods of hunger and want.....

Written by :- HARSH MANDER
Courtsey :- The Hindu


In much of rural India, hunger is still an everyday reality and often the only way out is debt-bondage…

Memories of a childhood lived with hunger are stark, and heartbreakingly different from those of all other children. Bansi Sabar from Bolangir in Orissa recalls that his father toiled hard from morning to evening as a bonded halia. He used to eat in his employers' home and would get 15 kg paddy for the whole month. “Whatever food I bring home is always insufficient for you,” his father would cry out in frustration. His mother, though sickly, used to gather different green leaves, flowers, kardi (smooth bamboo), tamarind and mangoes from the forest, which they ate with water-rice. “That was almost all water with a few grains of rice floating in it,” commented Bansi wryly. Many days they had to sleep hungry. Similarly, Drupathi Malik's mother used to collect all the rice they could manage to get in a day and put it in a container, mix it with salt and all the members except her would sit to eat from the same container. She explains that there was never much to justify use of different plates. Their father would allow the children to eat more and later any left over rice or water was eaten by her mother.

A heart-touching saga of the sufferings....

Even more harrowing for a parent than to send out a small child to work, is to send him into debt bondage, which is still not uncommon in many parts of rural, and especially tribal India. Indradeep earned his own food as soon as he was four years old, as a bonded kutia in the sahukar's home in Bolangir. He rose early to graze cows and bullocks and carry food to the fields, all seven days a week, every month of the year without any break. In return, his employers gave him tea and mudhi in the morning and a meal at noon and 12 kilograms paddy for a year as remuneration. As he entered his 21st year, not much had changed except that he graduated into an adult bonded worker or halia.

Indradeep in time married, and only one son, Sadhu, survived. Whenever they would walk past the village school, he noticed how his little son gazed at it with interest and longing. He resolved that whatever it cost him, he would not send his son out to work as a bonded child labourer — as generations in his family had done before him, as long back as they could remember. Instead, he and his wife would willingly shoulder his burden and send him to school. Life held together for them until Sadhu reached 14 years, and had passed Class 7.

Disaster again struck, when Indradeep was diagnosed with TB and nearly died. He was admitted in hospital for prolonged treatment. They sold the little gold which his wife wore in her ears, which had helped bail them out often in the past, when they had mortgaged it for loans at the doorstep of the moneylender. They also mortgaged her gold nose-ring. In the end, Indradeep could survive only with a blinded eye and a crippled body, with loss of normal functioning in one side of the body and heavy burdens of debt. He could no longer depend on his own hard labour, which had been his only wealth.

His young son realised that it was his turn now to assume his responsibilities, which he did readily. On his own, Sadhu took the decision of quietly dropping out of school when his father was admitted in the hospital, and went to work like his father in the fields of landlords, and he grazed their cows. He then got in touch with other people in the village who regularly migrated, and left for the brick-kilns in Hyderabad when he was 14, for an advance of Rs. 900. He has continued to migrate in bonded conditions after that every year. Slowly they were able to repay the loans and sustain themselves. We were witness to his tearful departure one year, when he migrated for an advance of Rs. 8,000. Before leaving, he gave Rs. 500 to his parents and released her mother's nose jewel from mortgage for Rs. 1,000.

It still weighs heavily on Indradeep's heart that the boy could not study. But he is proud that his son is responsible and caring, “He does not waste even a single rupee on himself, and saves it all for his family.”

In this way, each generation valiantly but hopelessly battles hunger, both for the generation that has passed, and the one that is to come.


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Welcome to the land of culture "Koshal" . Koshal is the land of great warriors. The land of Maharaja's.The land of Maa Samalei, World famous sambalpuri saree , great teracotta works, land of tantrik Vidya, world famous Sambalpuri music and dance.

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