Lalita sitting at her Garam Masala shop
The concept of weekly market is pretty renowned in villages in the Belgaum district of Karnataka. Every village has a fixed market day and vendors from all the nearby villages come with their goods to make a good profit. When I reached Chikkodi, the day was just starting and village was alive with the lively vendors setting up their shops. It was a Thursday and enthusiasm of villagers palpable during every market day was infectious.
I was here to meet Lalita Kempavva Harijan, who took a Milaap loan a few months ago to expand her Garam Masala Business. Just like all the other shop keepers, Lalita was busy along with her husband in setting up their shop. They have been doing this business from 25 years now and I wasn't surprised to see Lalita’s familiarity with the quality and prices of all the spices they were selling. She told me, “We are able to make a sale of about Rs. 5000 during one market day and easily make a profit of Rs. 500.” They buy all the spices from Belgaum wholesale and sell it in a total of 5 villages during their respective weekly market days. Taking the loan allowed Lalita to have initial capital required for buying bulk quantities from wholesale and as a result make more profits.
Lalita is a former Devadasi. Unlike all the other borrowers I've met so far, Lalita proudly told me that her former Malik (the partner she had when she was a Devadasi) is her husband. She has a daughter and a son. They have both completed their higher education and are now seeking to learn employable skills such as tailoring, driving etc. Before leaving Chikkodi market, the last glimpse I had was of Lalita, sitting at her shop, happy and content.Today Lalita is not only financially sound; she also has a happy family and respect. For most of the former Devadasis, respect is a priced possession and Lalita has earned hers.