Rain cannot deter these determined ladies | Milaap

Rain cannot deter these determined ladies

It has been incessantly raining in the whole of Darjeeling district since many days now. There have been landslides, roads are blocked at many places, and the tourism sector is affected significantly if not severely. People in the region are doing their daily chores with utter disgust for the rain. The tea – pluckers are the ones affected severely. They have to pluck the required amount of tea leaves irrespective of the rain. They wrap plastic around the lower half of their bodies and move around the wet tea bushes to pluck the leaves.

Sudeshna frying fritters.

However incessant the rain maybe, there are few ladies determined to earn their living. They set up their shop every morning, which is basically a makeshift shack made out of plastic.  And sell snacks until 7 pm in the evening.  The group consists of middle-aged and younger women. They are members of a Self Help Group, who are determined to make a living by venturing into a business that is new in their region. “There wasn’t any shop in the region which sold snacks, so we thought, why not?” one of the members said while she fried fritters. I decided to munch on the fritters and listen to their stories.

Pratima tends to her customers

They more or less come from the same background. All of them live in the tea garden area, where the only option to earn money is to work in the tea gardens as tea pluckers. Many people from the region migrate to different cities to work as labourers and semi-skilled workers. “It is much easier a job than to pluck tea leaves in this rain,” one of them said. They took a micro-finance loan and started the snack stall. I came to know that it has been many months since they are selling delicious fritters and momos. “Earlier it was difficult, juggling household chores, children’s responsibilities and this snack stall made me all tired at the end of the day. But I have worked out a routine lately,” Sudeshna, a middle-aged member said.

Delicious fritters

I decided to eat some of their momos and stay a little more. There are ten members in their group and they have worked out a routine for each of them. Everyone gets one holiday a week, and the responsibilities are divided equally. One of them has the responsibility of paying the weekly instalment for their loan. And they distribute the profits evenly every week. “We have to do something, our household income is never enough,” Pratima, one of the youngest members said. “It has been raining for many days, but rain or not, we do our work. We are determined to earn money, you see,” she added and shared a loud laugh with her mates.

Sharing momos

As I ate the momos, I could listen to their talks. It ranged from regional politics to petty things. As they served the tired workers, students, and other customers, they talked incessantly among themselves. They laughed and shared among themselves space which was their own. It was an amazing feeling to see these ladies, working hard and carving a space for themselves, to talk, to laugh and to share their thoughts in the seemingly patriarchal social setting, while also earning for themselves. As I finished the delicious momos and paid for it, Sudeshna happily said – “We are planning to buy a Maruti van (a colloquial word of Maruti Suzuki Omni vehicle), we will hire a driver and set up our shops at different places.”

A momo story!

The rainy afternoon of conversation and momos gave me immense hope for better times. Financial help from the micro-finance industry has helped many women to take control of their own finances and make a living. This inevitably will have tangible and intangible effects on societal dynamics, if not change the very face of oppressive and patriarchal culture and political landscape. Nevermind the jargons, please eat their momos if you come across their stalls!