Rani Chinnappan is a 46-year-old woman who lives in Musiri, a town about 40 kilometers outside of Trichy, Tamil Nadu. To visit Rani I traveled by motorcycle, winding through fields of banana trees and sprawling rice paddies. Rani’s house – located on a semi-paved road – was not hard to find. However, it was not easy to enter.
There was no entrance from the street, so I slid through the open gate between the side of her house and a storage building to get into her courtyard, where there is a door to the house. She told me the house has been in the family for “generations, probably about 100 years.”
I found Rani cooking over a traditional stove in her courtyard. We talked about her children, two daughters (one married) and one son. Her son is studying electrical engineering at MIT, the local technical college, and her unmarried daughter is in the 12th standard and plans to attend college next year.
Rani’s husband is an agricultural laborer, and rides his one-speed motorbike to work everyday. Wondering what prompted Rani to take a loan out for a toilet, I asked her about the decision. She said that when her married daughter was pregnant, it was very inconvenient for her to walk into the agricultural fields to relieve herself. Finally the family decided that they needed a toilet, and with a loan from Milaap, hired a mason and built one.
She said that the whole family now uses it, and doesn’t go out into the fields anymore to defecate. As I was leaving I asked Rani what was cooking in the pot on the stove, which had been bubbling throughout our conversation. She went over to the pot, took it off of the stove, and poured out peanuts. She went into her house and got a plastic bag, and filled it with boiled peanuts. “Here,” she said, “These are yours.” I thanked Rani for allowing me to come into her house and speak with her, and for the first time in my life, tasted boiled peanuts.
Rani tying the bag of boiled peanuts