Shazia Bibi: interview transcript
IFAD Asset Request Portlet
Shazia Bibi: interview transcript22 December 2014
Shazia Bibi lives in Akhoon Bandi village, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan. She was in her mid-thirties when she was interviewed on 16 November 2009 for the Rural Poverty Report 2011. The interview was recorded in the language of Hindko and carried out by a staff member from the Omar Asghar Khan Development Foundation. The interviewer had an existing relationship with the community but was not a professional researcher.
Introduction by interviewer: The interview was conducted in Mr Saleem's house which is where the focus group discussion was also held. Shazia preferred to be interviewed there rather than in her home as her home was a little distance away. Shazia looked older than her 35 years of age. Soon after her marriage, she had undergone surgery to open a valve in her heart and this entailed medication that she took consistently. She appeared sad, but at times was also very animated. At her request, her pictures were taken only after she covered her face with a veil.
Walaikum mussalam (greeting)
My name is Mehr and with me is Maria. We want to conduct your interview, if you permit it?
All right. Take it.
Ok, let me tell you that the interview which we take and all the conversation that we have we will record, so that if I write it then I can do so correctly. If I or Maria Bibi starts to note it down, then some conversation might be left out and it will also be easier for us to write it.
Yes record it. Without doubt… record.
Ok when the interview finishes, then we will also need your photograph, if you don't have any objection.
Yes, I will only allow a photograph if I wear a veil.
You want be photographed while wearing veil. Ok! That's fine. Please introduce yourself.
My name is Shazia. I am married and I have three children.
How long have you been married?
Well it's been about 14 years.
What is your daily routine, after getting up in the morning what do you do?
We get up in the morning, after offering a regular prayer, start the morning with a recitation [from the Koran]. After that only my house… my husband does farming here and there. In the morning I finish the house… kitchen work, then lend him a bit of a helping hand, my housework, a bit of kitchen work, then help him a bit. After finishing the work in the kitchen I prepare roti (literally, bread; by extension, a meal) with him for the labourers. And these days our… we are preparing to sow garlic – the garlic seeds (cloves) – at home… We prepare and give him the seeds. This is the way we help him. After preparing the seeds… (silence)
Ok! If I ask you to tell me something about your childhood, how did your childhood pass? Tell me something about it.
Our childhood didn't pass well.
What do you mean it did not pass well?
Just that the situation was not good. My father… I have a brother and my father himself was ill. He used to do some labour and spent whatever he earned on his medicines.
Was he a labourer in this area?
No he was doing labour in Karachi. All that he earned was just enough for his medicines; nothing was left for himself. My mother used to sew, from sewing she used to get 15 rupees (0.18 US$)1 per dress. That also, some people used to pay and some used to give it later, after some time. We also kept with us some livestock - just a few. We used to rear livestock and sell their milk. That is how we kept the house running.
What livestock did you have?
We kept one cow and some goats etc. and with them by doing a bit, we could more or less manage. The situation was difficult and that is how it went.
You said your father was ill. Tell us something about his illness.
Well he had a heart problem, his valve was blocked. His medicine etc… what he used to earn… during the day he laboured. He used to sell things on a cart and get himself treated. And similarly our mother used to sew clothes during the day time and in the evening she used to knit sweaters. We were five sisters and she enrolled us in a school in the village, and there we all studied together and on returning from school, and bringing back the cattle after grazing it here and there, then only did we help our mother. We all completed five classes, and the way we used to help our mother was that we used to sew etc. with her for a while during the day. And similarly, during the day my brother used to also go to school, and after returning he used to labour with other people. They worked on the lands and crops.
How many brothers and sisters were you?
We were five sisters and a brother. Thus slowly and gradually our brother worked and we also used to do sewing with our mother. By doing this, only then could we meet our expenses. Dad of course was ill.
You said that you have been educated up to the primary level. Why didn't you continue with your studies?
I was very keen, but our situation at home was not very good. So many things are required for education… even for pen and inkpot we didn't… Education is so very costly. Along with this, money for the fare… in the village no other facility was available; there wasn't any school, it was only up to primary. And if we went out of the village it also required money to pay the fare. Then the books for the school we had to buy with our own money. And you know that education has other expenses. My mother didn't have the funds. Our mother's 10 or 15 rupees earnings from a dress was only enough for our food. We were six brothers and sisters, and our mother supported us all on her own. That's why we couldn't study any further. We all were very keen, all the sisters, but our mother…. We didn't have that kind of money… My mother didn't… [have enough] to enable her to educate us.
The sewing that your mother did, whose clothes were they? People from the village?
Yes they belonged to the villagers. My mother was the only one who could sew. All the people used to get their sewing done by her. The 10 or 15 rupees she got for each suit, it was with that, that our flour… everything, all the groceries [were paid]… the groceries that were… The household items...initially our maternal grandmother used to give and later some things my maternal uncle used to give. Thus… our condition was poor… the situation was not good.
You said that your father was in Karachi. Didn't he visit? Did he remain there?
No, Abbu (father) used to come. He actually didn't come home [much] because he didn't have anything to give to his children. "If I return what will I give them? What I earn [goes on] my medicines…" You know that a heart patient has a lot of expenses. Whatever he earned he spent on himself. So nothing remained for us. A labourer's daily wage… If for one day he was fine, he spent two days working, on the third day he becameunwelland ended up in hospital. Due to this he would not come home as it would only worry the children. "Therefore, I will live there" (in Karachi).
Who was with him over there, with your father?
If there was a relative from village, then… Otherwise [he was on] his own… someone or the other. Most of the time, he remained in hospital.
Ok, he remained in hospital
Yes, in hospital.
Ok you said that you used to help your mother with sewing and embroidery. Did you learn it? What was your age when you started to learn?
I learnt it when I was almost 13 years old, 13 years old.
From your mother?
Yes, I learnt from my mother. By watching my mother during the day… Mother didn't have the time to teach us. We used to watch our mother, what she did I also did the same. At first small… As I played with my dolls, I used to make things. Gradually I learnt. Then in this way I helped my mother. I used to sew clothes, and so by working with my mother I began to sew clothes properly. During the day I sewed clothes and in the night, due to electricity shortage, we used a torch or other lanterns for knitting sweaters. These also belonged to other people. We made these for their children and only then for our home…
If you look at a day, how much did you sew, how much time is consumed in knitting a sweater?
On a sweater… it took seven or eight days to knit. One sweater, if I didn't do any other work. Then one sweater took this much time.
How much? If you look at a month how many sweaters did you make? In a month, if we look at the maximum we could make six sweaters. And clothes for sewing, one suit daily, that also along with the housework. Brother and sisters, the others were young, two of us sisters helped our mother, the others were young, sisters and a brother. And then in this way we used to sew one suit each, all three of us in one day, mother and daughters.
How much did you get for one suit?
At that time, approximately 10 or 15 rupees –15 rupees for a man's suit and 10 for a woman's. In this manner we passed our days.
And what happened next in your life, what was your age when you started sewing and embroidery to make some money?
Well I was 18 years old. In this way I worked alongside my mother. After the age of 18 years I got married. Till the age of 18 I used to look after my brother and sisters along with my mother. We also had livestock; we had to do a bit for them as well. And after that, after 18 years I got married. And for the marriage my mother took loans from here and there. Most of the things bought, whatever they were, were through loans. And after me, there were four sisters remaining, and their marriages [were also managed] through loans. This is what we have been doing. My brother was only four years older than us. Four years is not a big difference … but then he was so keen, my brother, but still not… he completed his education up to matric level, with great difficulties. And there, nearby, he used to work as a labourer. He worked on daily wages, to somewhat improve the situation at home.
What sort of work did he do as a daily wage earner?
Just this, he did godi (clearing fields of grass and weeds) along with other people. The crop that is growing, to take out the grass etc. out from the crop. If the grass was to be uprooted, in this way he found labour. 60 rupees was the daily wage. By earning 60 rupees from daily wage labour he used to run the house.
Did you own land?
No my mother and father didn't have any land, my brother worked on other people's land. After this the wage he earned… also sometimes people paid and sometimes didn't pay. This is how he kept things going.
And you got married, tell me more about your marriage?
Yes, in my uncle's house, he is my cousin I got married with him. Only three or four months passed well. After that I developed a heart problem. Then the heart problem… then my… those days passed with great difficulty. I went on for all of three years in [and out of] hospital, here and there, heavy fees… up to 10, and 10 thousands. [Once] I remained admitted for one month, 10, 10, 20, 20 thousand rupees bills were charged to us. And then the situation I was in... And after three years I had an operation. Till then the fees and doctor's visits, from one to the other in different places… Everywhere, they took me from one place to another. A heart valve was blocked. And after that… after three years I was operated upon. After the operation, then after that… I have children… One, two… I have three children.
Ok you mentioned your illness. How did you come to know that you have a heart problem?
Well, I used to get very breathless. I thought it was typhoid and that I got breathless because of that. Then when I went to the hospital they informed me that there was a problem with the heart. After that some tests etc were done at the hospital. The tests conducted were quite expensive. From the test it was diagnosed that it's a heart problem [sighs]. After that, many times, here, there… Rawalpindi, sometimes Abbottabad, sometimes Mansehra, went here and there up to Lahore. And very heavy fares… The conditions at home at the same time also were not good. Still …
What did your husband do?
My husband was in the army… was in the army but he had along with him the entire family… we have a joint family system. Our entire family was his responsibility.
How many people were there in your family?
In our family are my two brothers in law, two sisters in law, my husband's mother and father and me. We all are all together about eight or nine persons. And along with that he also got my treatment done and has also looked after his entire family along with this… on the same salary.
What was his salary?
His salary was 2200 rupees. And [he paid for treatment] from that, then the household… in this way we continued.
Where did you get treatment first? From which hospital?
At first in Abbottabad, the Kehal hospital, that is. After that I kept visiting the complex (Ayub Medical Complex), then after the complex I used to visit MH (Military Hospital) and then I was operated upon in the MH, gave some money and some treatment was paid by the government… so this way.
How much can farmers make from farming?
Well the money that was… was mostly… At first our situation in my in laws' house was better. After my treatment we became that much poorer… Absolutely…The most that is… he spent a lot on me. Three lac rupees (300,000)… at that time our household, the income was 60,000 rupees from a year of farming and three lac rupees [were spent] on me. My husband had retired and then his… My operation was done in a private hospital. And much … At first our situation was good but now it is not good.
You are saying that at first the situation was better, how was it better?
At first, there wasn't any illness in our house. When I went there I fell ill and then my brother in law fell ill and then there was so much illness. Illness didn't give us a break so that we might be able to save something. Every week I had to be taken to hospital. Every week we used to go and every week 1500 rupees. And also from here the fare to Pindi… and the fare was very high. So we spent that on the fare. So at first our situation was all right… But my illness didn't give us a break, so that he could have been left with a little bit. So he used up so much money. Our situation till now… The loan we have, it has to be repaid.
How big a loan have you taken?
Around 2.5 lac rupees were spent on my operation and that loan of theirs has not been repaid. It doesn't end. The work is temporary. The land is on a contract basis. From all that we earn we pay some as part of the contract, and what remains is used to meet the household needs. I have three children and three are my sister in law's. Then their fees and all these expenses. It is all spent.
Where do the children study?
Two of my children study in the English medium and one is small… here in the village.
You said that your in-laws are farmers. You have contracted the land? Say something more about it?
The contract is such that the person we have taken the land from... We first fix that we will cut the crop in six months and we will pay you so much money for the land. It is calculated on the basis of a kanal (land measurement = 506m²). We have kept 20 kanals (1.012 ha) of land. We pay 15,000 rupees for these 20 kanals.
Do you give this every month?
No, not every month, after six months. The crop also comes every six months. We… Vegetables come out after two or three months. We grow garlic and with it arum. It takes six months for this crop to grow. So in six months when we reap the crop, we give some money for fertilizers and some for pesticides and some to the owner, from whom the land has been taken on contract… And after that we calculate our saving. To see what we have saved.
This garlic that you sow or any vegetable that you sow: where do you get the seeds from?
These seeds that we… First the garlic was such that we kept our own seeds. Now, for some time, approximately for five or six years, that garlic isn't found here - it gets diseased. It is called watani (local garlic). It gets diseased, so the one that is presently used is called Chinese garlic.
What is the difference between these two?
Between these two? The one which is ours is small and long-lasting. If we store it for one and half years it remains fresh.
And the garlic which we are growing now, it's not long-lasting. It finishes… it finishes inside its skin.
What do you mean by it finishes?
Somehow there and then it changes into mud within the skin. Do you understand? Finishes means that the garlic is dead, it has turned into mud. The garlic that we plant in it now, our land has that – that seed, we have to take from outside. Our own seed does not last.
You said you do not have our own local garlic. What is the reason behind this?
It gets affected by disease. There is a kind of insect here. As soon as it comes out of the earth this insect attaches itself to it. They are tiny when it attaches itself to it, it finishes it off completely. Turns it yellow and nothing is seen inside the earth. The seed then is so costly. That's why people do not grow it now, so there is loss involved.
Where do you people get Chinese seeds from?
They bring it from Abbottabad, bring it from Gujranwala, wherever they get the right one and it is affordable, they bring it.
Then what do they do with it?
After bringing it we prepare seeds from it. We women help them… the men… by preparing the seeds at home. The men then grow it in the fields. We, the women, prepare food for them and make bread. And we take it to the fields. And this way our garlic is grown.
The garlic that is harvested, how much time does it take to ripen?
We will sow it December, some will grow it at the end of this month (November) and some will start in December.
When will you start?
We will plant it in December. At present we have planted wheat. Our arum is also planted. When we take out the arum then we will begin to plant the garlic. And in December we will start the garlic and later in April we will take it out.
Then what will you do with it?
Then we will bring it home and if the prices are good then we will take it to the market. If the price is not good we will hold on to it and keep it at home.
How will you come to know about the prices?
Go to the market and find out about the current prices… We also have to consider that if we hold on to it what will be its future price. From the market we find out what the present price is. Then our fertilizer cost and the labour cost… the labourers that we engage, we also deduct their labour. We spray a pesticide to kill the insects. If all our costs are covered then we immediately take it out of the land and take it to the market in Abbottabad. Then we sell it and do not keep it. If our costs are not covered then we hold on to it. Hold on to it, keep it at home and clean it every 10 to 15 days. We shift it from one room to the other, just to clean it. If it remains in the same place there is a kind of termite. In a mud room, if we keep garlic on the floor and don't shift it for then days it all turns to mud. We pick it up from there and shift it to the other room. We girls that are in the house help the men in this way. Lift it from there and keep cleaning it and then after almost three or four months it's rate... The garlic that comes from other places, once it is all sold we then take our garlic to the market. It is then that we sell it, and if one gets good money it is with luck you get it. Sometimes one makes a profit and sometimes the loss is doubled.
How, a double loss?
That loss is incurred in such a way that we do not get as much money as we have spent.
What is the reason for this?
The reason is that we hold on to it so that God willing things will turn out well. When other garlic from China or India arrives our garlic loses all its value. If a lot of garlic is brought from elsewhere at the same time. We hold on to our garlic in our houses for the reason that maybe our condition will improve and it will sell at a good price. So the garlic is kept at home, but then when other garlic arrives in the market ours is then sold cheaply. This is how it takes place…
What are the other things you grow in the fields?
We grow arum and garlic there. Grow arum, the thing that we can see a profit in… We grow arum and with it we grow some maize. If wheat is in season then we grow that. Some of it we keep for our own use, and that which remains is more than we need; that we sell. That which is their labour and the cost of the contract, all that is there, we give what we need for that; we keep the rest and we sell it.
Is there any profit in it, or not?
Sometimes there is a profit and sometimes we have a lot of expenses. Farming has a lot of costs. Now the chemicals that… fertilizers are very expensive. Fertilizers are more expensive, 1200 for a bag. Then the fertilizer… Then the fertilizer is too much. But then at other times we also get some benefit. We benefit from the wheat and the other crops, vegetables give less profit.
How do you profit from the wheat?
With wheat there are fewer costs, it uses less fertilizer. It does not need [much], in the sense that the expenditure on wheat is low. It needs less fertilizer. It also does not require removal of grass and weeds. The vegetables that we grow, we use labour to clear the vegetable patches. And after every 15 days we engage a labourer. A labourer's wage is 300 rupees per day. Along with this we also provide them with food, and food which is also very good. And after the deduction of food costs, the benefit of wheat is that for sowing it, the cost of the tractor is all there is. The cost of that is not much. Fertilizer is used only once and this is the way it happens. And for the other crops we have to pay the labourers their wage and the thing about cutting is that when it is cut we bring it home.
Ok, tell me, if you look at your situation now and at your childhood, what is the difference between the two?
In my mother's house our situation was that… although there wasn't any illness there was a lot of poverty, and the situation was bad. My father was also sick, and at that time our condition was not so good. Now that I am at my in-laws there, thanks be to God, the situation is good. There all of them do labour. Whoever finds work… poor things! The household keeps running. My children, they also study. At our house – my mother's house – we were so keen on studying and I have such an unfulfilled desire because I could not study further. Our situation, my mother's and father's, was not so good. And we are trying to send our children to good schools. May God give us so much that we can send our children to good schools, they study well, even if they farm they do it well.
What do you mean by do it well?
By doing it well I mean…that when we ask in 10 places… what the name of a medicine is, and how to use it for the crops.
And if it is fertilizer, what fertilizer to use for the crops. If it is an educated person he will know, won't he? If our children do farming, then it isn't necessary that the whole world gets permanent jobs. If they know that they will… they will go themselves, find pesticides and bring them. They will know for which crop and what kind of pesticides need to be sprayed. Which is the best way… which is the best way. What will give more profit. How cultivation will be done in a good way. So education is good… farming.
Tell me where you have married, do you have livestock here?
Yes we have kept a buffalo. We have a buffalo, and we also have goats. We have some cocks that we have kept, and the milk we get from buffaloes, we sell that milk. With this we try to improve our condition to some extent. It gives manure, which we use in the fields. The soil requires natural fertilizer for crops. The manure that we use we do not need to purchase it. And we have hens – their eggs, which we keep for our personal needs. And if there are any extra, we sell them. We have kept these and these are kept along with the livestock.
Ok, tell me something – if you look at your life and that of your parents…
Which one do you feel is better?
The situation at my mother and father's… when we lived with my mother and father their condition was very bad. They remained very bad, mother… My father has remained ill. Therefore their situation was not good. Compared to that our present situation, thanks be to God, is much better.
Do you feel managing a house was better at that time or is it better nowadays?
At that time running a house was easier. It wasn't as much as it is today. Nowadays, the conditions are better if everybody is working, then running a house is good. At that time, if only a single person was earning… earning well, then running a house was fine. At that time with eight children that were… If a single person was earning well, one person earning regularly could manage well.
What do you mean by earning well?
It means that he earns continuously. There is no break… one day employed and 10 days unemployed. So if it was this way then it was not possible. The house could not be managed well. And nowadays the salaries are of course more but other things are very expensive. Everything… see how expensive flour is. For poor people like us, flour for a full month for five or six children is also very difficult [to get]. Sugar is also not available anywhere. Similarly, look at other groceries, they are the same. Everything is difficult. If someone has a salary of 10,000, still he can hardly manage the house. At that time 2000 could run it, but we didn't have that 2000 either… In those times and in these times. In these times it is difficult to manage a house.
Ok - you told me that you are ill and you have had treatment. How are you now?
Well the doctors say that you have to take medicines throughout your life and after every three months have a check-up. During the check-up an echo [test] has to be done. For that there is an echo test for 1100-1200 rupees, and 300-400 rupees are used for my fare up to Pindi for the MH. My entire treatment is private now and the tests that take place. And after every 15 days I have to have a check-up. Although my heart valve is functional all my life I have to take medicines.
How much did you spend on your overall treatment?
On this I spent almost…1.5 lacs (150,. I have spent on the operation and I have been treated every 15 days for a full 10 years. . Now it has been almost 14 years since my wedding and 13.5 years of my illness. I remained well at home for only six months. When I got married the expenses for my illness were also borne. It was such a lot, and with me are my children… three. They also study, then they also fall ill. Sometimes this, sometimes that! One has to spend on illnesses. Conditions are also better because… Conditions were better in the past as everyone used to earn and were doing ok. Some amount would be saved. Now with the illness there are small children and one spends on them.
Ok, what do feel, if you were not unwell like this would things have been better or not? How do you feel?
I think that if I was not unwell our conditions would be very good. My brother in-law had an accident, almost three years after my marriage; my brother in-law had an accident. His legs broke in two places. He had a good career… in engineering. He has also lost that job. And he has remained confined to bed for seven or eight months. His brothers helped him, he stayed in bed and a lot of his money, about 2.5 lac rupees, and ours also was spent on his treatment. We had two buffaloes, by selling them then… So we spent that on him. Even now he is around every 15th day or 20th day. Wherever he works, he comes back because of pain in his legs. The entire winter season, he spends at home… that brother. When he has pain in his legs he comes back home. And the younger one, he also has jaundice. After every six months he returns home again … If he goes to Karachi then … Karachi. If I send him out somewhere, even then he cannot live anywhere. Our situation was good and now the situation is… just like this, the illnesses are too many.
Why you didn't get free treatment, in a government hospital? Why did you spend so much?
My treatment was at first done by the government, then my husband retired from the government, and the rest of my treatment we paid for by ourselves. The whole treatment, about 4.5 years have passed that we pay the whole treatment by ourselves. An echo [test] is done and 1100-1200 rupees are spent on it. ECG is done and 200-300 rupees of mine are spent also on that. Blood tests and urine tests are done. Everything. When these tests are done a lot of money is spent. The fare, you know. From here to Pindi the fare is also 200-300 rupees for one person. I can't go alone, I am a heart patient. I have to take someone with me. So that also almost 2000-3000 rupees of mine are spent every 15 days. The household earnings are not as much as the amount that we spend.
Well you have talked about your livestock. How many do you have and how do you keep them? Tell me something about it.
We have two buffalos, and along with them their two to three calves. One buffalo that we have, we keep its milk at home for the children. One gives 2kg milk and the other about 3kg. That we give to the village shop. The buffalo has its own expenses. We bring khal (animal feed) for it,bring pathay (fodder) etc. We have to pay for it, everything else for it. Some buffaloes, one gets [milk] by an injection, some are just like that. Then these expenses for it are taken care of.
What do you mean by an injection?
When she gives milk we have to bring an injection and inject it. Sometimes the buffalo is at the last stage and then we have to inject it.
What do you mean by the last stage?
It means that when the buffalo gives milk we bring an injection (a syringe) at the same time and inject it, then sometimes a buffalo is at the last stage and we have to inject it. The time when she has continuously been giving milk, and four or five months pass, then it stops giving milk. If we inject it then it gives milk.
Doesn't it affect the quality?
No. They say that there is no effect on the quality. And there is no harm.
No harm, so we do so.
If you inject the buffalo how much milk does it produce?
Almost 3 kilos of milk at a time.
From one buffalo?
Yes from one buffalo.
Ok, so tell me, you said that your household is farmers. Is the role of men greater in this or that of women?
Tell us something about the work girls do.
Tell us something about yourself; how do you get involved in this?
No… In this our… Men still do it… Our men work in the fields and we help them. We do it at home, also we prepare the seeds for them. We also take their roti to the fields… Labourers' roti. And if something needs to be done that…That also we do together. Women certainly help also. It is then only that the men work.
Well you talked about making seeds. Tell me something more about it.
Well this garlic is a full bulb and by separating it, its small pieces are sown in the earth. Then we prepare the seeds (cloves) at home. After cleaning them, we prepare them and take them to the field. When the arum is cleaned, it is also thrown in the house and we clean the arum as well and give it to the men. The men then fill a tub and take it to the markets. The house then… All the work in the house… The house is a lot of work for women.
For example one thing you mentioned was the work related to prepaing seeds. What else?
When they bring the grain we also clean this and it is taken to the market.
How do you clean at?
Clean… it dirt and stones in it. Then it…
What kind of grain?
Wheat. There are also the grains of maize. After the machine has done the threshing, the fodder that comes out is separate… The rest is separate. We then… Men leave that work and go to the fields, then after doing this we then clean the grains that are there and fill up the sacks with them and separate what we call tukkay or phoga (cob) that we… the grains that are left behind (with the fodder), we clean and keep them separately...... these (the left over grain) we also put into sacks. The cobs we use to burn......The grains we clean and put them into sacks.
OK. You tell me that you are heart patient. Don't you have a problem when farming?
It is a problem for me. The work that is heavy I leave. If it can be done while sitting then I sit and do it. And the work that involves moving around I have my sister in-law with me and also my mother – that is, my mother in-law. Then the work which can be done while sitting I do by sitting with them. Like these are on the ground… Preparing the seeds doesn't trouble me and if grains are lying there I use a plate to put them in the sack so if someone else holds it I sit on the floor and fill it. Getting up and working while standing, that I cannot do much, or work that involves bending, that I can't do much. So as much as I can do, that is what I get done together… (silence for a while).
If you look at your complete life, is there an incident that brought some change in your life? Positive or negative. Is there any such incident?
Well, it seems to me that I was initially very disappointed with my life because of the illness that I have. I did not have any hope that I could ever get well. And I… I felt a big change. God has bestowed life upon me again. I had no hope that I could survive and that I would have children. I had no hope at all. Then I had my heart operation, and after that I was again given life by God. So I feel that this is the biggest thing: that I have been given life once again. This is the change.
When you were ill, how did you feel?
Well, at that time I was hoping that I… I was also suffering from TB at the same time and had a problem with my chest and also the heart disease. I had three, four illnesses at the same time. I could therefore not understand if I was on earth or in space. I did not like anything [near me], neither my husband nor the members of my household. I did not like any of my family members [around]. Either I should get out of this house or there should be no one in this house. I used to feel so ill, at all times I would feel darkness. Darkness was in front of my eyes all the time.
What do you mean by darkness?
In this way – that there was nothing that I liked. My heart was always worried, because I didn't know when my life would end. So at that time I remained ill. My situation was very bad, I was very ill. Then God did something and made a way for me. My operation took place. Such a lot, a lot. And sometimes the doctor wasn't there that day, then the next day. Today your BP (blood pressure) is low… Today your BP is high. I used to go to the hospital daily. We were pushed around so much that when I went to the hospital they sometimes used to say that the time is over. Once I entered the hospital they would say that the time is over. And sometimes they would say that the doctor has been posted somewhere else. Sometimes this and sometimes that. This is what they used to do. Because of that it took me a long time.
A full three years of mine in the hospital, being pushed here and there. Sometimes I didn't have the fare with me. When I was home I did not have the fare and would say: "What do I do about the fare today? I have an appointment to go there today and I do not have the fare." If I could put the fare together the doctors would not be present. If the doctors were there they would say: "The time for your appointment is over, that doctor's time, now he will sit at another place." In this way for me this was a very troubling time and I thanked God that my operation… And I said: "God, don't give me anything – just that I may recover." Then I had my operation and God made me well and I have once again been given life. And this is what seems to me to be a big change.
I say that this is a very big change in my life and this is something that I never forget. I never forget my illness. Many times when I was on my bed I used to get up screaming and would ask; "Tell me if I am in the hospital or at home. Am I in hospital…?" I stayed in hospital for so long that this was something I could not tell, whether I was at home or at the hospital. "I don't believe it," I used to say. Tell me the truth." My eyes used to be wide open but I didn't know whether I was in hospital or at home. I would scream and they would tell me: "No you are at home… look so-and-so is with you. You are not in hospital, you are at home".
Ok, when you were ill it is evident that you were married and came to another home. What was other people's attitude towards you?
The person that helped me the most was my father in-law. He is also my paternal uncle. He encouraged me a lot to get along, and my husband has also encouraged me a lot. My husband and my uncle and also my sister in-law they used to do a lot for me and my mother she simply… One could not tell about her. She used to say, "I thought when she came she would run my house, lend a helping hand, that she would help me." So at first… I was her very first daughter in-law so she said it like this, then she… would remain troubled, [thinking] now that she has come, she has fallen ill, also with an illness of a kind that is never-ending. People used to say that heart disease is unending. Anyway this illness cannot be fully cured. Then she would say. "I would get her to do some work like this but she is ill. She will not recover." And she could not believe it.
But God has cured me and they are happy. That God has cured her and God has also given her children.
Now what are you feeling?
Now I say that Allah has blessed me with children. I am fine now. When I lie on the bed at night I say; "God please make me completely healthy", or if I feel this kind of tension then my heart beats rapidly.
Why do you feel tension?
It is just that I think, why doesn't this illness end? I have small children. At first I had no children. I think that there are children so I think: what is there for them? If the mother is well she takes her child ahead. She gets them ready for school. Others may give them breakfast, members of the household, grandparents. Showing too much affection spoils children so the mother tells the child off a bit as well. I send the children to school on time and later keep an eye out for them –have the children gone to school wearing dirty clothes or have they gone in their uniform? I worry that the children may have gone to school in clothes that are dirty. Mothers help their children. They put their uniform together, their caps, their socks, give them shoes that they have polished. They get them ready and set them off. And if the mother is ill herself then she is bedridden, then the child is just like that… children do not know any better sometimes. They wear their shoes and sometimes their socks. Sometimes they go out with their cap on and sometimes they go without it. This then saddens me that if I do not get them ready even to this extent, that they will then go to school and they will be beaten. What will the children then study during the day? So when they leave I just keep thinking about the children like this. If I was well also for them, then my children would progress well in what is there.
How old are your three children?
My eldest child is nine years old and the younger one is six years old. The one younger than him is three years old.
In which class do they study?
The eldest child is in class 3. The one younger than him is in class 1. The one younger than him does not go to school yet.
Where do they study?
They study in the village.
In private school or in a government one?
The other (ie government) school – they study there. I say that I should send the children somewhere [else]. Somewhere outside, a good school in which they should study, and make their future. In this way our situation was like this; that if we do not have the fare for the village then how can we send our children out? If they go to another village, the fare for that… I am very keen that my children study somewhere outside, in another village, in a good school. Study in the city, study so that after completing their studies…. However life has passed it has passed for the future of the children, they say that their future should be bright but…. also good… If their foundation is not good enough then how can it be in the future? Their foundations we build in such a way that if we fulfil the need for their uniforms then we have nothing for their books. If we get all the books then their uniform is not good. That is why we can't send them outside.
Books and uniforms as well as the fees [need to be] all good and they also [need to] have the fare so that then we [can] send them outside. Undoubtedly they can also farm but if they study well then farming will also be done in a better manner. If they do farming – then if they have not studied, well then how can they do farming properly? A person can also get ahead with farming. It is not necessary that he goes away. Does well, does other things and not necessarily has a permanent job. We say that one may simply do farming but the education should be a good one.
And the children should be well aware, then they will study somehow, and also do farming.
What do you mean by a good education?
By quality education we mean that in our village the children that study now… around 600 children to a school. There is one government school. It has two teachers, then how will they educate the children, these teachers? They can try as much [as they can]t… how will they handle so many children? No child can they teach in this way… Some children know alif, be, (A,B,C) and some children don't know it at all. So many children. The nearby village, they go there after completing class 5.
When they go there the numbers are the same. There are eight, nine teachers and ten classes. If things are the same there as well, then? Then what about our children? Then what kind of a future do we have? What education? We say that if the children arefewer, and the teachers help our children properly, then our children will get educated properly.
In this way how will our children get educated? The number of children is very high and there are two teachers. OK, we say. If they are in a good school, we have to have something for their fee. Then only can they go to good schools. OK.
What is the difference between your childhood and that of your children?
Food and clothing is good… parents try to provide for their children. Our childhood also was good. Only that we were fond of education and our parents couldn't educate us. They didn't have resources. Now if we do not have anything to eat, we don't care. We will ask for help to do something but will definitely educate our children.
We are still where we were before. We have to think about our children. We say that if we can save even a straw we will definitely educate our children. Our parents didn't think so. They definitely thought about it but they didn't have the resources. Their condition was such that they didn't have anything.
So they couldn't educate us so we… Our children, we are trying to educate them, educate them well, send them to good schools, make them into good human beings. It is not only necessary that they have permanent employment…but become good human beings.
How do you define a good human being?
A good human being… education makes a good human being. All people are generally good but their thinking is not good. People say education… If someone comes into money those people don't become good, their minds are not good. What is there is theirs but without education the thinking is not right. A good person is someone who gets the right education and understands all of this. Oneself and others, the person that understands it all becomes a good human. Respects his parents. That is the person that becomes a good human being.
What do you think about your own, your children's and your village's future? What sort of expectations do you have?
We have good expectations. We say… Even if now our condition improves our children study in good schools then even our children's… if our children's situation improves then our future will also be better. We are hopeful that we will have a good future.
We will educate our children. I say that my children should study and get good jobs. If they want, they can do farming. Whatever they do, they must improve their condition.
Well you have given such a long interview and have given so much time. Thank you very much.
It doesn't matter. It is ok.
1/ Average exchange rate, (83.58 rupees = 1 US$), November 2009, Interbank rate, source: www.oanda.com