We were sitting under the shade of the tree in front of Hansa-ben’s tidy hut in her village of Fatepurah. She had made us a cup of tea in the traditional Indian way by boiling tea leaves with water, milk and sugar. She asked me if I would like her special Cha masala to which I readily agreed. The aroma of black tea leaves boiled with ground cloves and cardamom is irresistible.
The honorific title of ‘Ben’ or ‘elder sister’ given to Hansa is because the entire village regards her as such. She is a widow, and the eldest member of the Tamasha group. Her husband died a couple of years ago, a death that could have been avoided had there been a doctor or a qualified nurse close at hand.
Hansa-ben has four children, three daughters and a son. She had worked as an agricultural laborer in and around the village earning a few Rupees a day for the hard work that she did. There was never any guarantee that she would get work every day. The time between planting and harvesting was always tricky as work for casual laborers was uncertain.
She and her eldest daughter joined the Tamasha group early in 2009. The security of a regular income, less physical exertion, and the major advantage of working from home was her prime motivation for joining us. Hansa-ben hand-washes, and dries the plastic bags. She sorts them by color, and then cuts the plastic bags into thin strips ready for weaving on the poly loom.
Hansa-ben’s daughter has learnt to operate the loom by watching the older women in the village like Surya and Rahi. Her monthly income now comes close to that of the other qualified weavers in the village. Hansa-ben now herself has a good income for the 2 hours a day that she wants to work. Mother and daughter now live a reasonably comfortable live without worry as to where the next meal might come from and secure in the knowledge that they will have excellent medical help if and when they need it.
In addition to covering all their daily living costs, Hansa-ben and her daughter are saving a little money each month for a few things ‘we like to have’ rather than ‘we need in order to live’
Masala Cha was soon over, but we could have continued our conversation on how Tamasha is improving the lives of the entire village.
‘May god bring us the rains on time, and may you continue to get more orders for Tamasha’ is how Hansa-ben concluded our conversation as she started her daily routine.