By Anjora Sarangi:
Sukanti Barik is a 22 year old woman from Orissa who has faced much more than your average 22 year old. She has left her home like so many others of her strata to make a living and stepped into the big city. With a child in tow, penniless, homeless and lost she has eked out a decent living for herself and her dependent family through sheer grit and determination. Here is a brief extract of her long woven story.
Where are you from and when did you come to Delhi?
I am from Korlamunda village in Kalahandi District of Orissa. I came to Delhi this year in February.
What is your family structure like?
I have three sisters, one of whom is married. I am the eldest of the four and live with my mother. Our father passed away when I was a child and recently, my husband met with a terrible accident and instantly lost his life. So I am now to look after my one year old daughter as well as the rest of my family.
What work did you do in your village?
My family owns an acre of land on which we sow crops such as urad dal, paddy, peanuts and others every year. It is usually enough to feed us the whole year long but very little lasts to be sold in the market. Thus we are able to earn merely Rs. 1000 a month.
Is that what prompted you to leave your village and come to Delhi?
Yes. My uncle informed me that that Delhi had good prospects for those looking for work and since I needed the money desperately, I made a difficult decision to leave my family and head towards the capital in search of a decent living.
What work did you find here?
I did not get any work in the first 10 days which was a big disappointment. I would go from area to area searching for any form of work. It was only on the 10th or 11th day of my arrival did I stumble upon a construction site which was in need of manual labour. I was commissioned to carry bricks to and fro as well as occasionally mix the cement. The work was intense, especially on hot sunny days and the wages were abysmal which was very disheartening.
Where did your daughter stay while you were working?
(laughs) where will she stay? I used to place her next to me on the sand at the site.
Were you able to get enough money for your survival?
On most days I did manage to bring back two meals a day for the both of us but some days were worse than others.
Where are you currently employed?
Since my first job was not very remunerative I went about looking for something more stable. Finally I got a job in a house in CR Park as a maid servant. I have been working there since. Though the commute is really long and the working hours are tiresome, I am happy with the income and am even saving up for the past few months to be able to send a substantial amount back home.
How do you compare your village to Delhi? They must be worlds apart.
Delhi is a giant city; it is often difficult to distinguish one street form the next. There are cars speeding by and every corner has several multi-storeyed buildings. My village is minute in comparison. We have a single doctor to the entire village and the electricity is very intermittent. Summer days are hot and humid and quite unbearable. Our roads are well made though. Ofcourse they are by no means even close to the ones you see here. We don’t have a school in the village, so as children, we were sent to our uncle’s village to attend school. I have lived almost all my life with my uncle for this reason.
What do you want for your daughter? Do you ever want to go back home?
I want my daughter to go to school and study well to earn a name for herself. I don’t want her to lead the kind of life I am leading at present. I will do everything in my power to provide for her the best facilities that I can for her education.
I will definitely go home one day. At present, since I am earning well, I don’t want to quit my job and lose this stability. It will probably be a few years till I return. I know my family needs me, especially for the agricultural activities but I have so many varying responsibilities that it is difficult to choose. Right now, money and my daughter are my highest priorities.
Sukanti is one of those millions of maids who struggle to find a space for themselves in the societal norms that denounce them because of their profession, social status and financial background. Youth Ki Awaaz has taken a stand to present voices of these unheard people. Do drop in your views below. Check out more unheard storiesÂ here.