Monday, February 25, 2008

A Day in the Life of...

Name: Mrs. T Jyoti
Age: 41
Native town: a village in Warangal
Current residence: Hamal Basti

Jyoti’s day begins at 4 a.m. when her eyes open although it is about five by the time she gets out of bed. She cooks for the family and walks fifteen minutes to a private residence where she works as a domestic servant from 7 to 8 a.m. She then reaches EFLU where she spends most of her day, sweeping the grounds until 5 p.m. She admits that recently, her work has considerably increased. When her shift ends, she heads back to the private residence to finish another hour of chores before heading home by 6. Jyoti says she enjoys working so much so that she takes up work in other people’s houses even on weekends.

Once home, Jyoti cleans up the house and cooks for her family. She feels grateful to have children who help her in her work. She has two daughters and one son. She finds her son to be the most obedient, an unusual occurrence in her basti. Jyoti hopes to get him married some day although she proudly refuses to ask for dowry for his wedding, even though it has been a part of their family tradition. But she worries about her two daughters, for whom she’ll have to arrange Rs. 2 lakhs each, for their weddings.

As such, her family has had to face issues of debt in the past as well. Jyoti’s husband being a daily wage earner, his income is subject to availability of work and when he finds it, he earns about Rs. 150/- a day. However, since he is now suffering from diabetes, blood pressure and asthma, his income has become more irregular due to which Jyoti has had to take up the mantle of being the main breadwinner of the family.

Keen on sending her children to a private school, Jyoti had to constantly take loans to pay for their fees, uniforms and books. She is still repaying those debts and sometimes, things get rough. Jyoti recalls how they had to live in the dark for five whole years as they could not afford to pay their monthly electricity bills which amount to Rs. 300/- a month.

One of her few recreations is attending Sunday mass with her family every week. If she finds time, she visits her mother and sisters who live nearby her basti. Jyoti also has a cable connection at home and likes watching some Telugu serials. As a child she used to love watching films although not so much anymore. Speaking of Chiranjeevi’s daughter, she doesn’t approve of love marriage and feels confident that she will arrange the marriage for all her children. After all, as she says, would girls who go in for love marriages respect their mother-in-laws and vice- versa?

For now however, she wants her children to finish their education. Her son Kiran is currently studying engineering while her two daughters, Shailaja and Aruna have finished XII and IX respectively. Jyoti herself never made it past Standard II. As a child, she was never interested in studying. She confesses that she cannot comment on whether her teachers were good or bad, but she was frightened of being beaten when she did not do her homework. Moreover, none of her friends were interested in studying. She was married off at the age of 17 and she now lives with her husband and three children. Though none of her children are interested in studies, Jyoti now understands the value of education. This realization dawned on her when she learnt that a student of EFLU was paid only Rs 5000/- as a starting salary after completing her Ph.D. Looking at such state of affairs faced by the educated, Jyoti fears the future condition of her children. She has therefore kept all her children in school and in fact, has recently enrolled herself into a basic English proficiency course offered by EFLU students for workers.

Jyoti is not completely oblivious to the political developments happening in AP. She often listens to the news while cooking. She is aware of the past and present CM and also the MLA of her constituency. She has even voted a few times in her life. She belonged to the Madiga caste which has traditionally been the caste of cobblers and house servants, before her ancestors chose to become Christians. Unfortunately she has not yet got her SC certificate probably because the government has refused to accord this status to converts.

T.Jyoti is an employee at EFLU for the last 20 years. She joined in 1984 as a house keeper and now works as a sweeper. Much to her happiness, she has recently been made a permanent employee which has increased her monthly wage to a respectable Rs. 5000/-.


satya said...

Congratulations!You have done a wonderful job.I liked all the write ups.

Navayana said...

Great start! Consider adding film reviews (from an anticaste perspective) and reviews of some recent books. There could also be a articles on mainstream media's coverage of caste.

Some minor corrections. It is Jotirao Phule and not JYotirao. The "Y" indicates a brahmanical inflection. Just like Bodhisatta is Pali and Bodhisattva is sanskritic; as much as Ajatasattu is the Buddhist spelling and Ajatasatru is sanskritic; similarly Sariputta and so on.

Since a blog addresses a web community it would be good to provide web-links/URLs to most terms/concepts. For instance when you mention/discuss Dr BR Ambedkar, you could always link his name to; when you mention Namdeo Dhasal, you could link up his name to some online resources; reviews of his poetry collection etc.

Some links on the blog such as Dalit Studies Course and About Us are not active.

best wishes

Girija said...

Congrats! Pleas post some study about the caste disrimination (if any) prevails in EFLU.

out-caste said...

Hi there,

Thanks for all your encouragement!

Navayana, thank you for correcting us on Jotirao's spelling. As one of the readings in our class revealed to us, both Jotirao's first and last name were (still are?) matters of contention in academic circles. While multiple versions of his last name have been used in different texts, Phule himself used both 'Phule' and 'Phooley'(G.P. Deshpande)

Keep writing and leaving your useful comments.

Thank you,

The Out-caste Team

Navayana said...

Dear Outcaste team

thank you for the response.

Let me further clarify. Phule did spell his second name differently on different occasions, especially in his petitions to British officials.

However, his first name is indeed Jotirao and not Jyotirao. Let me quote from the chapter on Phule in the recently launched Navayana title Seeking Begumpura, authored by Gail Omvedt:

'Joti Mali, the gardener' was how he described himself, asserting his caste identity as a worker of the soil with a hint of pride. For Jotirao Phule, named not after the lamp (jyoti) but after the popular folk deity (joti) in Maharashtra who is indeed a symbol of the peasantry, was born in a city of brahmans but from a sudra family with its humble home in Satara district.

Cited from p. 159 of the book.

best wishes

Manuela said...

Interesting to know.

Anonymous said...

trust the lefties to elevate the harmless Joti/Jyoti mixup into a Brahminical conspiracy of cosmic proportions. ;-)

Off with that untouchable 'y' ;-)

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