photo of person from Nepal Sindhulpalchok
Nepal glossary


(NEPAL 28)










Krishnapur-7, Chitwan district





Section 1
I hear there are problems of caste issues in the women’s savings group these days, right?
Well, initially even the wife of our Ward Chairman participated. She represented Ward number 9 of our community, right? Initially we did not separate Ward number 7 and Ward number 9. We were all nearby and not far away. “So let’s join together, why separate the wards?” we said, and began at the beginning. When there were not enough people, Bahun and Chettri [upper caste] women visited our homes often and persuaded us. They told us that if we took part in the group there would be support, etc. Even when we said we did not want to participate, they insisted. After that, in the middle of things (ie having formed a group and been working together for some time) they grabbed the shares and expelled us. There were no problems at the beginning when there were 10 to 15 people. We participated together. Now as the size of group has increased, we are facing lots of problems.

Where did the meeting of the group take place?
Well, there would be meetings every week. We sat at one friend’s house today and at another friend’s house the next week - entirely on a rotation basis.

Did meetings take place inside or outside the houses of everyone? Were you allowed to enter the houses?
Of course not. For us it was outside and the balcony only. Only in elder sister Bhagwati`s house are we allowed to go up to the upstairs room.

What would be done when you were having tea and snacks in the group?
We don’t have the practice of drinking tea in our meetings. Even if it is served in some places then everyone gets up and leaves.

How did you feel when other women walked out to avoid eating anything touched by you?
After all we, too, are human beings. They are human beings and we too are human beings. We sat together in the group like sisters. Together we collected money and ran things. We grew up together from childhood, isn’t it? We all used to have fun and play around, got along well whenever we had to go somewhere. But today at these meetings and gatherings, why do all our sisters do this to us? They get up and walk away if they have to eat food touched by us. Today, we have realised just how backward we have been and it has hurt us a lot.

How many BK (Biswakarma; blacksmith caste) houses were there?
The ones in the group, we are seven. We would be many more if everyone had joined in the group and taken part. But in the beginning only seven of us from the seven houses joined the group.
Section 2
Do you feel some changes have taken place between before and now?
A lot of changes have taken place. Before, even if others looked down on us, despised us for being low caste, the people of those days kept quiet - believing that to be our destiny and that our fate was written that way. Our mothers in the old days used to be mothers of that period (meaning: our mothers were of the generation that believed caste is destiny, and is a result of one’s past life; mothers of that time didn’t react to discrimination). Now it’s not like before. If there is caste discrimination, the matter will be dealt with by law, will it not?

Do you know what the law will do if someone is found practising untouchability?
If someone discriminates because of low caste or is found practising untouchability, he is taken, locked up and fined 5,000. It’s not a case of paying immediately after being taken. The police ask them, “Why did you call them low castes? You cannot say low caste. Why are you making them get up from where they were already sitting just because they might touch you?” Saying this, they take action. But why lodge complaints to the police on such matter, we think, and we keep quiet.
Now we were all born and bred in this village. Tomorrow, if something untoward (bad) happens, you need that same society (the people around you). Our Bahun, Chettri women simply do not realise that as women themselves they should not look down on other women and make them feel small. With such foolish ones who have this habit and behaviour we have let things go and kept quiet [too long]. We have also to consider their relatives and their husbands who have prestige. Moreover, tomorrow we may need that same society, so this once we let it go; otherwise we had thought of registering a complaint with the police, saying we are being subjected to untouchability. We can also report to the right place. Lately, for the past 10, 15 days we have considered this matter and thought we could take these women and hand them over for discriminating against us and looking down on us. We have been thinking of taking action against them. We were determined to do so, but [said] let us respect the society this once. Even if they made a mistake and looked down on us we forgive them this time. In future if this happens we will not tolerate it, this is what we have been thinking.

So, the other women of the group continue to run the group after expelling you?
I’ve asked many times. But they don’t tell the truth. They are still hiding it. We have not taken part in any group they say. But they are in the group and they have been participating. We are already aware that after expelling us they have formed a new group and have been operating [separately]. Some have already told us. Elder sister Bhagawati here has told us also. We are already aware - they have been seen going to the group. We hear what is being said.

Haven’t you formed a separate group to play?
We have been participating in a group of other sisters, but without most knowing about it. Just among ourselves. We are operating secretly. We are meeting in the homes of some [women] without others knowing about it. This is because of the husbands. If the husbands get to know we are participating, then they will be after the money. She has money, he says, and begins to ask for it. So we don’t let on at home.
Section 3
You said there are Chettri, Bahun women in this group, too. Do they or do they not eat anything touched by you?
This group also has Bahun, Chettri women. Only one elder sister named Bhagawati eats things touched by us. Otherwise no, others do not. What we need is a person like elder sister Bhagawati. Though a Bahun she does not practise untouchability. Even now she is the one who advised us that nothing else will happen and that this was the way, we had to move forward. When you look from the outside you see women’s groups being formed from village to village, you hear of women’s development. But who will understand the internal problems of this nature?

Has the group really benefited women?
Why not? The group has taken [us] forward a lot. If we were not in a group how could we have been able to speak this much? Whenever sirs (those working in NGOs or micro-credit organisations) came from any organisation we used to feel shy about introducing ourselves. We had great problems saying our name and giving our address. Since joining the group, no matter from which organisation sirs come, we can introduce ourselves with name, address etc.

How many oppressed women are there in this village who can tell their feelings and can speak like you?
There are many. There are both those who belong to the group and others who don’t.

How were you four years ago?
That was it. I didn’t have the capacity to talk like now. After staying in the group [things have changed]. All this has come about through the group itself. I have two sons and a daughter. I have studied up to class five. I was born here at Sharadpur and also married here at Sharadpur itself. Our home in the hills is in Lamjung. It’s 30, 35 years since my parents came to this place. They didn’t have land here and now father has bought a little. My husband is working in town, making iron grills for windows and doors. My husband has not studied.

Do you feel that if there had been a chance to study you wouldn’t have had to face this caste discrimination?
At that time we had no idea such a time would come. Our parents encouraged us to study and told us they would educate us as much as we could study. That was the thinking of the parents. But we had no idea that if we studied it would be like this; that we would get a chance to move forward, see? Now I regret not having studied. If we had got a chance to study we could have shown others our worth by doing something or the other. It’s very difficult now because of having no education. I could have done something. What a [different] time has come. How could we have spoken so much in the old days? Say even during our parents’ time, our parents could not speak this much. They did not get a chance to speak. They had to bow down while walking in front of others. They were not allowed by anyone to speak and move forward (make progress). If they tried to speak up, a person from the higher caste would say, “Being a blacksmith why do you have to speak? Keep quiet and sit. When we are here why do you have to speak? We [are the ones who] will speak,” they would say. Other castes did not allow our parents to speak. My father used to work as an ironsmith. Now he has stopped doing that. He became old, too.
Section 4
Do you remember higher castes despising your parents when you were small?
Why not? For example during our parents’ time there was a restaurant. We used to eat in that shop secretly, not openly when others could see. There was another shop nearby our place and our father and others went there and sat on a bench. “You go there. Can’t you see we are eating here? You get up. Be careful not to touch here,” they used to say [to our caste]. That was the situation. I have seen and heard this. I have been seeing and hearing this from the time I was 10, 12 years old.

How did you feel when you saw others insulting and degrading your parents?
I used to get disheartened. We too are human beings. I would wonder why they were saying this, why they were doing that. We were young children then. We used to be scared to enter anyone’s house. We had a separate drinking water spout. They don’t allow us [to draw] water even now. We have to take water from a separate well. Each has a separate well. Of course they won’t allow us to draw water from their well if our well dries up. They won’t. Now when we don’t have water they will draw water from their well themselves, and instruct us to place our pots for them to fill. Forget the past; it is still like that now. If you touch their well, they come charging [towards us] to beat us. They will kill us.

How many BK families are there in your ward?
Quite a lot. There are about 20, 25 houses.

Has any change come in them now?
There are some who can speak out compared to before but some others cannot speak out. The elders of the past generation still think we shouldn’t talk back to the upper castes because we are low caste, and this is an age-old tradition. We don’t have that feeling in our case now.

“We are human beings, why do people discriminate against us?” - How did this awareness come to you?
Now the government announces it day and night. We have been hearing on the radio and have been watching TV. Now radio, TV, say that when the oppressed castes are discriminated against, they can straightaway go to the police to lodge a complaint without hesitation and that those involved will have to face punishment. The radio and TV say that. That is why we need to move forward also. Do only they have the right to progress? We also have the right to progress. We also have the right to speak and that feeling has come to us. Therefore from now on we feel they cannot discriminate against against us.

What steps are you thinking of taking now if you are discriminated against?
If we are despised, from now on we have already thought of going to the police office to lodge a complaint. We oppressed women together.

When you send your children to school is there discrimination there, too?
The children have not told us of such happenings at school. Of course, they are small. The son is seven years old. The daughter is six years old. They are children and their friends are also children. They are not in a position to understand. I don’t know what will happen when they grow up. But outside, older children and even elders tell my children that they are Kami (blacksmiths), and when they come home they ask me: “Are we blacksmiths, mother? We are BK (Biswakarma), is it not, BK? BK is supposed to be Bahun, are we not also Bahun, mother?” So they say. Then what am I to do? I suppose many in the village may tell the children not to touch here, not to touch there, because you are (blacksmiths, iron workers). The children come home and tell us this. Why are we being told this? We are not Kami, they are Kami, the children say. To some, the children reply: “We are not Kami; rather you are a Kami.” Now what will a child know about who is a blacksmith and who is a Bahun? I cannot tolerate upper castes despising my child and other oppressed ones. These days they cannot discriminate against us directly, like before, but if they want to they do it. I can speak so they get a little scared about discriminating against me. Now against those who cannot speak, they really discriminate.
Section 5
How many times did the talk of untouchability came up in the Women’s Savings group?
It came up in a big way, three or four times. Sisters from the group itself used to say they cannot be touched. “You are small (lower, insignificant) caste” - they dare to tell us that directly in front of us. Is this not bullying? We have reached there first and are sitting there and, to a person who is already sitting, they say: “You get up, today is my fasting day, you get up and go a little further away. I must not be touched by you.” They could dare to say [this]. I also said, “Why should I shift? I will not get up and go. If you fear being touched, then you pick up that chair and go to the roadside,” I used to say. “Why sit here in the middle? Here people will touch each other, so if you want to sit separately go to the roadside,” I said.
After I said that she started crying, saying that a low caste is also bullying her this way. On top of that, complaining that the other women from the group did not rebuke me and the other oppressed women, she began challenging everyone. “Even when I was bullied so much, why didn’t you rebuke her?” she said. If she got support she was happy, and if she didn’t get their support she complained that they were on my side. They engage in controversy among themselves. But if there was one woman like that in the women’s group then shouldn’t she have been expelled from the group and all the village sisters come together? Or should the reverse step be taken – to drop us and embrace her to run the group? Now please tell me yourself.

How much money had been collected in the group?
In our women’s group there was one lakh (hundred thousand]) and some thousand. The money was kept in the bank. We used to use money in the village itself. Whatever could be used by the sisters in the village was used and the rest was deposited in the bank. In most cases we had invested in the village itself. Some raised buffalos, some tended goats; and in my case, I opened a shop, and others did something else. For example, one elder sister has opened a photo studio in the bazaar. It’s running well. I also set up the shop with the advice of sisters from the group. Later it failed. If I had not opened the shop in the village but taken it down to the bazaar maybe this sort of untouchability wouldn’t have been there. But due to the advice of the sisters and because my children are small… leaving them and going to the bazaar would have spoiled their studies. Feeding the children and also other things was inconvenient. Due to that, it was inconvenient to go far and so I opened it close to home after taking a loan from the group.
At the beginning it was doing fine; later everyone avoided [the shop]. At the very start for one, two, months all came to buy but later [I don’t know] what happened, who told them what - didn’t know anything. Thereafter, even those sisters who came to buy in my shop, some [people] influenced their thinking: “Why bring a loaf from that shop, why go to that shop and bring chow-chow (packet noodles), you have already done your children’s sacred-thread ceremony (Hindu boys’ coming-of-age ceremony, after which higher castes should not eat food touched by lower castes). You want to feed a loaf and chow-chow bought from her shop even to children who have completed sacred-thread ceremony?” They went to the extent of telling elder sister Bhagawati not to go to that shop to buy things. When this type of thinking came in the minds of sisters in my own group the shop dried [up]. Our village is small and there aren’t many households here.
Section 6
Didn’t you consult with friends from the group before you took the loan from the group to open a shop?
Why not? Before it was they who said to keep a shop and that they would extend help by doing this and that. They themselves advised me there would be this and that benefit, and even gave the loan from the group. As things moved ahead later nobody bought anything. What happened to them, I know nothing. At a later stage they used to come from the rear taking a detour from my field to buy things, in case others saw them buying from the front. When it happened that way you tell me yourself what might have happened to my business? Does a business run when it’s done that way? Two, four people from around here may come and buy - but since the shop was opened through the group, they should realise that if my shop dries up then it’s the investment that the group has made that sinks. Now the group’s investment may also sink and how is she going to repay the loan? This thought didn’t come in the mind of the sisters, [that] we need to go and buy ourselves so that her investment will grow and thereafter with the profit she can expand the shop. This sort of thinking didn’t come in the minds of the sisters. We had 28 women in our group. For a village, 28 households is big enough. Outside of the groups, there are just 10, 15 households. It isn’t enough when just 10, 15 households buy. My shop was bound to dry up when 28 households stopped buying. In the beginning the shop was running well enough. I was also very happy, thinking I could do something now.

When did the talk about caste discrimination start in the group?
Caste discrimination was there from before. But after about a year from the time of joining the group gradually the issue of untouchability started being talked about openly. When two to four of us who were close took part (when the group was small), there was no problem. After that they said to expand the group. Many started saying, “We also want to participate; we also want to participate.” We also thought now other sisters want to participate, then why not let them participate? As far as possible the group should be expanded so why not include all the sisters from the village since they want to participate? And so we agreed to keep them but later they were the ones to discriminate against us. That way we agreed to keep them but later they became the bosses. We worked hard to form the group and later on they acted as if it was only theirs. In the beginning we were 12.

Once you were in the group, when was the first time you came across untouchability?
Now if one has to talk about the situation before the group was formed, then when we went for farm work with our village sisters, the so-called upper caste people gave us snacks separately. Now you cannot enter inside the door and they told us to sit and eat on the verandah, and this was there from before. It’s not only since getting into the group. To enter somebody’s house was something that we could not possibly do, but it was in the group that bad-mouthing – you go that side, go there, don’t touch here, don’t touch me – all of that came out. But whatever may be the treatment while doing farm work or at home and in the village, in the group we should be friendly. The reason for opening the group is to co-exist, for all sisters to be united, and this was why all are in the group. The group means all sisters come together and act as one. But this thinking did not come to the women of the group. Even before joining the group, while going together to do farm work they gave us food separately, without touching us, and that really hurt my feelings. I used to feel like saying, “Why are you doing this?” But I could not speak out at that time. When the village sisters together formed the group there was hope that such things would not happen but here things have got worse.
Section 7
After joining the group how many times have you gone on picnics?
I went two, three times. I went to the picnics expecting laughter and merrymaking but it was just the opposite and I felt like crying. Though we went, we did not eat food there. It was that bad. What can be done when you are not in a position to swallow the morsel you are about to eat? We could not touch any food items nor were we allowed to wash, cut and cook food. From morning till evening we had to sit separately from the other sisters. We could eat if they gave [us something] but we were not allowed to go there to cook and eat like they did, cooking and taking out and eating. We knew it was going to be that way and from the start I said I didn’t want to go, but elder sister Bhagawati here encouraged us to go to such a place and enjoy ourselves. “One or two of you [alone] cannot go to the picnic even if you want to, so you must go when all the others are going,” she had advised us and we went. Whenever they talked about picnics, we said don’t want to go and didn’t collect money. Even when we didn’t collect money one or two sisters used to persuade us and compelled us and took us. And when you reached the picnic spot they used to do like that. Last time we paid money only after four, five days from the time we returned from picnic and they accepted [that], too. We may be low caste but when we are sitting in the group that should not be done.

Compared to before has untouchability reduced to some extent?
Compared to before I feel it has reduced a little. Now everybody listens to the radio at home. Those having TV also watch. Now due to radio, TV, all are informed, even though it may be [only a] little. Maybe the message has sunk in that we have to be just a little afraid when even the government itself says untouchability should not be practised. Maybe due to that, compared to before, people seem to fear practising untouchability. I am now in two women’s groups. There are few BK women and the majority are Bahun and Chettri. As far as possible I don’t feel like working and sitting in a group with Chettri, Bahun women who despise and look down on us; but what to do? They are everywhere. But what can be done? The times are like that. Nowadays you have to be in the group and participate. I participate now by selecting groups where they despise and look down at you less, because I realise that if I am in a group the money will grow, and I will be able to understand some things. But even in the group I am in now, there are sisters who say they should not be touched at the time when they are worshipping and fasting. But in the present group we need not gather together, unlike before. Here you have to deposit [savings] monthly and so it is better to send it through somebody, and that way we don’t have to meet at one place, eat together or have lengthy discussions.
Section 8
Can other BK women also speak out like you do?
They are very weak. They cannot speak. Well, we have not studied much. I recognise letters. I can write a letter. Some sisters of my caste have studied up to four, five classes, some up to seven, eight classes. Some of them do not recognise the alphabets. Now what can be done? It has been going on [like this] from before. It is a practice from the time of our ancestors that higher castes have not allowed our caste to progress. If we move forward we will bully them, that’s what they think - and that is why they have always to be ahead. Because of that they will not allow us to progress. Now even in this women’s group when there were not enough people to form the group, they asked us to come and even compelled us. Before, we could not speak this much. Whatever they said, we said yes, and agreed. Now they are not allowed to do that to us. Nowadays we have also become able to know and understand certain things. We are able to speak out. When the group is set up it’s not only their group. We have also deposited money there. When the group is set up we also have our investment there. Whatever rights they have in the group, we also have the same rights. That thinking [is what] we have felt now.

Since when have you started understanding about rights?
Well, I didn’t know [anything] at a young age. I started to understand 10-15 years [ago – that’s] when I began to understand a little. Now the sisters from higher castes cannot tell us directly that we are from a lower caste, cannot talk of rights, and [say we] have to remain oppressed. But, twisting and turning, their thinking is still the same. They don’t like us speaking up and moving forward. They still have the tendency to suppress us. When we challenge them [as to] why we are subjected to untouchability, they say, “What now? You want to be taken and kept at the hearth? [The cooking area/hearth is considered sacred by higher castes.] You will be happy to come to our hearth and cook rice?” When you say, “Why is your son involved in practising untouchability?”, then they say, “What now, you have to be taken and kept at the hearth? You will be happy to come to our hearth and cook rice? If we marry your children you will be happy? We have been walking around with you, we have been speaking to you well, treating you well - what more do you want? Now the only thing left is to make you cook in our hearth and get our children to marry yours, isn’t it? That is the only thing left for you to do directly,” they say, thundering (in loud, fierce voices).
But we have not asked to be allowed to do that. What we have said is whatever rights Bahun and Chettri women are getting, we should get those too, that’s all we have said. Places where they walk, we should be allowed to walk also; like they don’t allow us to worship in temples where they worship. If we have entered a temple to worship and they see us then they remove themselves to some distance. If they collect money to construct a temple they will not collect our donations or [accept our] support.
For instance they are constructing a Ganesh (Hindu god) temple here and villagers are contributing. For that they collected from everyone from Krishnapur and Gaurigunj area. We told the person collecting to take our money as we wanted to support to the maximum extent possible, we also have the right to worship, but they did not accept our donation. The Ganesthan temple is here, now why do we have to travel to Bharatpur to worship? That’s not done. With that thinking we asked them to take our money, but they didn’t take our donations. I am raising this issue with friends also, and if they agree I said I would come to collect money, but those [others] collecting the money didn’t come. This was talked [about] too. I had said I would go to collect the money if they agreed but [it] didn’t happen. Now you can think for yourself, even on a temple issue the thinking is like that. Now that temple is completed. Consecration and inauguration only are remaining. They may not allow us to enter that temple.
We are determined to go even if we are not allowed to enter. We are saying everyone should worship together. But they have not taken our money to construct that temple. While they have taken money from the whole village they have not taken from us, so that they could bar us from entering the temple. It became easier to say later, “We haven’t taken your money so you don’t have the right to come, either.” Now to construct that temple they have collected from each ward and owing to the shortfall have taken the support of the Municipality. They have not collected money only from the oppressed. Now when the money from the Municipality is spent on constructing the temple then we also have the right to enter the temple. The moment the Municipality’s money is put [in] there we have our claim. We too can speak out, go there and worship, and we can also speak – that capacity we have built.
We feel we are confident to speak. But this talk is among us BK women only. Now let us see what will happen. Our males are less bothered about this matter. They go out and their Bahun, Chettri male friends don’t resort to that much untouchability (discrimination). But women are far behind when it comes to untouchability and talking. If they don’t allow us to enter that temple we are thinking of fighting, let us see what happens. But worshiping in the temple has not started as yet. Even after listening to the radio, watching TV so often, it is not known why they have not been able to change even in this age and time. We have learnt a lot from TV and radio from the sort of things they present in those. Now we have known that we are despised and suppressed. The oppression is too much; some day we are going to fight them.
Section 9
Are your friends as strong as you are?
There are one or two. I also tell and teach them that we must not be discriminated against. At home too I say that. I also say this to the elders and parents – like elders who do not understand. You must not go around according to old practices. The present times are not like that. Why are you afraid even when new times have already come? I tell them at home, too. I keep on giving advice. Those oppressed women who sit with me in the group are able to speak a little. They have already understood that we must get the right to speak. Now wherever Bahun, Chettri women go and have gatherings they should not raise controversy regarding untouchability; this awareness has come in them.

Do you know that there are organisations formed to fight for the right of the oppressed, like the Oppressed Women’s Organisation, Oppressed Council (NGOs formed by educated low caste women in Kathmandu with branches in a few districts)?
No, I do not know. But I am aware to some extent from radio and TV that there are backward castes, support has come for them, their rights have to be protected and they have to be taken forward. Society now is not like before. Many things are known by word of mouth. You get to know things through friends also.
Section 10
Have you ever met leaders of oppressed castes?
No. I feel if we could meet them we might know and understand certain things and they might be able to help us to make progress. But where to go and meet them because we cannot get away from here?

There are many organisations of oppressed castes. Have they not brought any programme here?
We are not aware of any brought so far. Instead, lately - it’s now four, five days [ago] - a programme has been started of weaving and tailoring for women of Damai [tailors] caste. We are not allowed to be in that.

There is untouchability among oppressed castes too? Like a Kami (blacksmith) does not eat food touched by a Damai (tailor)?
That is there a bit among the old generation. But in my case it is not there. I have not practised untouchability till now as far as an oppressed caste is concerned. Nowadays most oppressed castes have given that up. Now if we do that ourselves, how are we to tell others [not to]? We tell others [not to] in order for us to move forward and so we should not be involved ourselves in such matters. Whatever it is, many more changes have come than before.

Once your children grow up and are educated and they like boys/girls of higher castes, do you feel problems will come in marriage?
I do. Recently it happened here like that. Someone took and went away with a Bahun’s daughter. A Damai took [her] and went away. She was separated from the boy. After separation the girl was taken to her own relatives and the boy was abandoned. The girl had not agreed before and had cried, saying whatever had happened was her destiny. The girl’s mother took her [back] forcefully. She is related to elder sister Bhagawati here. That unmarried girl is from Krishnapur itself.

What are the benefits to you of being in the group?
The good thing is, before, we didn’t have money to invest. And now after being in the group the courage has come to us to do something – by taking money from the group out of deposits made by the sisters. Before, we could not think of such a thing. In the beginning I took a loan from the group and reared goats. Goats didn’t help me much. After that, as raising goats didn’t work, then the thought came to me to start a shop. Sisters from the group also advised it could be better to keep a shop, and after keeping the shop again that sort of problems came about.

How many Bahun, Chettri women friends have you met so far who do not hesitate to eat food touched by you and who try to treat you as an equal?
In the whole village there are two women like that. Because they were good to us, other women from higher castes in the group said, “Why did you come forward and speak on behalf of women of that caste? What concern do you have to do that? You speak only in their support? Will they be enough for you?” they alleged (demanded?).

And what reply do these two women give to the other women then?
“They are also our own sisters. They also like to participate in the group. They also like to move forward,” they say, and in this way discussions carry on.
Section 11
Your children are small and they don’t know much about caste discrimination. Therefore they run all over the place. How afraid are you that you may end up quarrelling because they might enter into the homes of Bahun, Chettri or any other castes, might touch their wells, or the water spout?
I keep worrying about that. That concern is there all the time. Now we go to any friend’s place and, sitting around, get engrossed in talk and even then the fear keeps nagging at you in case the children enter their home and kitchen, then the family members may say something. That is you have to keep stopping them, and the children have to be told not to go here and there.

Has such an incident ever taken place because of the children?
One has to be careful - it has not happened up to now. As far as possible you have to stop the children yourself.

In order to avoid others practising untouchability against your children in the future what are you thinking of doing for them? I mean to say, have you educated them?
I have educated them. To the [greatest] extent possible they have to be educated even if one has to face hardship. I feel my children should not have to undergo the sort of untouchability that my parents and I had to face. That is why as far as possible we should move forward during our time itself, I feel. This practice of untouchability should be done away with during our lifetime, I feel.

Compared to before, what changes have come about in oppressed castes in terms of clothes, eating habits and cleanliness?
Compared to before, changes have taken place in clothes and food habits. The oppressed castes were not very aware of cleanliness before. Now it’s not like that.

What have you been doing since the shop you were running with the loan from the group closed down?
Now there is a market day bazaar near the village and I sell vegetables there. I take and sell seasonal vegetables twice a week - Wednesday and Saturday. I buy vegetables from the wholesale market and sell [them] in the bazaar on market days.

You started this work after joining in the women’s savings group?
Yes. Before, I was not doing any of this type of work. In the beginning I started with the investment of around one thousand (1,000), twelve hundred (1,200). Even now if we bring vegetables worth a thousand, twelve hundred, about 100 to 150 will be profit. The wholesale market for vegetables is at Narayanghat bazaar and I bring them and sell at Hakim Chowk of Bharatpur. I bring and sell cauliflower and cabbage when it is the season for cauliflower and cabbage; in the tomato season I sell tomatoes. This work I started after the shop was closed for which I had taken a loan. We reach the wholesale market early in the morning, around 6, and bring vegetables to Hakim Chowk at around 8 in the morning and sell till 5, 6 in the evening. Now I wish could sell vegetables all the time but people don’t buy. That is why I do two days only.

How much profit do you make?
Four, five times at most I made a profit of three-four hundred, three-four hundred. Now there isn’t much. Now there isn’t much that sells after they started growing [vegetables] in the village itself. I bring and sell vegetables that come from outside in the bazaar. It has not been long since I started this work. Now like this pumpkin, lady’s finger (okra), are grown in the village itself. Once summer begins, business is reduced.
Section 12
Who taught you to do this work?
I learnt it myself.

Does your husband also help?
In the beginning husband would not allow [me to go]. “Don`t do it,” he used to say. Now he says, “Do it if you want to.” He brings things from the bazaar and I sell, sitting down on the ground the whole day. But we are running at a loss now. Vegetables remain unsold. Recently I ran into a loss of 100,150 – 100, 150 for three, four days – as vegetables remained unsold.

What do you do with unsold vegetables?
Keep them at home, distribute them to relatives.

You entered business after joining the groups?
Yes, while in the group I first raised goats. Thereafter I opened a shop and now I sell vegetables. It was by being in the savings groups that I gathered all the business experience. Now it’s been about two months since I started the vegetables business.

Do you also know how to deposit and withdraw money from the bank like elder sister Bhagawati?
I don’t have that much experience. But I have gone to deposit money in the bank. Now I’m not that scared to go to the bank. Before, I used to get nervous when I went to the bank - not knowing how and what to do.

Do you think you can tell us how much money you have deposited since joining the savings group?
In one group, eleven thousand - and in another around 8000-9000 is deposited. If one was not in the group, that much money would never have been deposited. It would have been used up on household expenses.

Have you become more courageous in all matters since you began saving money?
Yes, I have more courage. Once you deposit money this way something can be done tomorrow. To do something tomorrow one does not have to take a loan from anyone. One is in a position to do something with one’s own money.

What does the husband do?
He makes iron grills.

The husband treats you well?
Before he used to drink home-brewed beer, alcohol, and resorted to beating, too. But now he does not do that, and treats me well.

If you had enough money, what would you like to do or desire?
I want to do tailoring and weaving now. I even learnt a bit, for one, two months, in that government-type of training but do not know it fully. Now if I got an opportunity to learn fully I would want to learn tailoring and weaving with full attention. I might be able to do something with it, I feel. I’m not in a position to go and learn, paying my own money.