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Poverty Begets Poverty by Uppasana Baruah

By Volunteer Uppasana Baruah, FHI Guwahati 

As Sita’s mother asks her to fetch her some water, I, sitting next to the fire, look at both the mother and daughter with awe. Radha, Sita’s mother, is so adept at jewellery making that I find myself convinced there’s no one who could make them better than her. Sita arrives with a glass of water and gives it to her mother. Radha, after quenching her thirst, gets back with rolling the last dozen of jewels to give them the final touch of her intricate detailing. I have been waiting to ask Sita about her schooling and now as she is done with her part of beading and colouring, I utter it to her whilst crossing my legs. She smiles and goes, ‘I last went to school when I was 12 years old, now I am 14’. She continues, ‘I have to help my mother in making the jewelleries and then carry them to traders for sale’. ‘I didn’t want to drop out of school but at least working with my mother helped us collect a few more pennies’.

A young village girl talking about sacrificing her education to make ends meet for her family. How old is she?

I pondered as I smiled back at her. Her mother joins in, ‘she has to work to survive, the sooner she learns the work, the better.’ I wanted to interrupt but I let her complete, ‘even if she continues her school she has to take up making jewellery one day. It’s better she learns it early’. I lean forward to make my point that education is the only way her daughter can lead a different life far from the heat and parched shrivelling of jewellery making. They don’t seem moved by my verses.

I could put myself in their place and understand the not-moved part. Their economic conditions do not give them the liberty to choose. They are earmarked for life to continue the occupational lineage and ensure the security of their bread and butter. For their life is so vulnerable, not a speck of new hope to break barriers seem easy. This leaves youngsters like Sita devoid of basic life skills to be learnt and accustomed to lead a better life. They are unable to disrupt their famished lifestyle which is not anomalous to them rather they are prepared for it and prepare generations for it. This vicious cycle continues for the posterity of this family and leaves each one of them in the same condition as their ancestors. 

As I get ready to leave, Sita and her mother offer me a pair of their vibrant handmade jewellery. Sita exclaims, ‘jhumkas will suit you.’ I could only thank them for their kindness and generosity. I had come to visit this small jewellery making family for one of my official works, as I leave I take back with me a subtle reality that: not everyone is privileged, not everyone is granted with the best of life. But if you are, Be Grateful!

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