Aradhna Parmar (39 years) lives in Mayapuri, Ujjain with her husband, Jagjeet (45 years old). They have four daughters (14, 12, 4 and one-and-a-half years old). The eldest three daughters attend school. Both Aradhna and Jagjeet are illiterate. Unlike the majority of other women in Mayapuri, who do home-based or domestic work, Aradhna is self-employed as a tailor and has her own sewing machine. She stitches women’s clothes to order. Depending on the season and number of orders received, Aradhna can do tailoring work for between two and eight hours per day. She is also a member of the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) and has received training from SEWA on how to save money in a women’s group. Aradhna has been running her own savings group of approximately 30 members from her home, for the past five years. The members of the group do not meet to make decisions but trust Aradhna completely and have made her solely responsible for taking decisions and maintaining the accounts of the group. Her income generation through tailoring and running the savings group takes up a lot of her time, and in addition she is also responsible for doing the care tasks for her family, helped by her elder daughters and occasionally by community members.
Aradhna’s husband, Jagjeet, is a daily wage worker who sells ice-creams in the summer season and does carpentry during the rest of the year. Unlike many other men in Mayapuri, Jagjeet refrains from drinking alcohol and deems alcohol addiction to be responsible for ruining many men and families in the area.
Jagjeet would ideally like Aradhna to not engage in paid work, and instead focus on care work and chores in the house; however, he lets her do paid work as she shows a lot of interest in financially contributing to the family. Everyone in the family recognises the financial contribution that Aradhna makes, but also recognises that she is usually overworked with little time to rest; Aradhna says, ‘I am always stressed about the fact that I have to do so much work due to which my blood pressure falls.’ The two elder daughters help their mother with all her tasks: the eldest daughter, Namita, cooks in the morning before going to school and also washes clothes, while her younger sister, Kumari, cleans the house. There is electricity in the house, but water has to be fetched from outside from a hand pump. Both sisters also take it in turn to look after their younger siblings; they also help Aradhna with her paid work and with maintaining the accounts of her savings group. Aradhna says that Jagjeet, ‘is unable to help [with the household chores] because he gets too tired doing labour work.’ Namita complains that, ‘her [Aradhna’s] work load is so much that she doesn’t get the time to speak to us, I just want my mother to get some more time.’ Namita herself feels overburdened by the combination of care work and her studies: ‘I have too much work to do and that is the reason I don’t go out and play.’ Despite this, Namita and Kumari both take an interest in their studies and are doing well at school.
The highest care expenditure for the family is for health care. Despite this, they do not prefer to visit the government hospital for subsidised medical treatment, as Aradhna explains:
We don’t have to pay anything and get all facilities there [at the government hospital] but the only problem is that one has to stay in the hospital all the time. How can I leave my children alone in the house? Also, if I have promised a customer to give a stitched blouse the next day and if my daughter suddenly falls ill and I have to stay in the hospital with her, then how I do I deliver the blouse? There is also another problem, we can go to a government hospital only in the morning which is also the time when we cook food, wash clothes, get the children ready for school. So it is both about my work and children that I can’t go to a government hospital. I need time. The government is giving everything but how will it create time?
Jagjeet also reiterates that going to the government hospital requires time, as well as giving up a day’s wages and leaving his children behind unattended; hence, the family prefers to visit a private medical centre as the treatment is quick, even though they charge higher fees. The family is, however, benefitting from educational scholarships from the Madhya Pradesh government, which means that all three daughters are studying at school for free.
Overall, the family is struggling under the pressure to earn a better living, to cover their expenses and to improve their economic situation. One really positive aspect is that Jagjeet has kept himself away from alcohol addiction and inflicting the accompanying physical violence as is common in the area. Jagjeet works hard to be the provider for the family in the traditional sense. Aradhna is overworked, and this is affecting both her health and the attention she gives to her children, but she refrains from blaming anyone else for it – she believes it is her own choice to engage in income generation. She regrets that her eldest two daughters have had to do a lot more work to support her, and aspires to spend more time with them and to also relieve them of some of their care work burdens.