Ram Kali, 35, comes from a group of stone breaking community from Mahuranipur, Jhansi in central India. Many women of low-income group work in order to support their families, sometimes as the sole bread earner, most of them working as domestic help. Ram Kali represents a handful of women who’ve chosen a different means of earning their livelihood.

Everyday, Ram Kali and her family break a truckload of stones for Rs. 900. She works as hard as any of the men in her family, leaving the household chores and babysitting work to her eldest daughter.

Ram Kali’s family lives and works in Madanpur Khadar, Okhla district, New Delhi. They go wherever there are stones to break.

The water scarcity in Mahuranipur, in their home-town of Jhansi drove Ram Kali and her family to live nomadic lives.

Ram Kali is proud of the fact that she is able to help support her family of 7 by breaking stones rather than work as a domestic help in other people’s homes. A recent baseline survey reveals that although most women of low-income group in India choose to work as domestic help, there is a strong notion that it is a no-option resort and something to be hushed about.

Taking a much needed break from work, Ram Kali with her youngest daughter.

The Yamuna river is a source of livelihood to a number of communities in Delhi, from the slum dwellers, vegetable vendors, the cycle rickshaw pullers, dhobis (washer men) to nomadic communities like Ram Kali’s.

An everyday ritual. Hours of stone- breaking work later, Ram Kali and the other families of stone-breakers come to the nearby Yamuna river for bathing and washing.

Ram Kali, giving an oil massage to her daughter after a tiring day of work.

A family time before supper. Ram Kali with her daughters and extended family in front of their huts.

With four daughters and only one son, Ram Kali is driven to work hard to break enough stones to fill a truckload every day. She has saved up enough to marry off  her eldest daughter next summer and is happy that she can give her that sense of security.

Ram Kali is content with how things have turned out for her and her family. Education is something of a passing wish for her children, but she has no worries as she says with some level of decidedness, “They will continue the same work of breaking stones, or maybe whitewashing houses.”

Gaigongmei Gangmei


~ by thegai on December 7, 2009.

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