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Dangubaj (65 yrs.), widowed since 15 years, no formal education.

65-year old Dangubaj meets us with a crooked smile and sad eyes. Willingly she tells us her life story and how she struggles every day for her next meal. Behind the lines in her wrinkled face there is the history of a woman who has had to deal with both pain and sorrow, but there are also traces of determination and inner strength that has kept her standing all these years.

Dangubaj’s parents found her a suitable husband at the age of 15, which she soon after married. When she was 16 she got pregnant. This was news of joy and happiness to Dangubaj and her husband, but it didn’t take long before there were complications. The doctors told her that she had to operate. “The baby was dead and they told me that I no longer could be pregnant, she says. Her sad eyes flicker down to her hands, which lie folded in her lap. Dangubaj’s little shack is falling apart, but she can’t afford anything else. “I’m grateful that my husband accepted that fact and stayed with me for all those years. He could easily have chosen another woman over me, but he gave up being a father and stayed. Our marriage lasted for 35 years before he died.”

Dangubaj’s husband worked in the tourist department in the government, something that provided him with a pension, a small amount of 400 rupees per month, which Dangubaj has to live on, because she fractured both her hands in a fall, but couldn’t afford the hospital bills. The dispensary provided her with pain killers while the bones mended, but it has kept her from being able to earn money of her own since then. She still has to pay for food, water and electricity, but how can she pay for all that?

"Sometimes I get a little food from the government school which is next door to my house, sometimes a porridge mixture from the day care center. I used to get free food from the government too, but because of a fire in the area a few months ago, the government has cut out the expenses in free food. When I can afford to cook myself, I do. I eat one or two times a day, but I manage."

She knows that her time has passed and that she only has a few more years to live, but she still wishes that Kathputli Nagar will get the basic facilities it needs to become a good community to live in.

Saarthak Gallery