I still feel like I’m crying when I think back on all the hardship we endured then. Compared to that my condition is very good now, more or less. We used to beg in the villages, even to work as daily wage earners. We had sowed seeds on other people’s land, tilled crops, carried hay, worked as a helper with civil masons. I have worked laying asphalt on the roads under road-contractors, cut earth to build dams. I have done everything for a livelihood, in order to earn, our life was spent in great sorrow.

My mother arranged my marriage. The groom had been married before but his first wife left him to live with her parents since he was too poor. Sadly enough I was married to this man. The very next day I stayed at my marital home. My husband would hold gunny bags open and I would fill them with broken tins, glass bottles, glass shards, plastic packets, etc. This rubbish would be thrown out on the street side, near the drain. I would collect them for the excreta of children in the darin. How can I talk about this shameful history? We would sell this rubbish to the buyer and earn. We ran our family like this. I gave birth to two sons and two daughters there.

My mother-in-law and sister-in-law beat me frequently. I stayed there, enduring everything. Then I thought, “My grandmother had been married two or three times. My mother was married twice. She remarried after the divorce from the first.” Nobody will judge who is to blame. They will see that my mother and grandmother had more than one marriage. In case I leave my husband and marry again, what will people say? I then decided not to leave him despite all the sufferings. I had a lot of hope, dreams, expectations and reliance, as well.

I had never learned the craft formally from anyone. I picked it up from watching the painters and hearing their songs. I would bring some from my mother, spread them on the ground and paint on one side. I used to do it at night. I had no time to paint during the day as I had to go begging. I came back in the evening, fed my kids, put them to bed, and then sat with the scrolls. I would work very late – 2:30 in the morning, and some days I wouldn’t go to bed at all.

My grandfather, Dukhushyam, then advised me to learn it well so that it could help us. I told him that I was painting scrolls and showed them to him. He said it wasn’t enough to be able to paint on. We must learn to sing. Then I asked him to teach me. He said, “Ok, but you must provide me with tea and cigarettes.” I said “Fine, I’ll treat you to tea and cigarettes every morning.”

If we hadn’t learned this craft we wouldn’t go to the USA. You [the filmmakers] wouldn’t have taken us. I tell all the young people to learn this if they want to travel to different places. If they sit idle, nobody will take them anywhere.


Scrolls by Monimala