My parents would show scrolls, beg and come back and eat. Then my mother became pregnant again and my father decided to go back once more because he thought she might have problems in her pregnant state. So he wanted to go back to where he belonged. We went back and I had a brother who was born at home. I was seen then. I had some awareness by that time. I told my mother that my brother was so tiny, but it was difficult for my father to run the family alone. He could get a certain amount of rice from begging I would also get some if I went with him. I was so small that people would give me food. My father would take me at times, saying “you come with me and I’ll teach you the scroll songs.” I would accompany him and sing songs on Manasa pat, Sita’s abduction, Kaliyug and independence etc. I would sing along with him. I said, “No. You are struggling alone and people aren’t helping you, so why should they condemn me if I help you?” Then my father agreed and told me to go along with him and learn from him. I used to learn from him. When I was twelve I would carry bricks with him, working in a brick kiln. When I was thirteen, my father-in-law–Ajit Chitrakar came to see me for bride viewing. We were so poor that we couldn’t offer some sharbat or some rice. I wouldn’t lie to you–my father-in-law paid for their fares and brought my parents here to see my husband and his environment. We feel so sad for that. I then asked her to say no. My mother said, “No, silly girl. Ajit Chitrakar is a good man. And his son is also good.” I had no problem with that. How could I disagree with them? I happily accepted. I was prepared to marry whomever they chose. After my marriage, I went to my marital home. My in-laws used to love me. I stayed there.

Now we didn’t have any land. My father-in-law used to live on his Mama’s land. We wanted to build a house, but there was discord in our family. We didn’t have enough to eat. MY husband used to drive a trolley but couldn’t get work every day. Then he said, “Since we are having such problems I don’t want to stay here.” His father also told him to go away and earn somewhere else since there was perpetual discontent. My father-in-law is Ajit Chitrakar. I learn from him. He knew the songs and wrote them. I picked up some from him. I learned when we were living in the same household. He used to make idols, horses. Then we came back from Naya with Jyotsna when she was six months old. We live with Jamuna then and built our house. Then I learned from my Mama. But I don’t have any of her work now.

Now I have taken all of my husband’s work. He provides the ‘ideas,’ tells me the stories and I write the songs from that. My four daughters were born after I came here. My husband told me the story of Laden after he saw the jatra. He told me that Laden was hiding in Afghanistan and rebuked me because I hadn’t gone to see the jatra. I said how could I go with so many children? I make up the songs. My daughter Jyotsna writes them down since I can’t write. Then I compose the music. The women’s cooperative helped me much. As I was a member, I was involved in it though I knew nothing; no songs or anything. I was too shy, only a housewife. My husband helped me. A lot of husbands don’t allow their wives to go anywhere, but he sent me everywhere. If I were to go I would also become well known like the others. He supported me, as did the women’s cooperative. No, my husband didn’t object.

Even the Hindus have changed. They would turn their noses earlier saying, “you don’t change your clothes after using the toilet – we won’t touch you.” But the Hindus who hated us Muslims have changed. They tell us, “We are brothers. We are together now uniting neck-to-neck, shoulder-to-shoulder.” When the Munshi came, they used to shout, “Look, the Patidar is here.” They no longer say that. Rather, they tell us, this is your profession, “habibullah,” you do it. Now my daughters are learning the Koran Sharif and are learning Bengali. I’m also teaching them to sing.

Scrolls by Hazra