My parents were extremely poor. We were five sisters. My father had arranged the marriages of four of us. I was the youngest and was married almost two years after he died. I was only twelve then. I would cook in their house and sleep at my mother’s house. I didn’t have any idea of husbands. I knew nothing about how to interact with a husband or how to treat him. I would cook for them and come back home and sleep with my mother. I had absolutely no desire to get married, as I was barely twelve. But my mother and sisters explained that they couldn’t collect the dowry money because my father had died, whereas the man wasn’t demanding anything for this marriage. They would even provide my clothes.
My uncle Dukhishyam advised me to tell my husband to start painting scrolls, otherwise, how could we survive? He told my husband to start and he would buy the materials like colors, paper, what I could afford. On top of that my husband wasn’t allowed to do any hard work. Then I said I would go out and beg because my husband’s scrolls couldn’t sell as soon as he made them. My uncle asked me to bring him paper, colors, paintbrushes, etc. so that he could teach my husband. He taught him to paint and sing. It wasn’t enough just to paint; I had to sing also. Both of use used to practice with Dukhushyam every day. He would correct our mistakes. We would sing along with him. He used to help a lot. He is our Guru. He has been the Guru of all the women scroll painters here. He has taught everyone. In fact, in the neighborhood of scroll painters, he happens to be the Guru. All of us have learned Purana songs from him.
For six months in a year, there is a slack period. We don’t earn much, then. But I go around the village, showing scrolls. I get five to ten kilograms of rice from people and some money. I show them in the cities and villages and people help me. This is how I manage. I am shy to go out alone, so I take my eldest son along. We are growing old and our ability to work is getting less. I’ve told them to look after their own families. After I said this, my second son has started eating separately with his wife. So has my eldest son. Those two have split away from their families. That is good. Their responsibilities will increase, the. So will their urge to augment their income. They’ll have to save and make progress. Brothers don’t stay together these days anyway. They will split.