It is often common (read: misogynistic) parlance to say that women merely know how to spin yarns. However, the women of the village of Bhaudi in Mahoba continue to shatter this deeply patriarchal attitude merely by existing and living their lives, supporting their families.
They literally have to scale mountains and brave jungles to pluck the leaves of the Tendu plant, which they subsequently dry and use to make beedis. These women play with their lives every day by penetrating the dense forests.
The women of the village of Bhaudi (Block Kulapahad, District Mahoba) pluck tendu leaves, which are prominently used to make beedis. These women earn their livelihoods through beedi-making. They rise early to pluck these leaves off trees in the jungles, which they do from 6 am to 11 am. After this they tie their pickings into bundles and traverse the long route back home in the searing afternoon heat. It is then that they begin the actual process of making the beedis.
These hard-working women make approximately 500 beedis every day. Travelling 10-12 miles a day often debilitates them; they often have wounds and gashes on their hands and legs. Add to that, the extra pluck required to foray through jungles, known for dangerous beasts both of the four-legged and two-legged kinds. They literally have to scale mountains and brave jungles to pluck the leaves of the Tendu plant, which they subsequently dry and use to make beedis. These women play with their lives every day by penetrating the dense forests.
Travelling 10-12 miles a day often debilitates them; they often have wounds and gashes on their hands and legs.
Sevni breaks down the Math for us, “We make around 400-500 beedis every day. These beedis sell for about 80 rupees.” Unfair compensation for such hard work, but that’s the life they live. Maalthi, another beedi worker, tells us that they have been working thus for over 13 years now. She also shares how the work is seasonal, “We make these beedis in the monsoon, and continue making them for almost four months.” At the end of that, it is in the winters that they seek out other employment. It’s generally mazdoori that they are offered.
Raisa Bano, who’s been making beedis for 10 years now, and learnt the trade like everyone else – accompanying the older women, and watching them – articulates the truth, ugly as it may be, “We do not own any land or fields. And that means we have to feed ourselves and our families with anything we can do. In this beedi-making work, we have many problems. Our hands and legs have welts and wounds all the time, but we cannot even afford medicine to apply on them. And after all this, we still struggle to make ends meet, we have to sell our beedis for 50 rupees. And then in the morning, once again we are walking 10-12 miles.”
It might be a Sisyphean struggle, but the tireless beedi makers of Mahoba aren’t about to give up.
In partnership with Khabhar Lahariya