Father (deceased), Mother, Brother
Singarayakonda, Andhra Pradesh
Shrimp processing company
A year has passed since Sujata’s father died. His body failed him slowly, day by day, due to regular heavy drinking. When he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, the doctor prohibited him from consuming alcohol. For a while, Sujata’s father complied but soon resumed drinking, which ultimately led to his death. Basanti Behera, Sujata’s mother, was devastated by her husband’s death, although she was accustomed to his heavy drinking.
Basanti, now fifty years old, recalls the time when despite her husband’s condition, she could make her own money and meet the needs of her two children – Sujata and Nayak. Age got the better of her earning capacity, and she developed persistent back pain, and she could no longer work outside her home. The financial difficulties mounted in this family where Basanti was the only consistent working member. Her husband was not just an alcoholic, but was also chronically unemployed, spending even sporadic.
Sujata dropped out of school half way and at the young age of twelve, she left home to go to Singarayakonda in Andhra Pradesh to work at a shrimp processing company.
When the only earning member, Basanti, could no longer work, the health and well-being of the whole family took a downward turn. The education of children stopped. Sujata dropped out of school halfway, and at the young age of twelve, she left home to go to Singarayakonda in Andhra Pradesh to work at a shrimp processing company, with some local girls (like Bina Behera) to bring her mother some money and to escape the daily squabbling in her home. She eats all her meals at the company canteen, has to look out for her health, and has learned to save and send home money away from the care and attention of her family. Nayak Behera, her brother, also had to stop his schooling and stays with his mother, and is supported by his sister’s regular remittances. He has no job at the moment.
Sujata, now seventeen years of age, earns Rs 9,000 per month and sends home between Rs 5,000 and Rs 6,000 after meeting her basic needs. Her mother and brother struggle greatly to get by with this meager money. Basanti voices the depth of her helplessness “I feel extremely sad. I cannot do anything for my children. My daughter started working away from home at an age when she should have been reading and playing. Now that she is older, I have another worry, who will support us when my daughter gets married?”
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