Pushpa Latha was born in the village of Durgadahalli, the seventh among 11 children. She had a very tough time during childhood. The family subsisted on 7 kg of rice per month, divided among 14 members. Most of the time, they depended on wild fruits from the forest for food. Pushpa Latha would dream of having a stomach full of food; she would imagine that food to be rice and sambar. She started to build a hope that one day she would get married, go to another house, and finally be afforded a stomach-full of food. She didn’t understand then what marriage really entailed.
When that day did arrive and when she got to her in-laws’ home, she witnessed the same level of poverty. She wasn’t aware that her parents had sent her off to another family just as poor as them. Pushpa Latha’s mother-in-law would harass her because of her lack of cooking skills and inability to do household chores well.
So, she decided to leave home and head to Bangalore with her husband; they stayed with friends for a few days. Her friend helped her join a garment factory as a ‘helper’. Pushpa Latha found herself scared of the way people worked at the factory and struggled to understand the words used by the trainer. But, she stayed on. The next step was a ‘cutting’ job and in that role, too, she faced issues.
Her initial salary was INR 1,600 and she sustained her family with this amount. Later, she got interested in tailoring and started to secretly work on waste cloth strips from the factory, while sitting in her seat. She continued this way for 10 years. This decade of service is filled with frustrated questions from supervisors; delivering more production in as less time as possible; rejections for even small changes in threads, or for not having cut threads properly; and the expectation of more and more work for a static salary. Still, Pushpa Latha continues to work. Life is very hard with an alcoholic husband, low salary and all the strenuous work at the factory.
Written by Ramya Gowda K.