Uttar Pradesh— As we often discuss the invaluable contributions of women working in offices towards their households, it is easy to overlook the unrecognized yet vital roles played by women in rural areas who toil in fields and farms, dedicating themselves to cultivation and generating significant income to meet expenses. In doing so, they assist their male counterparts in smoothly running their households. In honor of Women's Day, The Mooknayak reached out to one such woman, who shared the challenges she has faced in ensuring ends meet with unwavering determination and grit.
Surasati Devi, a resident of Rudhauli Khalanga in Basti district, Uttar Pradesh, lost her eldest son Ramjit to a stomach ailment six years ago. Since then, she has been managing the farm single-handedly while taking care of her granddaughter Pratibha, as her daughter-in-law left and never returned. Surasati's husband Lal Bahadur Yadav drives a taxi, while her two younger sons Ram Preet and Ram Sajeevan work as daily wage workers in Mumbai and Chennai.
Surasati has no formal education, but she has ensured that her children receive some education. After her husband leaves for work, she tends to her granddaughter and then attends to her farming duties. She has a total cultivation of about four and a half bighas (2.78 acres) of land, where she has planted mustard and wheat crops. She prefers to do most of the farming work herself, including cutting the barseem for her buffalo, which she keeps at home.
"Every day, I have to go to the farm to collect fodder for my buffalo. I have also sown berseem in two mandis, and when it is finished, I bring grass from others' fields," says Surasati. She also makes cow dung cakes daily, which she uses to cook her food as the rising cost of gas is beyond her means. "I dry it by mixing cow dung with buffalo dung. I cook food on the stove with this pot. I cannot afford to fill an 11 hundred rupees cylinder every month," she adds.
Despite her struggles, Surasati manages to harvest enough crops to sustain her family throughout the year. She sells the excess produce to earn money for her household expenses and further farming. "I send Pratibha to school, and her school fees also come out of this," she says, emphasizing her commitment to her granddaughter's education.
Surasati's eyes fill with tears when she talks about her elder son. "After the departure of Babu (son), the whole family was devastated. Now everything is on my head. The daughter-in-law also went to her home. Should I see family, see granddaughter, or get farming done? Can't leave anything. I will keep doing it till I am alive."
Despite the vagaries of weather, which sometimes ruin her standing crops due to excessive rains, Surasati perseveres. She takes loans from a self-help group of women or the people of the village to run her household and sow her crops. "After harvesting the wheat crop, I will also plant paddy in the month of Asadh-Sawan (July). I am alone, so I sow only these two crops. This makes a living for the family," she says.
It is remarkable that Surasati manages to tend to her farm, harvest crops, and take care of her family, despite the challenges she faces daily. Her story is a testament to the indomitable spirit of woman farmers who work tirelessly to ensure that their families have enough to eat and a better future.
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