Daughters in the mill

[First published in Frontline magazine in October 2007] Thousands of teenaged girls are exploited for labour in the textile mills of Tamil Nadu “Earn Rs.40,000. Work as an apprentice for three years,” said the bold print in Tamil on the colour pamphlet. This was “a unique opportunity for young women”, it said. There were otherContinue reading “Daughters in the mill”

From a warrior's withered memory

Kuppusamy Andal is 84 and can no longer recollect the heady days of the Second World War when she and her husband dug trenches and hid in them while the Japanese hurled bombs targeting their house. A native of Sivakasi, she migrated with her husband to Singapore soon after marriage in 1940. Along with thousandsContinue reading “From a warrior's withered memory”

They turn rags into riches

Kantamma is up for work every morning before the sun. She treads barefoot the 12-km distance from home to her workplace, geared with a plastic sack and a long pointed metal rod. She stops on her way at every street corner, rummaging the piles of garbage for something worthwhile. The woman is a rag pickerContinue reading “They turn rags into riches”

Dealing with death, daily

A gravedigger is to a corpse what a mother is to a child, says Sampath, who works at the Krishnampet burial ground behind the Light House. “You have to tend to the body with great care,” he says. Besides digging graves , their job involves building stretchers for carrying the body, preparing the pyre andContinue reading “Dealing with death, daily”

A Mosque of One’s Own

At Thandeeshwaram, a tiny village in Pudukottai district of Tamil Nadu, Sharifa Khanam is building her dreams brick by brick. The 42-year-old social worker has initiated the construction of a mosque here for Muslim women as a symbol of their struggle for equal rights in a male-dominated society. The first recipient of the Durgabai DeshmukhContinue reading “A Mosque of One’s Own”