“The clock strikes five and I usually begin my day with praying: Bhagwan aaje mara chokrao samu joje ane amaru kaik saru karje. (‘Oh god, kindly look after my children today and do some good to us.’)”
These are the words of Asha-ben Vithalbhai Patni, mother of four children and a vegetable vendor, who at the age of 28 is relatively content with her own life but worries about the future of her growing children. She wants to educate her only daughter, the eldest child, so that she will not have to struggle as she herself has.
Asha-ben is a vegetable vendor at Khodiyalnagar near Bapunagar in the city of Ahmedabad. Her family of six includes one daughter, three sons and her husband. Her children are going to a municipal school and she finds it difficult to keep them in school as she does not have enough money to buy books and other necessities.
Asha-ben keeps her vegetable hand cart near a foot path which became over-crowded with other vegetable vendors as more and more people lost their jobs and tried their hands at vending, as it does not require any capital or investment. The area where she sells vegetables is surrounded by many small scale diamond polishing factories. The diamond factory workers, when returning home in the evening, usually buy vegetables from her, which gave her a regular income.
Previously her husband used to go to a textile mill and did some labour work to help support the family. Then the mill closed down and he lost work. For Asha-ben the struggle in life began very early, soon after she was married, when her husband was unemployed for a few months. For a few days, the family survived without food. Earlier Ashaben and her husband together used to earn 200-250 rupees daily.