By Madhuri Kamat, on the Waste Narratives Blog:
Five women gather in a room in the office of Hasiru Dala to talk of the life spent wastepicking. Chinnapillai (70), Sharada (60) and Aniyamma (58) have been at it for 45 years, Lakshmi (55) for 30 years while Nadtaimma (72) is still at it even after 40 years. Amidst frequent laughter, their individual and collective narratives unfurl over steel glasses of tea brought in by Kamli. Sharada’s daughter Vasanti, acting as Kannada to Tamil translator warns gap-toothed smiling Nadtaimma to stick to the history of wastepicking and not talk of her family history, marriage et al. When Nadtaimma wades in nevertheless to reminiscence about her husband, she is shouted down affectionately by the rest. Nadtaimma takes it sportingly, the smile never leaving her face throughout the discussion. Every now and then, the women bicker like kids about which of them having come first to the city is the sole authority in some detail. Lakshmi, the quietest of the women looks on calmly at the proceedings joining in intermittently while Aniyamma, the most vocal of the lot, jumps up to gesture animatedly to expound a particular point. Chinnapillai is a trifle distracted pointing to a wound below her right knee while Sharada whose face is wrapped in a scarf and is unwell runs out of steam mid-way and lies down on the couch on her daughter Vasanti’s urging. The women present are all related to each other by marriage but Aniyamma remarks, “Even if we aren’t related, we’re all family, everyone is a brother or sister to us as we all stay together.”
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