Story of Naziah, a waste sorter in Nayandahalli

Naziah sitting in her house, narrating her story. Pic: Kabir Khan

My mother left me in Bengaluru under the care of my uncle. He worked in a Government office. Later, he asked my family to move to Bengaluru as there were more employment opportunities in the city.

He managed to get us a hut to stay. My family shifted here but we didn’t have any money for food. I was seven or eight years old then—the eldest among all my siblings. We picked vegetables from riverside and sold it for Rs 7 or 8, with which I purchased dal (pulses) and rice.

Our thatched hut with mud walls was set on fire two-three times by the government officials, because we were living there illegally on government land. There was no electricity or individual toilet. We had to go find firewood to cook. Water was scarce and we had to walk two miles to fetch it, to a place were people were killed and thrown—it was a hub of criminal activities.

I started working as an incense stick maker. I was able to buy 2 kgs of flour by rolling 4000 incense sticks. Rs 20 daily was what I was getting—that was the only income of my family.

One day a man approached me, and told me that instead of working so hard, for nothing, I could join his plastic factory. Initially I was skeptical as I did not know sorting and the types of materials. But he said I can do it. Thinking of my family, I decided to take it up. I was quick at work, and the money was decent. Things improved.

Soon after my mother contracted TB and fell sick. We had to admit her to the hospital for three months. My father was not working then. I went to the owner and proposed to do the work of three people. He paid for my mother’s treatment. I earned Rs 600/-. My siblings too dropped out of school and began helping in the plastic factory to support the family.

I was married when my mother fell sick, as per her wish. My husband was a drunkard and was not nice to me. He made me abort four of my children and looked at other women in a very wrong way. I had no control over any of this.

Today I have two children, aged 12 and eight years. I have admitted them to an English-medium school. Now, my only wish is to see my children get out of this squalor we are living in, and lead a respectable life. My brother and sister are married and they are leading good lives. I am happy now.

Audio of the programme Daasthaan-E-Nayandahalli aired on Radio Active

The post here is a part of the Notes from Nayandahalli series and is a reflection of an ongoing study supported by Indian Institute for Human Settlements and WIPRO Cares.

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